When Lisa Marie Fernandez started her eponymous swimwear brand in 2009, she launched e-commerce right out the gate. But the former editor turned the majority of her attention to carefully growing her wholesale accounts. "I wanted to support our wholesale partners, first and foremost, and more importantly our brick-and-mortar stores, so you could walk into a store in Beirut and buy the goods," she says. "I didn't want the brand to be solely an online business."
The first years of slow and steady growth have since accelerated — sales have doubled each year recently, according to Business of Fashion — and now Fernandez has given her site a serious upgrade to align with the brand's global scale and social media presence. It went live on Thursday. "We can't grow too fast or be in too many places, but with our web sales it could easily be 50 percent of our business if we really invested 100 percent into it," she said. "We wanted to do it [earlier], but we had other priorities. And I had no idea the brand was going to turn into what it is today."
Fernandez worked with creative director Ezra Petronio, the founding editor of Self Service, on the clean, bold and very visual site. "[He] was always my first choice of art director," says Fernandez, adding that she struggled to find programmers who could deliver the vision of a luxury shopping experience she was looking for. "I want the website to be a little more experiential in the sense that you're looking at different things and it's not just information," says Fernandez. The large, detailed product shots don't include models because she thinks it's misleading. "Swimwear is an emotional purchase and it can stir up insecurities or inferiorities in the mind of a woman, so the bathing suit speaks for itself," she says.
Most of Fernandez's marketing so far has happened organically through social media. She doesn't gift or pay influencers to wear her suits, as many other swimwear brands do, but that hasn't stopped regular women (and also not so regular women) from showing their allegiance to her flattering suits, skirts and dresses on Instagram. As a nod to that, and to celebrate the launch of the site, the brand is offering a 30 percent discount with code #LMFGIRLSONHOLIDAY. The brand's suits don't end up on discount very often, especially when they're in season, so it's a special thank you from Fernandez to her "girls."
With the new website foundation in place, Fernandez is looking forward to offering design exclusives for resort 2017, just as she does for her major retailers, including Matches Fashion and Net-a-Porter. "Usually the buyers love so many things, but they just can't buy them all," she says, adding that her upcoming resort collection has 264 SKUs. "And there are things that we love that, just for production reasons, we have to cut out. But now we won't, we will actually produce them and they'll be my favorites things that, when it comes down to it, I wish that I had."
Fernandez is also eager to expand the editorial components of the new site under the "News" and "Obsessions" verticals. The former highlights a special terry cloth suit she created for The Webster's concept store in the newly opened Hotel Ritz in Paris — an example of the kind of "perfect storm" project that attracts her. The "Obsessions" page has less guidelines and will highlight more stream of consciousness-style travel and fashion inspirations. "I'm on the ground, actually traveling around the world and seeing so many things" says Fernandez. "That was one of my favorite things about being an editor, I loved making a new discovery, and I still do."
The author has no relation to Lisa Marie Fernandez.