For many of today’s fashion entrepreneurs, that all-important notion of authenticity can be tricky to capture. But for Amélie Marcoux, a fashion industry veteran and woman in her mid-40s, addressing a gap in the swimwear market was a natural move. This spring, Marcoux launched the Montreal-based label Byron Bay, which is named after the beach town in Australia. “I don’t think there’s ever a right time, just like having a baby,” she says of making the leap into introducing a brand this year.
Byron Bay is driven by the mantra that “every woman deserves her place in the sun.” As a result, Marcoux focuses on silhouettes that take different preferences for coverage into account while offering convertible adjustments and support. Higher leg cuts, lace-up backs and sewn-in bra cups are just a few of the details that address her more inclusive approach to design. Marcoux also strives to put women like herself at the forefront of Byron Bay’s advertising.
The Globe and Mail spoke to Marcoux about the motivation behind creating her brand, finding inspiration in the people around her and why her customers shouldn’t have to “look like they’re wearing their daughter’s bathing suit.”
Tell me about your a-ha moment when launching Byron Bay.
I’ve been working in the fashion industry for over 20 years, working in product and brand development. Children’s wear was actually where I started. I also started when there was domestic manufacturing being done, so I really understand the whole process behind design. Eventually, it was time to move on to something else. Being a 44-year-old woman, I felt that there’s such a void in the swimwear market. The young demographic, like my 19-year-old, is really well served. And so is the mature customer. But not someone looking for style, comfort and control at a certain price point. It’s not necessarily an age, it’s a lifestyle. I call it “for today’s modern woman.”
As a 40-year-old woman, I appreciate that!
Our bodies change, and we want to feel feminine and beautiful and elegant. It’s okay to age nowadays. The fashion industry can be very superficial and class-based, and I wanted to make a difference. I want to practise integrity and deliver an honest product. I saw a space in the industry, which is one of my strengths, but I was also looking at this as a consumer.
You’ve highlighted an interesting point in terms of how the fashion industry approaches being more inclusive. It’s not just about an overall size or shape. As we age, our bodies change in so many ways.
We’re about empowering people and working with a woman’s body, not against it. Before putting a style into production, we do extensive research. We develop all our patterns domestically and we have pattern cutters, so even though the production is done in Asia – before we send things there, everything has been tried here on live models. We look at the cut, making sure it doesn’t dig into your bum. That it embraces the body. And the models that we use are women who don’t fall into the stereotypical swimsuit model category.
Who are your muses when you’re conceiving new styles?
I’m very humble, and we’re creating pieces for those who live everyday lives. So, I’m not going to look to someone that kind of lives a “non-standard” life, you know? I look at family and friends, having conversations with them in order to hear their needs.
As somebody who’s been in the industry for a couple of decades, you’ve obviously watched the evolution in terms of gleaning customer feedback and building community.
We’ve been very fortunate in the last few weeks since launching that we’ve been able to do pop-ups and other events. Françoise [Perron], who oversees our designs and all the creative, is from Chicoutimi – we have an amazing retailer there and had an event there recently; and I just did one at Friday Harbour in Barrie. The feedback has been so positive. We get a lot of thank-you’s from women saying how challenging it’s been for them to find swimwear with this quality, price and design.
You’ve also got a sustainability focus incorporated into the brand, including using recycled nylon spandex in your designs.
I think people are more conscious, so it’s definitely an added value. However, if you’re going to start a brand today, it’s your responsibility to do well by the environment. It’s kind of a given; we all know what’s happening. And we’ve got nowhere else to go. Byron Bay also offers classic pieces – you’ll never see something “fashion-forward.” And we carry colours throughout our collections so you can wear our pieces together in different ways. There’s a lot of thought-process in our merchandising, and how we build our lines. We also wanted to simplify packing by making pieces that travel well and are wrinkle-free. Think of a mother, for example. She’s packing everyone’s bag and hers gets done last. And that’s when everybody’s like, okay, let’s go!
It must be exciting to start a swimwear line when people are travelling again.
Within a week of launching, I was in Punta Cana with my daughter. We were on the beach, and I saw a lady wearing our paisley print robe! I was really pleased.
This interview has been condensed and edited.