When we think of our sun-scorched country, sun-drenched summer days spent on the beach is practically an Australian pastime. But when it comes to choosing the perfect swimming cossie, if you want to stay sun safe and look fly doing it, or you’re just not feeling an itsy bitsy triangle bikini, there’s not a lot of options out there.
Enter: Brisbane swimsuit label UNE PIECE. Born in Australia but inspired by the achingly chic south of France's je ne sais quoi vibes, UNE PIECE's range is made from luxe Italian fabrics and classic silhouettes, creating gorgeous lines that hug in all right places while being sun safe too. Think floral prints with a twist front, monocrome leopard print and sleek block colour numbers with long sleeves and a seductive front zip that will make you look as though you walked straight off a Bond movie set.
Owner, and creative extraordinaire, Carly Brown created UNE PIECE after noticing a lack of elegant-but-functional one piece designs in Australia, leaving a high powered marketing career managing large global brands such as Revlon, Coke, and UBER to start her own business. Fast forward to today, and Une Piece has featured on the pages of fashion icons Grazia, Elle Magazine and Harpers Bazaar. The brand has even just launched its own self-tanning product line, La Beach, based on comments from die hard fans.
We caught up with Carly to chat inspiration, her best tips for small business owners and what she’s most proud of.
How did Une Piece come about? What inspired it all?
I grew up near the beach with a surfer Dad and a sun-conscious Mother—so I guess the inspiration was probably forming from a really young age! I saw a trend for one piece swimwear when I was living in London. In Europe women have a ‘repertoire’ of swimwear they take on holidays, which almost always includes at least one staple one piece. I was fascinated by how a one piece made women feel vs a bikini. Women told me a one piece made them feel confident and empowered, so I decided to create my own one piece swimwear brand called UNE PIECE.
I was having dinner one night with a girlfriend, discussing my new swimwear brand, and she asked, ‘Can you make me a sexie rashie?’ She told me there was nothing in the market! The next day I scoured the shops and online and had an ‘aha’ moment when I found a huge gap in the market for stylish (and sexy) ‘sun-conscious swimwear’. I saw an opportunity to create something that was both beautiful and fashionable but protected women from the sun—this is where our launch product the Original Sexie Rashie was born.
What do you think was the key ingredient to making it a success?
I think the reason is twofold. Firstly—because the product quality is second to none. All our swimwear is crafted from high-quality, sustainable UPF50+ fabric to block 98% of harmful UV rays and is ultra-chlorine resistant. For all our designs we research, research and research until we get the perfect fit, and we are always looking to create the best product possible.
Secondly, I think the brand resonates with people. We are a brand that celebrates women and their passions. UNE PIECE has a beautiful, clean and chic aesthetic but we are inclusive and we actively support diversity of beauty at every touchpoint. I want to do good for women and I want to challenge the norms of the industry.
What’s one of the biggest hurdles you’ve hit and how did you overcome it?
There have been so many challenges along the way. Ultimately the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is to trust your gut. Have difficult conversations with people sooner rather than later, and to have integrity in all that you do.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from someone?
I’ve always been really lucky to have great mentors in my career. Some of the best advice I’ve received about leadership is to always take yourself wherever you go, and be true to yourself in the way you lead a team. My team is the single biggest driver of our success to date—I could never have done this on my own.
The other piece of great advice is that market leading businesses and brands are constantly innovating and they never stop listening to their customer. Our customer is at the heart of everything we do at UNE PIECE and always will be.
What would your advice be for someone who wants to start their own business?
Firstly, when stuff goes wrong (which it will) don’t react immediately. I’ve learnt it is all happening for a reason and more often than not takes you to a stronger place. Whether it makes us more prepared, find a new way of doing something or learn an important lesson—it makes us stronger as a business and also personally.
Second, create an incredible team and culture first. My team is so incredibly important to the business and me personally. They are an incredible group of individuals who are both talented but also have great energy to be around all day long. The saying ‘hang with the radiators and not the drains’ was made for my team!
Finally, absolutely dare to dream, but be aware that it will take hard work and you will need to put more heart and soul into running your own business than you ever would have to for any job.
All the pieces flattering to every body shape—can you tell us about the design process?
The design process is a continual one, and done with quite a lot of consultation and collaboration with our customers. We’ve recently created a new active range in response to what we as a team wished we could find in the market but couldn’t.
What have been your biggest pinch me moments so far?
Oh there are quite a few pinch me moments: sitting with Kerrie Hess when we launched the brand for the first time to the press, having 500 people on the waitlist before the website was even live, stocking David Jones, when we hit sales in 50 countries around the world via our online store, being featured in Vogue, seeing our product in the hands of people like Jessica Alba. Probably the thing I love the most is being at the beach and seeing someone wearing one of our pieces. It blows my mind seeing this and I usually can’t help but go up and thank them for supporting my dream.
So what’s next for the Une Piece?
There are so many exciting things to come! We will continue to innovate with beautiful new prints and silhouettes for UNE PIECE. We have some super stunning new one piece silhouettes, more from UNE PIECE Active (including the most divine bike pants—I’m living in them at the moment!).
Probably the most exciting news is our new beauty brand La Beach, a 100% vegan, cruelty-free self-tan made with natural and organic ingredients to give you a luxe and natural bronze glow. Our launch range is super tight, with a focus on creating a new self tan option that eliminates the mess and fuss of self-tanning. La Beach came about from listening to our UNE PIECE community and their experiences (good and bad) with self tanning. It became clear there was a need for a brand to make something that really hits the mark for women on natural colour, natural (and easy to achieve) coverage and brilliant wear (and wear off).
What’s an average day for you?
I’m not sure there is a ‘usual day’ when you have your own business! I love the variety that comes with every day of having my own business. Morning meditation, journalling and a cup of tea, time with my family before drop off time, checking in on emails, planning out my day. Then it could be any combination of things: social media planning, brand calendar planning, product design, print design, press interviews, campaign planning, P&L and forecasting stock, packaging reviews, operations and logistics planning sessions, website updates, speaking events, photoshoots, team meetings, marketing plans. After some more family time I usually jump back online to finish up a few things, plan out the next day and then early to bed.
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Image credit: Supplied