The disappointment of scrapping our initial designs brought us very close to throwing in the towel on this entire project. Even with the help of an experienced designer, pattern maker, cutter and manufacturer there were simply too many different places things could go wrong in product design and development – and they did! It was not sustainable for us, being new to this industry/process and on a shoestring budget, to continue creating expensive prototypes with our manufacturer. Everyone involved encouraged us not to give up, especially our pattern maker Susan Rome who reassured us that ditching “designs that don’t work” is a common occurrence in this business. Sibylle and I still had tremendous confidence in our goal/vision of creating an exceptional bikini for beach volleyball and we had solid ideas about the direction we wanted to go in, we just needed to figure out a more efficient path through the product development phase.
Although swimwear is notoriously difficult to sew, Sibylle has considerable sewing experience and was determined to redesign and rework our rejected samples “in house”. She spent countless hours teaching herself to sew swimwear, including how bras and cups work, researching elastics and hardware, learning how elastic is attached, how paper patterns translate to the completed product, how to grade to create other sizes, dyeing hardware, embroidery, etc.
Sibylle transformed her home office into the Pepper Swimwear design studio.
Sibylle created several prototypes and we started playing in them regularly and having other volleyball players try them on and give us their feedback. The bottoms went through many different iterations – too much coverage then not quite enough – and finally arrived at our “just right”: low cut with a narrow back (but not quite Brazilian) that we both feel great playing in it. We nailed down our favorite back configurations for the tops…
Work in progress – developing different back configurations.
…but our various fittings proved that maintaining a consistent fit without strap and chest band adjustability is nearly impossible – there are just too many different body types out there. So we added sliders on both the shoulder straps and chest band and are really happy with the results.
We would have never made it through product development if it wasn’t for Sibylle’s determination to bring it “in house”. It was a steep learning curve with tons of frustration and rework and overall a huge time investment on her part but each piece she created looked more and more professional – resulting in samples that have identical, if not improved, craftsmanship compared to the pieces created by our experienced manufacturer (who produces swimwear for some very high end and well known labels). And not only did we arrive at more attractive back configurations than we had prior but she completely re-designed our bottoms and came up with an entirely new bandeau top.
We are calling this style “Ocean Park” after the Santa Monica, CA beach we play at often. It features three small braids in the back, has adjustability over the shoulder and around the chest and is fully reversible.
Now we can take our finished designs back to the manufacturer for our first (small) production run. Sibylle and I have both agreed that June is our deadline – if we don’t have bikinis ready for purchase by that time then we really will throw in the towel! There are a million things to do between now and then to make it happen but the good news is that we have now created the best bikinis in our drawers for beach volleyball.