RAJ Swim is targeting the millennial market with a new eco-friendly swim brand, VYB, designed exclusively by a team of young millennial women.
The “VYB Tribe,” as the internal team is being called, was tasked with developing the brand by RAJ co-CEOs Alex Bhathal and Lisa Vogel, who kept corporate involvement to a minimum to allow the brand to be authentically born from the perspective of millennials.
VYB, which launches this month, is also developed based on the use of deadstock fabrics from the RAJ Swim factory in Orange County. This idea of using fabrics that would usually end up in landfills, and eliminating excess production in the process, appealed to the eco-conscious VYB Tribe.
We spoke with Brenda West, President, of RAJ Swim, Holly Harshman, Marketing Director, and Holly Swope, Senior Designer, to learn more about VYB Swim, the philosophy behind the brand, and why they believe VYB (pronounced “vibe”) will be a key brand in the RAJ Swim portfolio.
Why start the millennial brand, VYB, at RAJ Swim?
Holly Harshman, Marketing Director: The company agreed that the millennial is not being catered to within our existing RAJ brand portfolio. So we -- the millennial VYB Tribe -- crafted VYB Swim with one thought in mind: designing a bikini for our every vibe.
As the female mind goes, we wake up every morning anew -- inspired and passionate about the woman we will be that day. One day, edgy; the next, romantic, and all that comes in between.
While researching we came to the conclusion that current brands in the market have very specific genres. We want to capture all of the coastal babes and speak to that community with a unique collection for them to discover and express their current mood.
Why was there little corporate involvement?
Brenda West, President: There has been corporate involvement in the VYB launch from start to finish, however, we asked our millennial employees who are our target customers to help create and develop the brand fit, look, and in essence…it’s VYB.
As a company, we took a step back to ensure brand authenticity was developed from a true millennial perspective. The VYB Tribe is a group of twelve girls in their early twenties to early thirties with more than 50 years of combined swim expertise.
From retail, marketing, design, and production experience, each millennial equally adds value.
How will this brand be different from other brands at RAJ -- will it target a different market and/or retailers? Will it operate differently within the company?
Holly Swope, Senior Designer: Ultimately the VYB collaboration was entirely unique to RAJ in that we were given complete creative freedom, and all decisions were made based on a collective vote from our tribe.
We designed and sampled the product as a segregated entity within the company. We broke rules and thought outside of the box, making our product feel singular and unique. Every decision was based on instinct and we had a clean slate, which is essentially a creatives dream.
During our initial ideation we had an "ah-ha” moment and realized that we all represented a spectrum of what the millennial consumer looks like. We all loved changing up our styles daily, and not one of us liked being labeled into a specific category or genre of style. This allowed us to explore the idea of designing a line that spoke to the multi-faceted millennial women that is often misunderstood.
We all are very passionate about the product and wanted this product to represent her current VYB without being categorized into a certain brand ID. It is an authentic approach that differentiates us from our portfolio of brands, as well as our competition.
A variety of retailers have been interested, and we remain focused on places the VYB Tribe frequently shops. It continues to operate differently within the company, and as any experiment goes, we will continue to find learnings that we can apply to the rest of our portfolio of brands so we are constantly innovating and staying fresh.
Tell us more about repurposing excess fabric?
Holly Harshman, Marketing Director: We call it ‘deadstock.’ Our company’s Tustin, Calif., factory has in-house stock fabric rolls that have never been sold, worn or used. Most are in original packaging and tags.
VYB is made with deadstock. We are eliminating the need of producing more fabric, which would in turn create waste and use up more water and chemicals to treat and dye. The VYB Tribe is very passionate about recycling.
On a retailer standpoint, store floors and dotcoms receive newness all the time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
The other feature benefit is that most of these fabrications are luxury goods that we would never normally be able to hit minimums on or afford the yardage without this resource.
On top of that we have a speed to market that is unmatched. Eliminating lead times due to printing and dying we can design and develop a suit in much less time because the fabric is ready to go.
Will VYB have different price points?
Holly Swope, Senior Designer: Yes, a major concern of ours when first collaborating was to analyze the market and make sure our place in the market was really well understood.
In doing research, we found that most of us shop in high end boutiques and sprinkle in low-end commodity pieces to complete the look. Using that theory we applied a price strategy to the product that would allow our consumer to buy higher end unique pieces while mixing and matching the price savvy product to meet their budget.
Our goal was to make the product tangible enough for her to leave with a complete look without spending more than $120 total.
Any particular styles you expect to be best-sellers?
Brenda West, President: Yes, our Rebel Soul group has already received a great response. The styles are fresh, innovative, and edgy.