It has been over 3 years since we launched Lanuuk with our first collection of modest swimwear in May 2019. In what has felt like a whirlwind 3 years, we have been fortunate enough to launch two collections as we weathered and continue to weather the storm of one of the most challenging times for businesses to date. Brexit, a global pandemic, skyrocketing supply chain and production costs, and the war in Eastern Europe are just some of the things we have faced as we navigate start-up life. As we are looking to launch our new collection shortly, it is the perfect time to reflect on the journey so far and to reinforce our love for what we do and our commitments to our brand and our customers.
When we started Lanuuk, we had a vision to create truly timeless and unique full coverage swimwear, something that almost no-one was doing at the time. We spent tireless months designing and redesigning our collection, constantly refining and ensuring that every detail conveyed the vision of our brand. As a small business, we continue to grow and improve by listening to and taking feedback from our customers, and all of our designs are created by us from scratch, taking into account the needs of our beautifully diverse female customer base. We also take conscious decisions to focus on our our imagery to allow us to showcase our brand’s vision and unique designs.
One of the things we did not expect to encounter on this journey is the number of brands and platforms copying and stealing our images and designs in one form or another. Soon after we launched, we began to receive numerous messages from our loyal customers and ‘instafam’ alerting us to pages using our images and attempting to duplicate and sell our designs. As time went on, these copycats have become more and more accurate, reaching a point where we ourselves would even do a double take at some of the images of the copied products. We have felt a deep sense of disappointment and helplessness that our designs have been plagiarized by others claiming them as their own. Whilst fast-fashion brands are notorious for imitating designs from large luxury brands, small independent designers and artists are also seeing their designs being stolen and sold without their consent. Unfortunately, in the last year, we have now fallen victim to this with several fast fashion giants ripping off our original designs and selling them for less than it costs us to produce; the reality being that most small businesses like ourselves simply do not have the resources to prevent or stop them.
We’ve talked in a previous blog about what goes into creating original designs and bringing these to market. The design development stage alone takes months of back and forth with our design team, sourcing and importing high-quality fabrics, adjusting our patterns, refining fit, and perfecting our designs. Fast fashion knock-offs literally take these patterns and attempt to copy them with accuracy, using cheap labour and materials, removing the entire creative and development phase, going from production to the shop front in a matter of days. It’s sad yet perhaps unsurprising that with the constant influx of new and trend-setting styles, many of them hitting the shelves are actually copied from small independent designers. Shoppers have more recently become so accustomed to fast fashion; the ease and impulse of buying, and the consistently low prices and on trend designs; that the average consumer is blissfully unaware of how these items came to be or the impact on then environment, underdeveloped economies and their people and small independent brands as a result.
It also becomes difficult to convey the struggles faced by smaller brands to produce specialist products like modest swimwear and the sheer costs involved due to the amount of fabric, and detailed design and production phases. In a recently published New York Times article “What Makes a Bathing Suit So Expensive?”, the writer explains how Riot Swim founder Monti Landers’ struggles with cost margins. “Because of the steep increases in textile and shipping costs related to the pandemic and inflation, Ms. Landers had to raise prices recently. Her most popular design, the Echo one-piece, with a deep V-neck, high-cut leg and a thick band of ruching at the waist that took several months of tweaking samples to perfect, was $99 a year ago. Today it costs $150.” “We had been eating those costs on our own for so long,” Landers admits, something that resonates with us all too well.
The cost for producing a full-coverage swimset is at an even higher margin of material use and production range, and with pandemic inflation on top of lower-cost/quality replicas circulating the market, these experiences leave brands like us feeling defeated. Independent businesses like continue to suffer and creativity struggles to thrive in an industry and environment of copy-cats.
What has come as more of a surprise and disappointment to us is the number of influencers that knowingly support and promote these fast fashion brands and their ‘knock-off’ or copycat products, and to see the lack of thought and accountability that some influencers face in supporting unethical businesses and over-consumption.
All of that said, we have our amazing loyal customers to thank for not succumbing to lower quality and sub-standard knock-offs by continuing to purchase and recommend our products and recognize the value of shopping from small independent businesses. Landers from the NYT article talks about the decision to raise her prices, “They know that you get what you pay for- would you rather go to fast fashion and pay $20 for a suit that you’re only going to wear once?” In another New York Times piece “The Existential Crossroads of Bathing Suit Shopping”, Dodai Stewart, Metro writer at large quotes “The perfect bathing suit is much like the perfect relationship: Trust is essential, you need to know it will work...once you find a suit you like, it’s hard to let go.”
We’re glad you have invested your trust in us, and that you’ve found our pieces hard to let go of! You have allowed us to survive and continue as a business; we see you and feel you, and we truly appreciate your support! Despite the setbacks, we truly love what we do and look forward to continuing to deliver high-quality, reliable, and inclusive swimwear to women who inspire and empower us as much as Lanuuk does for them. We also continue with our commitment to sustainability and conscious production at the heart of the way we work and want to give you the confidence that when you shop with us, you are shopping ethically.
We stand in solidarity with other small independent brands and businesses who have battled or are battling with similar hurdles and difficulties. We strive to bring awareness to our shoppers, fashion enthusiasts, and consumers of the silent battle small businesses face daily as we continue to learn and grow. We are more aware of and understand the never-ending struggle against fast-fashion, but here are some of the things that we as consumers can do to tackle unethical practices and overconsumption, and continue to support and uplift small businesses and one another.
- Know who you are buying from. Do your research into where your products are made and what kind of manufacturing and labour practices the brand engages in. Take a look at Conscious Life and Style Blog who share some great articles about Fast Fashion and it's impact on the environment.
- Invest in high quality products that are ethically and sustainably produced. These will last you for many years to come and will reduce the wastage and environmental harm associated with buying low-quality mass-produced products.
- Support small businesses by buying from them, engaging with their brands on social media, understanding and relating to their brand vision, and recommending them to your networks.
- Beware of fake and counterfeit products. We have seen countless websites and sellers using our imagery and even our brand name. Make sure that you are buying directly from the brand or from reputable resellers.
As ever, thank you! A & L