Réard Paris is most frequently associated with “This Day in History” commemorations of brand founder Louis Réard’s introduction of the bikini on July 5, 1946. Seventy years later, the French swimwear brand is relaunching.
Réard is planning the upcoming introduction of its first e-commerce store, which will launch in December, in time for the winter cruise season. Nearly 40 years after Louis Réard’s retirement, after which the company went dark, the brand is bringing its swimsuits back for the luxury market. Each suit will run between $200 and $500.
“We were the first brand behind the bikini, and it made sense to come back because there is a need for high end, quality bikinis with the perfect fit,” said Celine Adler, creative director of Réard Paris. “There’s a lack in the market.”
To reintroduce a brand that essentially has not existed in four decades, Réard is using two tactics popular among young, tech-savvy retailers: performance fabrics as well as a high-touch personalization strategy that can encourage customer loyalty. New suits are made of a technical, high-performance fabric that both gives a “second-skin effect” while providing support for a range of body types, according to Adler.
To initiate new shoppers, the company will launch a personalized fit algorithm with its new online store. The site will ask customers a series of questions and offer up the cut and fit best suited, and keep that information stored for future purchases (the questions for the algorithm are still being determined by the brand).
The brand has more in mind to befit the luxury, high-spending swimwear consumer beyond a sizing algorithm. During the brand’s initial run, it deployed a luxury cabin cruiser, which it called a “road yacht,” to raise bikini-awareness at events and vacation spots. Today, strong social media strategies offer the same effect for brands that don’t have the historical legacy of a Réard. Swimwear brand Solid & Striped became a celebrity-favorite success story thanks to the digital word-of-mouth spread by its Instagram account. Réard Paris, at the moment, is on Instagram, but has only posted two photos to its 40 followers. Adler said that in the next six months, Réard will ramp up efforts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter in order to talk to customers directly.
When it relaunches this December, Réard’s price points will be in line of competition with names like Melissa Obadash, La Perla and Kiini. Unlike these brands, Réard doesn’t plan to sell its suits wholesale, instead operating through its site and pop-ups to get a better handle on its new consumer, said Adler.
According to Pixlee CEO Kyle Wong, swimwear is an especially prime seat for social media take off thanks to the aspirational lifestyle it projects. “These brands, especially the swimwear brands, are promoting a lifestyle associated with their products,” he said.
Réard is incorporating that much-talked about term — lifestyle brand — into its relaunch, according to Adler. The company is adding vacation accessories to its line of swimwear, and will also introduce pop-up shops to its commerce model, timing the opening of each to events and popular periods in destinations like Miami and St. Tropez, in order to be more relevant to traveling customers.
“We wanted to be exactly where the traffic is,” said Adler, who added that the length and timing of each pop-up will depend on what’s happening in that destination. From the stores, Réard will deliver to local visitors same-day through a courier system, as well as keep the sizing of each local client on file. Limited-edition swimsuits and products made for each city will also be available only in local stores. “People like to be in the environment and lifestyle of Réard, so we like to come to them,” said Adler.
For Réard, the hardest part of reintroducing a luxury brand after 40 years is figuring out how today’s “Réard woman” is, something the team plans to tackle through their personalized algorithm and pop-ups. In the 20th century, the Réard woman was a risk taker, as the newly monikered bikini was the smallest suit on the market, and, according to Adler, it advertised itself. Today, the brand’s products are commonplace.
“We didn’t have social media back then,” said Adler. “Today, it makes sense to use different tools to connect to people. We want to be very honest with the brand and product and gain the trust with women, so they talk about it themselves.”