Can you introduce yourselves and tell us a little about how you started â€œSwooning?â€There are three of us at Swoon – between the three of us we cover all genders (not difficult!) and we also try to cover all ‘attitudes’: that’s a bit more challenging, but we like to think we’re quite attitude-savvy, and we’re doing what we can to make our products ‘inclusive to all’. Ha! That may seem a little strange when we’re talking about underwear, but we have a pretty symbiotic relationship with our pants: we are them and they are us! – and we believe that’s as it should be.
The Swooning process was pretty organic – as is usually the case with a warm-blooded business (i.e. no one sat down at a desk and planned it!). It started with one pair of pants that was so admired and clamored after that it quickly led to another. It was one of those ‘this is just for me’ things that grew into ‘okay, this is for me, but I’ll let my friends join in’ and then to an ‘alright friends of friends too’ situation, and then to Etsy!
Why did you choose to sell on Etsy instead of trying to launch a label the conventional way?
Etsy is just the perfect place for us, and we certainly don’t aim to leave in a hurry. We found Etsy completely by accident while searching on the internet for something else, and it was like finding nirvana. As individuals, we three have (at least) one thing in common: we hate mass-produced anything. We’ve already been approached several times and asked to do wholesale, and we have always refused because that is not what we are interested in doing. People are crying out to find individually made items to help them express their own uniqueness: who wants to look the same as the girl/boy next door? We live in the highlands of Scotland, and yet if we go into our nearest shopping centre it could be anywhere in the country: every high street looks the same now: the same chain stores selling the same items. Etsy is doing something to address that, for those who want to break out of the mould. It’s a fantastic idea that is obviously going to be huge. And we’re very happy to be part of it!
What is Swoonâ€™s â€œphilosophy?â€ How would you describe your line or why youâ€™re doing what youâ€™re doing?
Swoon probably has a sort of ‘philosophy’ but it’s tricky to pin down. A customer once explained a very interesting conclusion she’d come to, which was that previously she’d often felt as if the underwear she bought was really to please someone else; it wasn’t always very comfortable to wear, and didn’t really suit her personality, but she felt – somehow – that is was something she just had to do. And she didn’t even know why. This sparked quite a lot of thinking about the subject, and although we didn’t set out with that purpose, it’s probably become an objective: for women (and now men too!) who want to feel sexy without having to be SEXY (big bold tabloid headline) (There’s a long rambling post on our blog about this for anyone who really wants to delve). Underwear shouldn’t just be about ‘sexy’ (though try putting the word ‘underwear’ into a search engine!) but, unfortunately as soon as you put the word ‘comfortable’ next to it, up pops the lingerie equivalent of ‘mom jeans’! So hopefully we fit in somewhere in the huge chasm between those extremes. We like to think we are providing something for those who don’t want to be pigeonholed and defined by their underwear! These days it’s hard to avoid being instantly summed up just on the basis of what car you’re driving or what newspaper you read. Swoon aims to defy definition! There’s also a very strong nostalgia element to our garments, both in the design and in the fabrics we choose, and undoubtedly for some customers they are like security blankets, taking them back to a more carefree time. Our promotional postcards are printed with the exclamation: ‘Mystery, Adventure Romance!’, and that’s definitely what we aim to provide.
For the most part, you create your patterns yourselves. What is that process like? How do you create a pattern and tackle fit issues?
The designing process is one of evolution, really – the same pattern evolves and evolves like an amoeba into(hopefully) a beautiful dove. Our designer’s background is actually in interior design, which isn’t that dissimilar: both disciplines are down to rather tedious technical drawing in the end; but it might explain why every item tends to have ‘a concept’ and virtually a ‘lifestyle’!
Fit is a really important issue and we have to work very closely with customers to get it right. The main hurdle to overcome is people not having an accurate knowledge of their own size. This is more the fault of manufacturers than customers. Every manufacturer has their own sizing system, and so not everyone’s 34B is going to be the same! We ask customers to send their actual measurements rather than the size they normally buy, and if it doesn’t fit first time, we don’t give up until it does! We develop very close relationships with our customers, and stay in touch with them even when they aren’t buying regularly. Underwear brings people together!
Which pieces/designs are your personal favorites?
We love all the things we make – standard answer, right! But in this case it’s true. If we don’t have an emotional response (as in “I want to keep it!”) we don’t put it in the shop. There are certain fabrics we love so much we haven’t even used them yet! We are actually miserly about them because a lot aren’t available any more and it rends the heart to use the last piece. We have no hand in the design of the fabrics and they are what truly enslave us. What we like to think what we do quite well here is fabric-combining, which is quite similar to food-combining, with a lot of the same results: if it doesn’t work, you’re in trouble! Current personal favourites are probably the ones we did recently to celebrate Tartan Week, especially the ‘Jacobite Rebellion’ camiknickers; also the ‘Anarchy From The UK’ camiknickers, just because they are so bold and the colours are stunning. Although they are made as underwear, we know of at least on customer who wears them out to clubs, and quite right too: some things are just too good to keep to yourself!
I saw that menâ€™s pocket pants are now available! Are there any other new products on the horizon?
There are loads of new products on the horizon – top secret at present, of course. We have sketchbooks full of ideas and get ridiculously excited about them. Men’s pocket pants are about to touchdown. We’ll be concentrating on them in a big way for the next while. We like the idea of putting a pocket on underpants to encourage people to carry condoms which are now just everyday items (or should be) and entirely essential for good sexual health. The women’s version doesn’t have lace, since not all girls like that sort of thing, and the men’s will be whatever the customer wants, but on the samples, we will tend towards a modern interpretation of the nostalgic: classic stripes with perhaps a subtle rose-print pocket to express men’s growing awareness of their ‘feminine side’. Swoon is metrosexual to the core!
Where do you see your line, or hope to see it, in five years? Are there future plans?
In five years we hope to be well established, but still operating on our own terms. There might have to be more than three of us, but our attitude is not likely to change. We will not be smoking big cigars and barking orders into a speaker phone!
To visit the Swoon shop online, click here!