Mary Urlich sits at the helm of New Zealand swimwear brand Femme de la Mer. It was her desire for on-trend, fashion forward and flattering swimwear that saw her take the reins of the iconic Kiwi company. Femme de la Mer is making waves with ‘women of the sea’ due to its wide choice of beautiful designs, fantastic fabrics and shapes that sizzle.
When did Femme de la Mer first launch Mary?
Our business started in the 1920s and was in the same family ownership for three generations up until we bought the company in 2015. Its previous labels were Jantzen NZ and Beachfront.
What motivated you to get involved with swimwear?
I have been in design all my life. This opportunity arose and I wanted to make a difference in the industry. Previously I would try on swimsuits every season and feel exasperated that nothing looked good on my shape. I found what was available unflattering and not something I would want to strut my stuff in on the beach! I wanted to look and feel confident and stylish in swimwear and decided I had better design it myself. I knew there were many people just like me.
What inspired the name of the company, Femme de la Mer?
Translated, “Woman of the sea” is our market: anyone who wants to swim.
Do you do the design work yourself?
We design all of our styles and prints. We have a very experienced team who have been swimwear design specialists for many years. Our print designers are world leaders; we have sourced the very best.
To create figure-flattering pieces what do you focus on?
Quality, quality, quality! The best designs, the best fabrics and the best linings. There is nothing worse than buying a swimsuit that stretches and bags after a few wears. This simply does not happen when you have a quality swimsuit.
We always have the female form in all of its shapes and sizes at the forefront of our minds and we’re competent and knowledgeable in patternmaking. It’s a winning combination.
What sets Femme de la Mer apart from the rest?
We cater for all ages, shapes, a size range of 6-24, and we have about 90 styles in our full range every year.
We are also specialists in fashion swimwear with chlorine-resistant fabric. For years, ladies requiring swimwear to swim in pools for recreational use, such as their own swimming pools or on cruise ships, have had dull, old fashioned, ‘mature’ suits to choose from — now they can choose something that delivers both good looks and durability.
What fabrics do you use?
We have two fabrics. One is an Italian blend with Xtra Life Lycra. Lycra is a stretchy fabric, which gives a comfortable fit that conforms to your body for a second skin feeling. The Xtra life component helps it keep its shape, colour and extended life.
Then we have the chlorine-resistant fabric, which is the perfect choice if you swim in a pool on a regular basis. This fabric, also Italian, is the very latest technology and is durable when exposed to pool chemicals. It has a consistent fit; it stretches but then comes back to the original shape. Plus, it is quick drying.
What’s the best thing about designing swimwear?
Seeing a swimsuit on a female body after months of designing, print making and sampling. It’s a feeling I can’t describe but it feels very good! And seeing ladies on the beach in our swimwear. I was recently at a small beach where I saw three women wearing Femme de la Mer — that was incredibly gratifying.
What do you pack in your beach bag?
I work too hard to find time to go to the beach! Though, I now have the luxury of having many swimsuits that I can look and feel great in — buying a business was an expensive way to get what I wanted.
If you had to give one word of advice to young swimwear designers looking to break into the industry what would it be?