Melbourne mum Gemma Crowe has turned a simple idea inspired by an “unflattering” moment at the beach into a multimillion-dollar swimwear empire.
The mother-of-four saw a gap in the market and immediately pounced on it, creating her now global brand Infamous Swim that has not only taken off in Australia, but overseas too.
The 39-year-old who often goes on holidays with her young family to beach locations around Australia, Bali and Thailand, found that playing with her boys, now aged 14, 7, 4 and 2, on the sand would quickly result in discomfort.
And so she wanted to create a swimwear brand that was not only flattering and funky, but supportive too.
Ms Crowe said during her travels when at the pools or on the beach, she noticed mum swimwear was often hit or miss and wanted to create something that made mums feel cool.
“As a more fuller woman, it is so difficult to find swimwear that fits,” Ms Crowe told news.com.au. “I know brands are really trying to come around to it, but there’s still some stuck in the dark ages.
“I wanted to design something that women felt really comfortable in and I think we have nailed that.”
She noticed there was a lot of “daggy designs” for mums and wanted to make something funky, but with more coverage so when mums are running after their kids, they’re “not falling out all over the shop”.
After acquiring the Infamous Swim brand in March 2018, which initially focused on Brazilian cuts and skimpy bikini tops, Ms Crowe worked on a rebrand that involved cossies with a little more coverage.
She sampled a lot of different styles before taking it to the market and said people lapped it up instantly.
“It also came at a good time when high waisted was a thing and I am grateful to have jumped on that even though now low waisted ’90s styles are back – but we are still killing it with high waisted.”
Her two bestsellers are the original Gia bikini top, an active style top ‘that’s flattering and secure’ and matching Ginger high waisted bottoms, ‘designed to suit every woman’.
“They are the two originals and based on how well they were selling, we decided to bring out two others,” Ms Crowe said.
They were the Lola top, which she said has more of a dip with cleavage but still has good coverage, and matching bottoms.
Ms Crowe has been in the retail industry from a young age, starting in a junior office position for a toy wholesaler before moving into homewares which she said taught her many of the skills needed to run a small business.
When she eventually went on maternity leave feeling burnt out and uninspired, a friend asked her to go into business running a swimwear label.
“And then the rest is history,” Ms Crowe said.
She eventually bought her friend out and said it wasn’t until the brand shifted in to ‘mini-me’ dressing trend – where mums can wear the same swimwear set as their daughters – that things really took off.
“I did matching headbands and scrunchies with the swimwear and stuff like that. It was much easier to do because I already had the factory contacts for swimwear, but now we are moving more into fashion now because that’s what I want. I want us to be a matching fashion house.”
“When I relaunched Infamous Swim and introduced the Mini Swim range, I did not expect the response I got,” she said, adding, “My Instagram blew up, practically overnight.”
Ms Crowe said she started following blogs and mum influencers and reached out to them and introduced herself.
“After doing six months of that, and getting maybe six replies from 150 emails sent, I got one from an influencer that was huge who loved my concept. Overnight the brand took off, it was insane.
“That month, I wanted to sell six pieces, but instead I sold $40k worth.”
An entire industry has risen up around the Australian swimsuit movement, with brands like Infamous Swim capturing a piece of the almost $32 billion global swimwear market. Swimming is considered one of the most popular recreational activities in Australia and in part, around the world.
The increase in consumer interest and with more families choosing to be alongside the coast for their holidays has boosted the demand for swimwear and propelling the growth in the market.
The Infamous Swim brand is now projected to reach a whopping $18 million in revenue by 2024.
After a booming success, which drove the Infamous swim and Mini Swim range from 22,000 followers to now more than 654,000 on Instagram alone – Ms Crowe expanded in to mens and boys boardies.
She credits her keen eye for design and knack for product development as her strong suit. “Product is my jam. The new ideas and opportunities mostly just come to me, but a lot of it is also thinking about the kind of things I love or the things I would do,” she explained.
“When I bring them to life I always choose ideas that have longevity. As well as social media, I’m inspired by my experiences as kid – holidays to Coffs Harbour, the things I wore like those velcro shoes which have recently come back out for example.”
The idea of matching mother and daughter swimwear may have tapped into a huge undercurrent of demand, but it was Ms Crowe’s ability to connect with her audience that has turned Infamous Swim into the success it is today.
“The strategy of a digitally-driven, body positive brand which showcases models in a range of sizes is what really resonated with mums across the country,” she said.
“Our most sold size range is XL-XXL and our most popular print is the safari leopard by a long way.”
In 2021 to 2022, the brand had made just over $7 million in sales with a 53 per cent year-on-year growth.
The business now employs 14 staff to keep the wheels turning in what is rapidly becoming an online shopping behemoth.
Ms Crowe’s current focus is on the brand’s US expansion plans.
“We’ve had some good success there in the last few years,” she said, “but we based our US model pretty much like a cookie cutter off our Australian model.
“Now we’re putting in time and resources into research and doing things like making sure our website is speaking to the US audience because we’ve really got a lot of potential there.”
There are progression plans for the UK and EU markets as well but for now, Infamous Swim is heavily invested in growing its US brand presence.