When you think of Australia, you think of resortwear. It doesn't matter that Australia is a country that experiences seasons just like any other — when I was in Sydney for fashion week, temperatures dipped down into the 50s — it has the reputation of being a year-round beach destination.
That's why, when Bondi natives Alyssa Carter and Bonnie O'Hare set out to launch their own line, they decided to create a range of Aussie-ready swimwear, dubbed Rye. "It felt natural to explore color and fun with our favorite part of life, really, which is the beach," O'Hare tells me in the showroom they've set up for fashion week. She and Carter each have fashion backgrounds, logging hours at brands like Sass and Bide and Tommy Hilfiger, before coming together for their own project last May. They officially launched Rye in October of last year to complete sell-through, with Vogue Australia dubbing the line Australia's "Cult Swim Label."
"We wanted to build an Australian brand that could sit on the world stage," O'Hare says. "There's been quite a shift in Australian fashion over the last couple of years, and we're aware of that and seeing it as an opportunity to put something else on the table that's colorful and has a different point of view."
Think of Rye as the Negative Underwear of swimwear: The brand is pursuing the fashion-minded customer who doesn't want the kind of complicated or loud swimwear that's pervasive in the market, but wants something a little more stylish than the standard issue utilitarian sports brands. For Collection #2, Rye will release a streamlined selection of four styles: The Classic, The One-Piece, The Cross-Back Bikini and The Triangles.
There's a focus on simple and chic colors, like navy or army green, with pops of pink or yellow on the high-quality elastic bands used on all of the brand's suits. "I was playing around with the idea of having an elastic bikini for a while," Carters says of the signature detailing. "I'm naturally a sporty kind of person, so I was attracted to the stripe, and it ended up working really well." All the lycras are sourced from Italy, with the custom elastic detailing hailing from Hong Kong.
Rye swimsuits are also intended to be mixed and matched. Colorways that can be combined carry matching names like "Frutti" and "Tutti." That sense of quirky humor threads throughout the brand, with sizing labeled from "Teenie-Weenie" (XS) to "Hubba Hubba" (L). "We just want to inject that surprise into everything in the brand," O'Hare says, showing me the sanitary liner that comes on bottoms. It reads: "Don't put your box on the bits until you know the bits aren't going back in the box."
Right now, Rye is sold through its own website and a very select number of Australian boutiques, but this isn't another direct-to-consumer line. By O'Hare's estimates, the first collection had a 30 percent sell-through in the United States, 20 percent to the European Union, and 36 to New Zealand and Australia. "For eight months in market, it's quite a strong suggestion that we're a global brand," she says, and other retailers agree; they're now in talks with Moda Operandi, Net-a-Porter, Selfridges and Lane Crawford.
And Rye won't stop at swim. While the brand launched with a tight collection of swimsuits, there are plans to build out to a full line of resortwear, including hats, bags, towels and perhaps even coverups one day. "For the moment, we really want to finesse the point of view of the brand, which is based in color and an Australian point of view and lifestyle," O'Hare says. "It's laid-back but optimistic."
For now though, fans of the brand looking to score a Rye swim fix should head over to its website, where prices range from $80 to $105. After all, while it may not be summer year-round in Australia, it is just around the corner for us.
Disclosure: IMG provided my travel and accommodations to cover Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.