Check Out This New Kind Of Swimwear – And Fight Cancer And Save Our Planet At The Same Time
“I used to paddle board by my neighborhood and felt like I was on stage in my underwear.”
This was the “aha moment” that led Lynne O’Brien to develop her new brand, Line In The Sand. O’Brien, a lawyer by training with no experience in fashion, recently created a new role for herself – female founder of a swimwear line that promotes body positivity, protects women’s skin, and gives back in a huge way.
Before launching her swimwear line, which is made from recycled fishing nets and can be worn from street to sea, from park to pool and from lunch to lake, O’Brien was an accomplished lawyer with degrees from Princeton and Georgetown. She sits on three national boards and served on (then) Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot team.
But life threw O’Brien a curve ball and wow did she hit it out of the park.
From Cancer Survivor to Girl Boss
O’Brien is a true “waterwoman,” passionate about water sports and happiest when at the beach. However, as she continues to fight an eight-year battle with leukemia, she’s been told to avoid the sun. She wanted swimwear that was protective yet allowed freedom of movement. She couldn’t find it, so she boldly decided to make it herself and give away the profits.
As her brand grows in popularity (Katie Couric recently featured O’Brien’s products as part of her Hello Summer Giveaway), there is much to be learned from a lawyer turned cancer survivor turned fashion founder. Here’s what she learned:
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Define your mission. Pulling from her life experiences, O’Brien wanted her brand to focus on sustainability, body positivity, healthy lifestyles and help protect the oceans and fight cancer. Her brand espouses these values consistently in its products and messaging. In fact, all company profits are donated to charities that support our oceans (so fitting as we celebrate World Oceans Day today!) and fight cancer. Establishing and consistently sharing a brand’s mission is a great way to engage with customers, create credibility and establish loyalty.
Be the customer. While on vacation, O’Brien’s friend – who had lost her luggage – rode waves in her Lululemon leggings and tank top. While not an ideal fabric or fit for body surfing, her friend looked stylish and felt incredibly comfortable. O’Brien realized this was the type of product she would want to swim in. From that day, Lynn believed wholeheartedly in her new swimwear concept. She knew what her customers would want because she was her customer. “When I tried on our first product samples, I took a long walk down the beach and I thought – I feel great! My thighs weren’t rubbing together, I wasn’t wearing a sarong that kept falling down. I’m on the beach and I’m a badass!”
Vet the market. Convinced of the need, O’Brien set out to determine if products already existed and to gauge the competition. She found several brands, such as Coolibar, IBKUL, Mott50, Lyra Swim and Athleta, that made variations of this category. This validated the demand for such products. However, none provided a highly curated selection, a singular focus or her preferred aesthetic. She saw a tremendous opportunity. Find that perfect balance of demand and opportunity.
Don’t just sell the product, sell the concept. Selling leggings and tops sounds easy, right? But what about selling leggings and shirts as swimwear? Lynne knew early on that she had to be prepared to sell a new concept. “Customers can swim in them and then take a 20-mile bike ride and never have to change,” explains fashion industry guru Kay Unger. When establishing a new category or introducing an existing product in a new way, be prepared to define the need and explain why your product is necessary.
Align yourself with experts. You may not know it all, so it’s important that you know who does. Establish relationships with experts in your industry and leverage their knowledge and connections. While struggling to evolve her business during the pandemic, O’Brien turned to Unger to guide her. Unger introduced O’Brien to factories in New York City – whom she had met through her work with Fashion For The Front Lines – that were clamoring for business and who could provide small production runs even during the pandemic.
It’s never too late. O’Brien started her brand at the age of 57. She has now become an expert on analytics, hang tags and shoulder styles. “Sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode but it is invigorating. Keep growing and learning and, as my husband suggests, keep asking yourself – what did you learn today?”
“I ordered the swim dress and I felt protected, comfortable, attractive…I felt FREE,” wrote one Line In The Sand customer, also a cancer survivor. Another customer says the clothing is exactly what she needs to live by her religious standards yet be comfortable. Reviews like these make O’Brien’s heart swell. Her hard work is making a real difference – empowering women and the planet.