When Andie entered the market in 2016, it aimed to disrupt the multi-billion dollar swimwear industry by focusing on fit and function, while also creating beautiful swimsuits.
In the years since, the direct-to-consumer brand has expanded its product assortment, entered brick and mortar and raised over $30 million.
But to Michelle Copelman, Andie's vice president of brand and design, the company's just getting started.
Copelman joined Andie in September 2020 from Outdoor Voices where she served as vice president of design. And prior to that, she held design roles at legacy players like Victoria's Secret and J. Crew.
"Storytelling is super important to me," Copelman told Retail Dive. "All of these brands, even Victoria's Secret, did a really excellent job of really knowing their customer, and really understanding who they're going after and what they're selling — the consistency from design all the way through marketing. That's why I really appreciate my role at Andie, being head of both design and marketing. We're really able to start with a concept and see that follow through all the way to the end consumer."
That storytelling element is playing into how Andie is approaching its next product launch: cover-ups. Copelman said ahead of the collection debut, which is expected to happen in June, the brand is testing out two potential paths: launching it as a separate collection, as Andie has generally done in the past for new products, or launching it in conjunction with swimwear as a way to have "one inspiration" and tell "one story."
Cover-ups is just one of many projects on Copelman's mind. As Andie prepares for the year ahead, the executive looks back on its brand strategy and what's next for the company.
A year of growth
While the pandemic impacted retailers across the industry in one way or another, some fared better than others. For Andie, the brand "has had tremendous growth during the pandemic," Copelman said. The company announced in November that it grew 100% year over year.
"Maybe [retail] didn't see foot traffic, especially in brick and mortar or online with women buying evening gowns and dresses and whatnot. But for $100, to buy a swimsuit for maybe a weekend away or to see your loved ones and to find moments of joy during the hectic year and a half, we found a lot of women still wanting that," Copelman said. "Given that Andie's all about comfort and this idea of affordable luxury, I think that really resonated with customers."
Copelman added that the brand has received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback for its flagship products and newer launches.
"I have never, ever seen the amount of positive responses from customers. As an avid shopper myself, I'm always surprised because I've never really thought to reach out to a customer service team and, you know, just offer my praises and compliments," Copelman said, adding that given where the swimwear industry has been in the past — pushing sexy rather than catering to the needs of its consumers — Andie stands out to consumers. "We've been able to kind of bridge that gap of this idea of inner beauty, and looking truly beautiful on the beach, and being comfortable — not only in your own skin, but in a garment that's so small out in public. Lingerie is the next adjacent category and that's usually viewed behind closed doors."
Something Copelman is also proud of is how widespread Andie's audience is, which she said has benefited the brand and also provided assurance that its designs are working.
"I was talking to our sales associates over the weekend and they said that a mother daughter came in and a 13-year-old bought it and her mother also bought a swimsuit," she said. "I was like 'Well that's kind of brilliant and amazing' that we've really been able to create the classic one-piece that resonates with all women across America."
To expand its categorical reach even further and become the destination for all things needed for vacation, the brand launched a marketplace of sorts offering third-party products from brands like Supergoop, Hat Attack and Corkcicle. And to coincide with its launch into loungewear, Andie rolled out products from brands related to lounge, like slippers from Llani, sleep masks from Sunday Citizen and restorative oil from beauty brand Esker.
"I started my career out at J. Crew and I feel like what they did so beautifully was complete outfitting and we're sort of taking a similar approach at Andie Swim," Copelman said. "For the beach vacation and hanging out by the water, what is the complete look or accessories that one would need to go on vacation? … Nobody ever just shows up to the beach in their swimsuit."
Helping to fund future product launches, Andie in December announced it raised $18.5 million in a round led by Marcy Venture Partners, a venture capital firm co-founded by Jay-Z. The company said it would use the funds to support its omnichannel distribution growth and international expansion, grow its team and launch new products. Copelman also said the funds will help Andie revamp its marketing mix, which has been accelerated by Apple's introduction of the iOS14 update that affected app tracking. The company is now looking to diversify its channels by moving into areas like connected TV and direct mail.
The iOS update "did definitely shake up big plans and marketing dollars," she added. "But it's interesting. We were already going down this path of diversifying the channels that we either engaged in organically [or] on paid. This either pushed us along quicker or just made us more enthusiastic about it. Understanding that tech is just one piece of it."
Moving toward omnichannel
Swimwear is largely viewed as a category consumers need to try on prior to purchasing because proper fit is so important, but Copelman said that even as a digitally native brand, it has been well equipped to serve customers.
"Going into a store, getting dressed in a suit, usually a small fitting room that maybe doesn't have the best light, and maybe doesn't have the best assortment — you kind of don't want to do that in January or February," Copelman said adding that those two months are a big selling period for the brand with the holidays wrapping up and spring break around the corner. "There's definitely that luxury of shopping on the website and trying it on in the comfort of your own home."
"We are a direct-to-consumer brand and going omni is the next transition for Andie as we continue to grow and as we capture more customers."
Vice President of Brand and Design, Andie
To ensure proper fit, Andie introduced live fit experts, well before the pandemic, that are available for customers to call and have video consultations with to make sure they're matched with the correct size and style that best suits their needs.
The brand continues to invest in e-commerce as it remains Andie's main revenue channel. The company's fit quiz, which consumers take prior to making a purchase to help match them with the style that works best for them, is undergoing a total revamp, Copelman said.
But, like many DTC brands, Andie increasingly saw value in stepping offline. Last year in November it opened a pop-up shop in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The store is powered by Leap, which has helped DTC brands like Birdies and Something Navy build and operate brick-and mortar locations, and also features tech from Lightbox that will help connect customers to Andie's fit consultants as well as showcase the brand's full assortment, allowing them to order products not available within the store.
"It's really important not only in growing brand awareness, but also owning our brand story and continuing to message that out. We are a direct-to-consumer brand and going omni is the next transition for Andie as we continue to grow and as we capture more customers," Copelman said. The company is "viewing it, yes, to drive revenue, but also as an alternative to a billboard on Sunset Boulevard."
The brand has also formed partnerships with hotels and boutiques, including BunkHouse, as a way to "dip our toes" into wholesale, Copelman said.
"We keep saying at Andie: Meet her where she is. Make swimsuit shopping as effortless and easy as possible," Copelman said. "There's really nothing as easy as buying something and then being able to walk up to the beach two minutes later in that swimsuit."