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How to create and design swimwear for manufacturing

a painting of a female in a swimsuit


Not every swimwear was designed equally.

In fact, not all swimwear designs make it to the manufacturing process. No matter how unique, how trendy or how functional your swimwear design is, if it cannot be manufactured, you might as well have not done any designing it at all.

It’s the harsh truth, until technology invents the possibility.

Until then, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a designer who hasn’t experienced the limbo of designing innovative swimwear only to go back to the drawing board due to feasibility issues.

As such, when going into swimwear production, go beyond just functionality and aestheticism. Keeping yourself in check and ensuring that your swimwear can actually be manufactured is a sine qua non in the industry.

As manufacturers ourselves, we have the same drive for innovation as do the designers themselves, but the feasibility of manufacturing takes precedence over much else.

Although you, as a designer, can exercise absolute agency, a reality check can help you reap long term benefits – which is, if we were to point the elephant in the room, having your swimwear on display ready to go to market.

With that said, we’ve spoken to our in-house experts on what it takes to design swimwear that is possible to manufacture.

If you’re an emerging designer or an entrepreneur, we recommend keeping this as your checklist to continuously refer back to the stages of designing a swimsuit that can be manufactured.


Stage 1 – The literature

No, not Shakespear, but all the background industry and audience research and any other findings pertaining to the brand you want to introduce to the market. These include research around your brand and its identity.

Ask yourself a few questions to understand the brand story and positioning in the market, the brand personality you want to portray and how you will build trust with customers etc.

These questions are a way to get you started in thinking about a set of human characteristics you can associate your brand with. This, in turn, will help your audience relate to your brand and for all that it represents.

You can opt to keep your scope parochial or broad. It’s a matter of how you want to posit the brand. Alongside the formation of the brand, keep abreast of other factors such as market demand and trends.

Lastly, if possible, scour your manufacturing options. We’ve written up an in-depth article on finding the best swimwear manufacturer for your swimwear line to help you get that started.

In addition, once you finalize your manufacturer, you can facilitate a conversation with them around what can and cannot be manufactured to help you in the overall design process.


Stage 2 – Find inspiration

We won’t lie, the penchant (and the itch) to start sketching and designing is akin to unbuttoning your jeans after Chinese take out: understated contentment. Once you have an elaborate and sweeping understanding of your market, dive into the first stages of your design.

Although we can’t wholly stop you from getting your pencils out, we first (strongly) encourage you to gather every chip, flake and shred of inspiration you have come across that would ultimately aggregate towards your final pieces.

Inspiration can be extracted from the banalest of things to something out of this world – we won’t judge, promise. Whether that’s pop culture, events, something abstract, Britney Spears’ denim dress or even a Monet painting, we are all for it.

All of these will underpin the direction of your design and specific elements you choose to incorporate into your pieces are a representation of a string of inspiration that you came across.

Merging the demanding trends to inspirations that make you sing is a magical combination. Whether that’s a color block frill you want to add across the waist, a one-shoulder strap or even a denim accessory (as a nod to Britney), it all came from somewhere.

And being able to trace back the elements of your design can help you tweak it as you move down the process.

This will ensure not only will you be able to preserve that piece of inspiration on your design but also have the freedom to change it in a way that meets manufacturing requirements. #BigWinsOnlyHere


Stage 3 – Mood boards for a swimwear line

We aren’t therapists, but just as writing down your feelings and taking an introspective outlook helps, the same approach can be applied to your designs.

Once you have clarity on the inspiration you want to pull into each design, you can start assembling your mood boards.

In essence, mood boards are the pinning of all images, materials, pieces of text or any other tangible forms of inspiration that represent the style or concept you are after with your design. Mood boards can be organised according to however you see fit.


Here are some examples to get you started on your mood-board inspiration

Theme – Base your mood-boards on a certain theme. Examples include edgy and chain-breakers (come on, you had to have seen the Khaleesi reference from a mile away, don’t lie).

