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How Heidi Klein made a success of swim

Sml square neck tiered maxi

Co-founder of swimwear brand Heidi Klein Heidi Gosman has built a business aiming to combine fit, function and fashion in swimwear for all seasons. 

Heidi gosman head shot hi res 2

Luxury swimwear brand Heidi Klein was founded by Heidi Gosman and Penny Klein in 2002, after the pair noticed a gap in the market for those seeking to purchase swimwear outside the summer season.

Today the brand is known globally for its smartly designed, supportive and stylish swimwear and resortwear. Wholesale prices for autumn 19 start at £35 for a bikini bottom and go up to £180 for a silk maxi-dress.

The London-based brand has 15 UK stockists, including Net-a-Porter and Selfridges, and two stores – in Notting Hill and Chelsea. It has a further 140 international stockists and a third store in New York. The brand is continuing to grow swiftly, and compound annual growth rate over the last three years reaches 15%.

Drapers caught up with Heidi Gosman at the Chelsea store to find out more.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Finish the water that is on my bedside table to kickstart my metabolism, and then head to the kitchen to make my morning coffee. I love the smell of coffee brewing.

What was your first job?

The first job I ever had was helping out on my grandfather’s farm. I used to get up at the crack of dawn to muck the stables out. I don’t know if it was the country air or working alongside my family, but I learned to love mornings at a young age and have been a morning person ever since.

How would you describe the brand in one sentence?

Heidi Klein combines classic design and meticulous research into fit to create swim and resortwear fashion that lasts.

Belize balcony bikini

Belize bikini

What’s your coffee (or tea) order?

Flat white with oat milk. I’ll probably be kicked out of England for admitting this, but I actually hate tea. I love the rituals of tea drinking though – that cuppa after a long country walk or sticking the kettle on when friends and family come over – but I could never get into it drinking it myself.

Where are your favourite place to shop?

I tend to find hidden gems on my travels. Those blink-and-you-miss-it kind of antique shops down a back street on the Amalfi Coast are some of the best places to find timeless pieces and, of course, inspiration. My love of antique shops definitely filters down from my mum.

Last fashion purchase? Why did it catch your eye?

I recently bought a 2020 insert for my Hermès diary because I love a plan and looking ahead at what’s to come. My team still make me accept their outlook calendar invites for meetings but if it’s not written down in my diary, it’s not happening.

Emails or phone calls?

Phone calls. It’s so much easier to hear someone’s voice and really get a sense of their opinion or mood.

Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?

To trust myself. This is such an important lesson in all areas of life. Your gut is usually right, so trusting your instincts, I have learnt, often leads to beautiful things.

Pampelonne ruffle neck mini (1)

Pampelonne dress

What would be your ideal office/meeting space?

On a boat or beach. Somewhere outside, where there is fresh air but also peace and serenity. Whenever I’m on a shoot, I always take “office for the day” photos and look back at them when I’m in London – this always reminds me how lucky I am that my work takes me to such beautiful locations.

What’s your favourite part of the creative process?

I would probably say my favourite part is seeing my vision become a reality so when the finished samples come in – providing they are right!

What has been your proudest moment since you launched?

I constantly have “pinch me” moments, but I will never forget the day we opened our first store on Westbourne Grove 17 years ago. No one really believed in our concept, not even our own families, but we knew in our gut that it was the right thing to do. We were flat out busy from 10am to 6pm that day. We felt so much pride AND relief – I guess that is exactly where the trusting in yourself lesson came from. 

What’s the last book you read?

I just finished Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion & The Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas. Thomas uses powerful anecdotes and examples of how fast fashion is affecting the world which is very eye opening.

Last holiday?

I took a trip to Uzès in the south of France with my family. It’s nowhere near beaches or coastline, but a beautiful market town preserved in white stone, and the perfect place to gather your thoughts and get lost in the Occitan culture. They have the most wonderful antique markets there and discovering hidden treasures with my kids was special.

Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?

Coco Chanel always inspired me. Her designs really helped to develop the modern woman and we should all be so thankful for her creative ideas about the way females should dress. I also have to admit that today it’s the industry itself that is inspiring me, with attention turning to sustainability and how we can still support the planet whilst creating beautiful garments. This conversation isn’t going away any time soon, so we all need to get involved where we can.

Cairns square neck rope bikini

Cairns bikini

What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion today?

I think the industry’s obsession with fast fashion is something that is really frightening, and eventually the speed at which we demand products to be produced will become too much for any fashion house to handle.

It’s great to see so many brands waking up to the way in which these fast fashion machines are destroying not only the environment, but the industry’s creative processes, too. I hope we will continue to address the effect this model is having on society, human life and our beloved planet.

One piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Worry about the things you can do something about, and not about the things you can’t.

Who do you turn to when you need advice?

It would depend on the problem, but usually I go to my mum, my husband and Kleinie [business partner, Penny Klein].

What would we find you doing at the weekend?

Finding solace in the great outdoors. Particularly walking my dog or discovering new routes with friends and family. I also like to spend the evenings with a nice glass of wine by the fire.

What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?

I’m excited about the growth of the brand and developing our resortwear even further as this category has so much potential.

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