EXTRA,  FEATURES,  GEAR,  Gear Advice,  March 2024,  NEWS

Deakin & Blue bring deadstock to life

From one swimsuit to a successful sustainable brand and stylish swimwear collection, Outdoor Swimmer meets Deakin and Blue founder Rosie Cook

Deakin & Blue is still a young business, but how long have you been in business now?

We launched our first collection in June 2017 with just one swimsuit and one bikini. For that first year of business, I kept the stock at home. I packed every order myself, lugging bags of parcels up the hill to my nearest post office and I replied personally to every customer email and social media message. Today, we’re a small team of six brilliant women – starting out feels like a long time ago!

What is your objective with D&B?

I’m motivated by that moment when a woman looks at her reflection in the mirror and smiles at what she sees. I set up Deakin & Blue after learning that body image concerns stop women from enjoying swimming or taking their kids to swim. We all know this woman; many of us have been her. She’s self-conscious, she sits watching the bags on the beach while her family play in the water. That’s what I want to change with D&B. By making swimsuits and bikinis that feel wonderful to wear and through sharing the Body Stories of women who have reconnected with their bodies (often through cold water swimming), I hope we are helping more women to feel comfortable in their own skin, to wear the swimsuit, to join in.

What do women love about your suits and brand?

Our customers tell us they love how they feel when they wear our pieces. That they stand taller, they smile, they feel confident, held, secure. That they can relax and jump in the water, push off the wall or chase their kids round the pool, knowing that everything will stay where it should. From conversations with our community, I know that women also love our choice of language and imagery. We have named our three curve sizes after women with different body shapes (because who feels good buying an ‘extra large’?) and we showcase a beautiful range of body shapes and sizes in the spirit of recognising that all bodies have a right to feel strong and beautiful and valid. So, the women you see in our adverts or social posts look different from the usual swimwear models – in fact, they’re often outdoor swimmers. We never airbrush or hide so-called flaws – be that scars, signs of aging or disability.

Tell us about deadstock – what does this mean?

When big fashion manufacturers make a range of products, the fabric left on the end of the roll after they’ve cut the designated number of pieces is discarded as deadstock and usually sent to landfill. By intervening and rescuing that fabric, we’re stopping unused new fabric going straight to waste, and instead giving them a new lease of life. We’ve always made swimwear from regenerated waste fibres, but D&B Deadstock Designs being made from pre-existing, surplus fabrics feels like an even more proactive way of having a net positive impact on the planet.

What can we expect from this collection?

You can expect all the things you already know and love about Deakin & Blue – brilliant bust support, inclusive sizing, excellent post-sale after care and repair service. But, because we take our customers’ feedback seriously, we’ve also made exciting amends to some of our most popular designs to make them even more versatile. Think reversibility, adjustable straps, better coverage on the bottom, wider gussets. And, of course – it brings the prints! D&B Deadstock Designs introduces five new prints across six styles (four swimsuits, two bikinis) – and I truly hope there is something for everyone. We feature leopard print, tropical ferns, bright joyful daisies and even understated English meadow flowers. Every piece is available in sizes 8-24, AA-HH cup.

How have you developed the collection?

We’ve had a lot of fun developing this collection. As always, we’ve started with our customer – we’ve looked at feedback on our existing designs and colourways and then explored a wide range of printed fabrics to select five unique, confidence-boosting prints that we believe feel joyful to wear. Building in reversibility was an exciting decision as it creates two swimsuits in one to offer even more versatility and choice. Ultimately, when we’re choosing prints, styles and colours we ask ourselves, ‘do I want to wear this? How do I feel when I put this on?’ Every piece from D&B Deadstock Designs makes me beam with joy.

D&B work closely with customers and respond to feedback to develop suits – tell us about this?

We really value feedback from our customers – we run surveys, read customer reviews, conduct face to face workshops and have customers who swim test our products. Combined, this feedback becomes an important voice in our design process. In fact, since launching in 2017, most of our key product decisions have been driven by customers – from extending our sizing to launching tankinis and swim shorts. Of course, we have to spot trends and patterns in feedback rather than listening to every single request – our swimwear isn’t made to measure. But we believe our sizing system, which takes into account both bust and body measurements, offers a wide range of fit options. Through different styles, prints and colours we then hope to offer a range of options that suit a wide range of women. And we’re always listening! If there’s something you’d like us to do – ask us!

Why is the collection limited?

By nature of how the pieces have been made – from existing unused fabric that was being sent to landfill – we can only make as many swimsuits and bikinis as there are metres of fabric available. For example, in one of the prints there was only 30m of fabric – which makes around 30 swimsuits. So even if they sold out in ten minutes and we wanted to restock them, we couldn’t! It’s a lovely opportunity for our customers to own a one-of-a-kind D&B but also means if you love something, you may want to move fast!

Which suit is your fav and why?

I absolutely adore the very first swimsuit from D&B Deadstock Designs: the Plunge Swimsuit in Leopard and Black. We’ve added adjustable straps to improve the support and fit on the bust (this is particularly important for bigger busted women), and we’ve also designed this suit to be reversible, so you have two styles in one – ideal for maximising your swim wardrobe. Leopard print is having a real renaissance (or maybe it never went out of style) and I feel happy and strong when I wear the print. It’s great for fun dips, holidays, spa afternoons. But, like many women, I also love to have a classic, understated black swimsuit as well. Great for when I want to just head to the pool, swim my lengths uninterrupted and get out. A swimsuit that combines both? Perfection.

What would you say to someone who says they can’t afford a D&B suit?

I totally get it. Our pieces are an investment and we know they’re not cheap. However, our pricing reflects the reality of sourcing sustainable materials and paying a fair living wage to the individuals involved in making it. What’s more, with your D&B comes a guarantee of quality and durability. We offer excellent post-sale after care, free repairs after purchase and even a recycling scheme for your suit when it has really come to the end of its life. We have customers who still wear the swimsuits they bought in 2017! If we really are out of budget, then I’d recommend keeping an eye on our social media for news of our sample sales (we run two to three a year) where you can pick up a model-worn swimsuit for about half the usual price.

Where can we buy and find you?

All our pieces are available to buy at deakinandblue.com and we’re delighted to be giving Outdoor Swimmer readers £15 off their order with us by using code 5WIMMER at the checkout (min spend £100). This summer we’re popping up across the UK (from Devon to Keswick, Brighton to Wales) giving our customers a chance to meet the team and try our pieces on. Do keep an eye on our events page for information on where we’ll be next – we’d love to meet you!

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Ella is renowned outdoor swimmer and journalist. As well as leading the editorial, digital and experiential outputs for Outdoor Swimmer she is also Director of Dip Advisor, a swim guiding business helping people enjoy wild water. Ella also teaches swimming to children and adults, is an Open Water Coach and RLSS Open Water Lifeguard.