Designer Interview: Form and Fold

Introducing Form and Fold

We are really excited to welcome Form and Fold to The UNDONE.

A swimwear brand designed exclusively for D+ women, Form and Fold was launched in 2017 by Melbourne based designers and lifelong friends Carly and Stephanie.

Motivated by their own experiences and frustrated with the limited selection of D+ swimwear, they set to liberate themselves and other women with a range of swimwear that fuses fit, function and design, ensuring all styles are supportive and are designed with a consciousness of the female form.

We spoke with Carly and Stephanie about what motivated them to start the line, how they are filling a gap in the market, and the process behind creating a great fitting swimsuit.

You launched the brand in 2017, what were you both doing prior?

Carly had finished completing a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) while Stephanie had completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Textile Technology). Fresh out of university with no experience in business or any goal to be business owners, we organically came up with the idea for Form and Fold while swimming and venting about the uninspiring and uncomfortable D+ swimwear selection. We were young, enthusiastic and knew we had an incredible idea for a product that would not only solve our summer nightmare, but also for thousands of D+ women across the world. Who needs experience when you’ve got a great idea that’s differentiated from any product in the marketplace and unlimited drive!

Why did you decide to start the line, what was the problem you were trying to solve?

It all began in 2014 by the water. We (Stephanie 32DD and Carly 32E) were comparing our swimwear and laughing about how ill fitting and unsupportive our daggy contraptions were.

Both of us grew up in homes where art magazines were stacked on our coffee tables and trips to art galleries and concerts filled our Saturdays. We had a mutual understanding that the D+ swimwear market didn’t reflect our style, interests in art, fashion and architecture and it certainly didn’t reflect a lifestyle or woman we related to.

For us D+ women, being able to choose a desired swimwear design or colour pallet is a luxury! Finding a style that actually fits and is offered in our size is the biggest challenge. Many women with a larger cup size can relate to the exhausting and often dispiriting experience of searching for swimwear they feel confident and supported in. Let’s be honest, we often feel our most exposed while wearing swimwear; especially when squeezing into tops that have not been designed to support or flatter a bigger bust.

After years of struggling to find swimwear in a market that has long overlooked D+ women, we decided who better to design it than us, the customers. So, in 2014 The Fold was born with an ethos to fuse fit, function and design, ensuring all styles are supportive and are designed with a consciousness of the female form.

How hard has it been to make a great fitting swimsuit?

Swimwear may appear light and effortless, but its simplicity can be deceptive. It is not just designed to cover the breasts and to be flattering, it also needs to support, shape, provide comfort and product longevity which requires complex construction techniques. Larger cup size garments require more support and shape in order to handle more weight, which means stronger materials (added seams, stabiliser, thick straps, side slings and a strong back clasp etc.), increased reinforcement and expert pattern makers. It is a fine balance, one millimetre can make all the difference between a perfect and ill-fitting garment.

The time, expertise and expense involved in sourcing up to 10 components, creating new designs and patterns that perfectly balance comfort, fit and aesthetics makes swimwear for larger cup sizes a highly challenging field. This is why swimwear brands have been slow to successfully expand into this area, leaving the D+ swimwear market empty, uninspiring and of a poor quality.

Our new style The Crop for example, took us three years to perfect. The style took three pattern makers with three different approaches to sample up more than 20 prototypes in order to figure out just how to balance design with the support needed for D+ cup sizes. There are swim crop tops on the market, but we’ve found all of them give us uni-boob. When we started to develop the style, we kept running into the same issue. It was very hard to get a flattering, minimising, round, lifted shape without falling into uni-boob territory. Then there’s the challenge of achieving a square neckline for larger cup sizes. Because the bust is rounded and heavy, it can distort the line. We would not put up with a sub-par fit! There are many components involved to help lift, shape and support the bust, including a stabiliser cup. All of these elements had to be constructed in a clever way to conceal the seams so that the top looks like an effortless crop top — something D+ women have been begging for.

Designer Interview: Form and Fold

How do you both split your roles in the business?

At the beginning we basically did every task together! We soon figured out that was a complete waste of time (of course) and we started to instinctively gravitate towards tasks that matched our skill set or interest. Now, when a task pops up we look at each other and know straight away if it’s going to be a ‘Carly task’ or a ‘Stephanie task’.

I would love to hear the story about how you both met?

We’ve known each other nearly our entire lives, we met in playgroup at the age of one. Our parents met there too and became best friends, so we grew up in each other’s houses. Our parents are both big art and design lovers so we were immersed in this world from a young age, spending weekends at art galleries or furniture stores together. As we grew up we connected over these shared interests and this is what ultimately led to us starting Form and Fold together.

What’s a quality you admire in each other and the reason why you feel you have a great working relationship in addition to a friendship outside of work

Steph admires Carly’s persistence. I’ve never heard her take no for an answer and as it turns out, not accepting a ‘no’ has got us to where we need to be in business!

Carly admires Steph’s ‘no bullshit’ approach. She’s clear and assertive, getting tasks done without dwelling. 

We say we are like a married couple and our business is our baby. We are constantly working on being open and honest, making sure there’s time for laughter and morning coffees at our locals in Fitzroy which set the tone for the day. Our friendship allows for heated discussions, which has helped us push so many unknown boundaries.

I love reading the reviews left by your customers on how much they love the fit of your swimsuits, what has been one of the most memorable you have received?

We always knew our tenacity and years of hard work would pay off, however we never would have imagined the response that we’ve received from our customers. We’ve received hundreds of brave and exposed emails from women recounting their years of struggling with their curves. These women are now ending their dislike for their curves and the beach, with our brand allowing them to feel supported and empowered.

The most memorable customer feedback would be a woman letting us know that because of Form and Fold she no longer was going in for a breast reduction. Now that she was able to wear swimwear and there was a brand that represented her, she felt like her curves belonged in this world. So moving!

What’s your top tip/s for looking after your swimsuits so they last for years to come?

Hand wash in mild soapy water!

What does your dream capsule wardrobe look like?

Acne Studio cotton shirt, Terry estate cotton shorts, Lucy Folk cat eye sunglasses, Marni sandals, Lemaire croissant bag and of course Form and Fold swim.

Now that we can make our dreams a reality, what’s your dream summer getaway?

We are hoping to explore sleepy beach towns such as Brunswick Heads and Lennox Head in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Up from the coast there is a scenic drive into the hinterlands that’s reminiscent of the Tuscan countryside, taking you past farms, waterfalls, rainforests, artist studios and heritage towns like Bangalow and Federal. Then our last stop is Mullumbimby for a river swim and the ultimate rejuvenation at a bathhouse nestled in a bamboo grove.

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