When Vanessa Vanselow noticed a gap in the market for good quality, well-cut swimwear, she didn’t hold back, and launched head on into her own label, Ocho & Oak. As an avid bikini-lover herself, Vanessa had struggled to find swimwear that was both flattering and functional, and she was frustrated with the lack of brands that offered the option to mix sizes.
Working as a graphic designer and free-lancer full-time gave Vanessa the opportunity to start on Ocho & Oak between day-jobs and lulls, and after laying her foundations in a little over twelve months, Vanessa has successfully created a swimwear label that is accessible, flattering and effortlessly cool. In that short twelve months, Ocho & Oak has also garnered a cult following and a social media presence of over 13,000 followers on Instagram, which is a testament the brand’s appeal and Vanessa’s business tactics.
Ocho & Oak exudes a particularly ‘Australian’ look, and the girls who are spotted in the brand’s printed bikinis are much the same – cool, nonchalant, and effortlessly summer-chic. Ocho & Oak’s playful vibe is in each and every piece, and it stems from Vanessa’s graphic design experience and unique approach to construction.
“It’s all about flattering fits with bold vivid prints, to create something that really stands out and makes you look and feel great at the beach.”
It’s not surprising that Vanessa has seen only success with Ocho & Oak, making use of her experiences working for herself in the past, but she does admit she’s still experienced her fair share of challenges in the process.
“I’ve really loved every part of it, although it comes with a lot of challenges, a lot of it – especially in these early days – is all about learning. Getting out of your comfort zone and learning about things you think you might not be capable of, and mostly learning from your mistakes.”
Starting a new business is also about taking risks, and Vanessa’s most recent one saw the switch from offshore to onshore production.
“It’s been such a great experience moving from offshore to onshore. I honestly didn’t think customers would notice the difference, as quality-wise everything is the same, but the response has been fantastic. It’s great to see people supporting local businesses, they love knowing they’re getting something that’s proudly Australian-made.”
The benefits from a business management perspective are just as notable too; despite many fashion houses choosing cheaper labour involved in offshore production, the variation in manufacturing costs haven’t affected the end price for Vanessa all that much, with an Australian made Ocho & Oak piece starting at only $53.
“It’s so much easier producing onshore too – communication is easier, the process is a lot faster and there’s a lot less back and forth.”
Vanessa has also managed to offset the majority overheads by basing her business 100% online.
“As we’re exclusively online, e-commerce and social media is what drives our brand. With no stockists (by choice), our direct online store is the only place you can purchase our swimwear.”
And by avoiding wholesaling, Vanessa can also ensure Ocho & Oak’s pieces stay at a price she can control, without mark-ups or unnecessary sales.
Acknowledging the importance of social media has also been integral to the brand’s growth.
“Social media is such a great way to connect with customers, and really tell the Ocho & Oak story and get people involved with the brand. We’ve been selling to over 20 countries because of social media and through our e-commerce store, which makes it easy to sell anywhere around the world.”
Business basics aside, Ocho & Oak lends itself to the vibrant and carefree dream girls and guys (yes, Vanessa makes men’s swimwear too) who look most at home in the Australian surf.
Support Australian made swimwear and follow Vanessa’s journey at ochoandoak.com.
Models: Lucinda Rose + Alexandra Martin
Photographer: Vanessa Vanselow
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