When designer Amahlia Stevens launched Vitamin A Swimwear in 2000, she was ahead of the curve. Along with championing body positivity by introducing the concept of bikini separates that can be mixed and matched, she prioritized sustainable, local production after getting a crash course on Patagonia’s processes through her work with the brand.
Today, California-based Vitamin A sells 50% direct to consumer and 50% through its 200 wholesale channels, which include Holt Renfrew and Revolve.
Announced on Wednesday, Vitamin A was just acquired by Swim USA, a family-owned company that also counts Miraclesuit and Amoressa in its portfolio — its licensed brands include Polo Ralph Lauren and Reebok.
On the podcast, Stevens shares why the deal made sense for Vitamin A and how it will work to grow the “under-resourced” brand. She hinted that branded stores, international expansion and product collaborations are around the corner under the new ownership.
Below are highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
On selling to Swim USA
“Vitamin A has always been self-funded. And post-pandemic, things were getting more and more complex, very rapidly, on so many levels: supply chain, the retail environment, advertising costs, you name it. So I was actively seeking a buyer, and the right one walked in the door. … What felt the most right was that the company itself is not public. They’re privately owned — they’re actually a four-generation family business. The great-grandfather started it and the great-grandsons are now principals, and their dads are still involved at the board level. They’re a really impressive family, and they have deep, deep knowledge and expertise in swim, specifically. So it just takes off a lot of the pressure around production, development, the supply chain — so many [areas of the business]. And it frees me up to be able to just be the creative visionary and go back to why I started Vitamin A. I get to spend my days getting inspired again.”
On weathering the pandemic
“When the pandemic hit, we were about 30% direct-to-consumer and 70% wholesale. The timing literally could not have been worse, because spring is our biggest season and spring of 2020 was our biggest on-order shipping season [to date]. So we had millions of dollars on the dock, ready to ship. And within a week to 10 days, the vast majority of it was all canceled. … It was tremendously scary for a minute there. … Luckily, staycations became the new normal. And we started to see traffic and the brand started to catch fire, which was fueled by our community of influencers on Instagram and Tik Tok. We saw a huge upswell in the business because people started shopping their values and realizing that they cared about sustainability. And they wanted to support small businesses. And so it actually worked in our favor. By the end of 2020, our ratio had flipped to where we were 70%, direct-to-consumer and 30% wholesale.”
Prioritizing body inclusivity before it was trendy
“Vitamin A’s original purpose was body inclusivity; that’s always been there. And for almost 20 years, I was the fit model. Not having a model figure but just being a normal woman and a normal mom, [my theory was], ‘If it looks good on me and if I feel good in it, then most women — my customers — are going to feel great in it.’ [The brand’s] really about a confidence level and a state of mind, and just feeling comfortable and your best.”