Contrastingly, clean lines and fine cuts are another theme example or even a cultural theme and animal print theme. There’s no wrong answer here!

Collection – Split your mood boards according to your collections such as one-piece wonders, two pieces or high-waisted designs.

Color palette and fabrics – If you’re celebrating a certain profile of colors and specific fabrics, make that the centerpiece of your mood-board.

Customer – If you want to take a different path with your mood-boards, opt to categorize according to your customer and their lifestyle, demographics, income levels, etc.


Regardless of which path you decide to take with your mood-boards, they are a cardinal requirement in the design process.


To make sure that your design process doesn’t toe the scope or boundaries of your inspirations. You don’t want to have inspiration from something and have your design end up exuding a look and feel of something else entirely.

Additionally, it’s a means of communication to external parties involved in the process of designing and manufacturing your swimwear. This helps them attain a comprehensive idea of what your designs are a representation of.

Whether that be a private label swimwear manufacturer, a product photo shoot, or even how your swimwear will look on the retail front, it’s a point of reference that captures the emotions, moods and ambiance of your collection.


Stage 4: Pencils Can Come Out

Yes, finally, it’s time to start sketching out your designs.

When sketching, find the happy medium between your inspiration (i.e. all the mood-boards) and trends you want to emulate into elements of your design.

For instance, say you’re looking to tap into the fabulous (babe alert) high waisted bikini swimwear trend. Your foundation can be trendy high waisted swimsuit as the canvas and you can incorporate elements of your inspiration through add-ons such as the color scheme, frills, buckles, belts, etc.

When incorporating these elements, make sure you keep the feasibility aspect in mind.

However, here’s the catch. Although a high waisted swimsuit with an off the shoulder frill, Lady-Gaga-esque spikes and middle buckle with a Swarovski diamond sound stunning (and boujee), it may not fly so well with your bathing suit manufacturers.

Sorry. What we’re trying to say is, feasibility is your priority and lacing your mood board inspiration with trends and styles of the market is the formula for a great swimsuit.

Hot tip: Always draw more designs than required because conversations with your custom swimwear manufacturers may require you to eliminate designs.

Being in a surplus can avoid the hassle of starting the sketches again if they don’t get the manufacturer’s green light. Additionally, it also means you have the freedom to narrow down your final designs.

Trust us, options are a good kind of problem to have for designers!




Once you have sketched out your designs, go ahead and physically add some of the features on to them. This will help you get a rounded perspective on what the final product may look like.

Here are some instances you might come across.

If you want to add in a frill detailing somewhere, cut out a sample piece from the actual material you wish to use and add it to the design.

Say you want to blend a sheer fabric with spandex to create a specific sleeve detail. You may want to gather a real sample of this to see if it’s a pragmatic choice.

As manufacturers, we can tell you that this isn’t a very functional fabric stitch and you may have to go with an alternative. In instances such as these, incorporating your design elements on a physical level can help you picture the final product and overall feasibility.

As a final example, if you want to add in a round keyhole into your swimsuit, it’s important to gauge the fabric to measure the stretch capability. Sometimes, certain fabrics may not shape the way you want to and therefore, you’d have to place a stabilizer or scour for other fabrics.

These details are crucial because it allows you to see where your sketches are achievable.

As much as these stages are important to you, as a designer, it also works as a checklist to ensure the best possible degree of feasibility when you take it to a manufacturer.

The manufacturing capability is the underpinning factor across all stages because a swimsuit that cannot be manufactured is a swimsuit that never existed. Don’t let your hard work go to waste.

Instead, at every turn and point, cross your t’s and dot your i’s to make sure that your final sketch is something that will be approved by your chosen manufacturer.


We also have two companion pieces for this article on How to select the right swimwear manufacturer, which details what you need to consider in selecting the right manufacturing partner and Everything designers and entrepreneurs need before they look for manufacturers to produce their swimwear line.

Runway Kit offers fashion designers and entrepreneurs the option to design, sample and manufacture in smaller, flexible quantities – all at start-up friendly, transparent costs.

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