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How two Australian brands carved a niche supporting people with big boobs

Image via Raq Apparel

WORDS BY Jasmine Alavuk

Busty people unite!

Hands up if you entered puberty with a fully-formed adult chest and no idea what to do about it? Keep those hands up if every summer since then, you felt defeated shopping for bathers that made you look and feel dowdy in comparison to the rest of your sleek beach-bound pals?

Thankfully, well-endowed young people won’t be faced with this same predicament. Enter Sophia Argyropoulos, founder of Raq Apparel, and Carly Warson and Stephanie Korn, founders of Form and Fold, two innovative Australian swimwear brands that have carved out a niche catering for people with big boobs. 


Looking for more swimwear brands that cater to bigger busts? We’ve put together a handy guide here.


I spoke to Sophia, Carly and Stephanie about building a loyal following, the importance of representation and what it feels like to create a product that makes customers feel like themselves again.

Sophia Argyropoulos, Raq Apparel founder

 

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A post shared by RAQ (@raqapparel)

What inspired you to start Raq?

I launched Raq just over three years ago because I had always struggled as a busty woman and a busty teenager to find swimwear, bras and clothing that fit me. There were some items on the market when I was growing up, but when they did fit, they didn’t reflect my style. It wasn’t youthful and it made it hard to express myself. I’ve always struggled and felt quite unconfident in my body. I spent a lot of time at the beach and was always jealous of my friends who had multiple bikinis to wear, while I only had one. 

What were the initial challenges when you began setting up the brand?

I come from a business background, so I didn’t study fashion. But I had this pain point, and because I was really passionate about this, I started by designing for myself. I had this inkling that there were lots of other women out there like me, so I came from that angle. I think if you want to tackle such a challenging part of the market – because the product is quite technical, and I think that’s why so many brands haven’t done this – you have to be passionate and invested. 

I’m very passionate about providing an extensive size range. When I started Raq, I started with one style with 12 different bra sizes. Because of this, it was a challenge to convince a supplier to work with me. Swimwear factories are only used to doing five sizes – XS to XL – so I had to find the right supplier who would do 12 different sizes, and construct the top like a bra.

What is your inspiration behind the creative direction?

I love the ’80s and ’90s swimwear, fashion campaigns and ads. There are lots of brands that still exist now, but when you go back to their campaigns from decades ago, the way they shot them, what they were wearing, and the way they were styled is so inspiring. Lots of mixing and matching, which is a big part of how I think about my range. I want women to be able to express themselves at the beach, put together a beach outfit, and also be able to wear it as a bra, under a top with a cute pair of pants.

When I am struggling to work out exactly what print I want to go with, I just come back to this: keep it classic. Busty women have never had many options, if any, for swimsuits that look and feel good. They’ve never even had access to the basics, like a classic gingham print, or like last season when we did a houndstooth – busty women have never been able to wear that. I always consult the community. They’re a big part of the process.

How did you build your loyal following?

My research shows me that 60 per cent of women actually wear a D cup or larger. There’s a lot of people out there with a fuller bust! But there aren’t many brands actually representing that in their campaigns or in their size range. Before I even created the product, I was posting lots of photos of cool, interesting, stylish women that had a fuller bust on Instagram. From the start, and this has been ongoing, people have said that our Instagram, the community and the website has made them feel represented for once. 

We have this platform that celebrates women, but we’re not sexualising them. We’re celebrating women feeling sexy and embracing themselves and being able to express themselves through what they wear, at the beach and every day. And we celebrate women for what they have to say and what they’re passionate about, which is greater than their bodies.

You’ve partnered with content creator Carmen Azzopardi to discuss important topics. What’s something that you care about?

One of my key values, especially with Raq, is to be vulnerable and authentic. That’s how you create connections with people. I want to inspire other people to feel confident in themselves, in who they are, and in their bodies. Part of that is helping women find the perfect bikini so that they can just live their lives to the fullest, feeling liberated in summer. I want women to be able to enjoy life, and the bikini is not an issue. I want them to feel comfortable and supported.

What’s been your proudest achievement with the brand so far?

