The swimwear label went from a small Filipino brand to an internationally recognized line in six years thanks to a strong social media presence
“I wanted to break away from the notion that Filipinos can only wear modest [swimwear] styles and cuts,” says Jemina Ty, founder of Blackbough Swim as she reminisces about how she started conceptualizing designs for her brand. Ty’s foray into fashion and retail began as a college student, designing swimwear prints and styles as a way to express herself. In a matter of years, the swimwear label founder turned her hobby into a sought-after international brand.
It could be the brand’s Western appeal. It could also be Ty’s creative flair for designing unique and eccentric prints. Since it launched in 2016, Blackbough Swim’s ascent into the global scene was also thanks in part to strengthening its online presence through social media, eventually amassing a following of over 921,000 on Instagram alone. Thriving in an already saturated retail market, especially for a Filipino brand earning a spot on such a scale, is quite the feat.
The swimwear brand’s venture into the international world has caught the attention of models Kendall Jenner and Elsa Hosk, actresses Vanessa Hudgens, Lucy Hale, Hailee Steinfeld, and Anne Curtis and even Vogue Philippines June 2023 cover star Bretman Rock. These celebrities have been spotted on numerous occasions wearing her label’s quirky tropical bikinis and beach shorts.
Across the pacific
From becoming a well-loved swimwear staple in the local scene, it was in 2018 when Ty decided to aim higher for her startup company by going international with their eyes set on shipping to Australia. Ty shares, “Deciding to sell internationally definitely came with a lot of hurdles. It was an entirely different experience for me. It was new. But we were willing and ready to take that risk.”
The leap from local to international was met with a positive response that Ty and her mostly-women-led team mulled at the possibility of bringing Blackbough Swim to the US and other countries worldwide. By positioning the brand as Instagram’s go-to swimwear line with a community-first approach on social media, they figured out how to be in tune with what their customers want.
Through a mix of user-generated content and letting their target market live vicariously through their campaigns photographed on the coasts of Australia, Palawan, and Los Angeles, Blackbough Swim was able to hook their audience in. “We went beyond just merely selling products online,” says Ty on how they maximized their social media presence and strengthened their community across their platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and now, TikTok.
The international swimwear label also attributes customer feedback as a way to engage with them on their large network of followers on social media, especially by creating an active and passionate community involved in shaping the brand, empowering women, and promoting body positivity.
She continues, “The team takes [social media] engagement seriously, which has been helpful in creating content for the brand.” The 28-year-old founder also adds that seeing their customers genuinely interested in what they have to offer has been rewarding and fulfilling.
“Whenever we decide on who to collaborate with, we make sure that the brand or personality embodies the same values as [ours]. What makes it special is the coming together of strong, female personalities and women-led brands, aiming to empower women worldwide to dream big,” shares Ty.
This strategy also opened avenues for the swimwear brand to collaborate with women celebrities and influencers such as Barbara Kristoffersen, Ashley Alexander, Emma Brooks, smartphone case brand Casetify and TV series, The Summer I Turned Pretty.
Currently, the internationally-known swimwear line has expanded into a men’s beachwear apparel, their Blackbough beach jewelry line called Baubles, bags, quilted pouches, and headwear.