It would be our size range. Over the past three years, we’ve expanded from 12 sizes (which is an achievement in itself) to 32 sizes. Currently, we do four different band sizes, from 8 to 14, and our cup sizes go from D to H. We’ve got more on the way – size 16 later this year and we intend to grow even further. I’m so passionate about that and so proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.

What’s next for Raq?

One of the things that I’m excited about right now, is that we have our own space in Collingwood. My project over winter will be expanding the Raq online presence to the physical world, and creating an experience that is fun and inclusive. People will be able to come in and do fittings by appointment and that’s also a way for me to connect with my customers in person. I get so much energy and inspiration from that. I want a safe space for women to come in and try things on.

@raqapparel

Carly Warson and Stephanie Korn, Form and Fold co-founders

 

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A post shared by Form and Fold (@formandfold)

What inspired you both to start Form and Fold?

The label was really borne out of our shared experience searching for swimwear that looked beautiful but that would also support and fit us properly. Both Carly (32E) and I (32DD) were familiar with the challenge of finding swimwear that suited a smaller back and a larger bust. We were both frustrated at the lack of options, so we set about creating our own label that blended a really strong design ethos with lingerie-based construction. Our ambition was to create a brand for women just like us, who appreciated clean, timeless and contemporary design, but who were also largely being ignored by the existing offering. 

What were the initial challenges when you began setting up the brand?

We never knew how difficult developing the product would be! Swimwear may appear light and effortless, but its simplicity can be deceptive. It is not designed just to cover the breasts and look attractive, it also needs to support, shape, provide comfort and offer product longevity, which requires complex construction techniques. The first hurdle to overcome was finding the right people to work with. The D+ lingerie and swimwear industry is still a niche market, which leaves a very limited pool of talented experts.

We’ve been fortunate to find a specialised D+ team that has taught us a new language in the world of technical pattern making, grading and manufacturing. We sampled countless styles, countless times. Perfecting a style could take anywhere between 10 to 20 samples. Every detail counts – one millimetre can make all the difference between a well-rounded shape and an unsupported, teardrop shape. This is why swimwear brands have been slow to successfully expand into this market, and it is also why it took us three years to develop! 

What is your inspiration behind the creative direction?

When we launched, we felt there was no swimwear brand for women with D+ cup that communicated in a really beautiful and contemporary way. We wanted to offer up something very clean, very pared back and ultimately timeless. In that way, the creative direction is a direct reflection of the focus on the simplicity and quality of our product. Setting aside our personal aesthetics, our collection inspiration really comes straight from our customers. Their feedback throughout the years has shaped our styles from fit to colour selection. We don’t follow fashion trends or industry players, we listen and then develop according to women’s needs. For us, this is the only inspiration we will ever need!

How did you build your loyal following?

We owe it all to our product! With minimal marketing, we’ve been able to build a loyal following of women who previously had a very limited and uninspiring selection of D+ swim. Our messaging speaks straight to the woman: D+ swim that actually fits and is sold in your size, finally! Once women try our product, they are loyal customers forever because there is no other product out there that lifts, shapes and supports the bust as technically as ours does. It’s pretty revolutionary for a brand to fit D+ women, while not compromising on design. 

What’s been your proudest achievement with the brand so far?

The feedback from our customers. When we hear that we’ve made these women feel seen, feel supported and feel good in their swimwear, it is always so rewarding for us. It’s all in the reviews! Supporting women with a product made to celebrate the very thing that causes their insecurities is the most rewarding thing! We’ve had feedback that the brand will ‘change your world’, that it’s made women feel as though their body was, in fact, made for bathers (all bodies are), and that wearing our product makes our customer feel like themselves. One customer (34D) said she had searched for ten years for a swimwear top until she discovered us, and that her Form and Fold top is better fitted than even her bras. This is the best feedback we could ever imagine. 

What’s next for Form and Fold?

Right now, we are dedicated to continually challenging the D+ swimwear industry by exploring new ways to create functional and design-focused swim for women with a fuller bust. A few new styles and some exciting stockists are on the horizon!

@formandfold

Looking for more big boob friendly brands? Head here for a selection of bras that are both sexy and supportive.

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