Not many can claim they’ve built one of the world’s most recognisable brands before hitting the age of 25, but that’s exactly what Rebecca Klodinsky, the designer and director behind IIXIIST swim, managed to accomplish. Since its inception in 2013, when the brand existed under another name, Frankie Swim, Klodinsky hasn’t just managed to capture the attention of the world’s most sought-after celebrities (think Kim Kardashian and Hailey Bieber) but has transformed her business into a $7 million a year powerhouse.
“I launched IIXIIST in December 2013. I was 24 years old and working in retail full-time, studying a double degree in forensic psychology, and was in a stage of my life most young adults are familiar with—not totally satisfied with what I was doing and feeling as if there was another direction to explore—so it makes sense IIXIIST started as a passion project,” says Klodinsky.
Pulling together $2000 of her savings, Klodinsky built a simple website and started posting her designs on Instagram (before influencers had really taken off), which meant the community she subsequently cultivated was “very authentic and engaged.”
“I designed swimwear that didn’t exist at the time, such as bralettes and seamless basics,” she says. “It was a venture I started to fill a hole in my bikini drawer with, and evidently a hole in the swim market. Being so young I knew no bounds with what was possible and my ambitions were never sales-driven—it was for the love of the game, so to speak.”
Pushing on with pure determination, business savvy and her entrepreneurial spirit, the brand hasn’t faltered, despite rebranding from Frankie Swim to Frankii Swim, and then to IIXIIST just before the pandemic hit.
Speaking to Klodinsky about her business success, the swimwear founder shares some of her advice when it comes to building a brand with staying power, from a consistent routine to never forgetting the challenges that got you to where you are, as well as a reflection on the traits she believes make her successful.
“And it’s true, look after the little things, keep a tight grip, don’t go over budgets or overspend. I keep two fingers on my company’s financial pulse at all times and this advice is especially relative when you’re on an upward trajectory, it’s easy to get lost—I’ve seen this happen to far too many people.”
“Exercise has always been a part of my life; having that ritual of moving your body every day is imperative to not just a healthy body, but a healthy mind. For me, this is reformer Pilates. I actually set up a machine in my garage for convenience—the ‘I’m too busy to get to a class’ excuse doesn’t exist anymore. Exercise to me is a stress-reliever and mood booster; no matter how shitty life can feel sometimes or how crazy work can get—committing to breaking a sweat makes me sharper, more positive and relaxed in general. It’s the most simple yet powerful tool we have in wellness and finding peace.”
“As I’ve gotten older my answer to this answer to how I manage stress has definitely changed. Now it’s plain and simple: family. Not a stress in the world can affect me when I’m curled up on the couch with my son. The world we live in now is frantic, demands are high and it doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. At the end of the day, I’m just selling bikinis, ensuring my mental health is intact and I am grounded beats this tenfold!”
“I eat, sleep and breathe work, which I think is imperative if you’re a business owner. Being so young when I started and growing it into the powerhouse it is today wouldn’t have been possible if my approach was any different. Another success attribute is my ongoing auditing and assessment of how I do things: can I be more sustainable, can I reduce outings and overhead costs, is my marketing strategy working? For me, I simplify everything, am meticulous with financials, and above all, am human. As a business owner being honest, thoughtful and transparent are so important.”
“The celebrity customers are probably the biggest pinch-me-moments I’ve had in my career. We’ve had Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Hailey Bieber and Rihanna, to name a few. The fact they’re all organic relationships as opposed to paid are a stamp of approval too, particularly in the Instagram age where the power of celebrity has the ability to slingshot your brand to stardom overnight, not to mention the effect on sales.”
“The most memorable challenges with my business have been the rebrand I’ve had to undergo not once, but TWICE (my brand has had two other names prior to IIXIIST). The decision was not an easy one, nor my choice effectively. The swim industry is hugely oversaturated with brands that all sound the same, and I spent many years in and out of lawyers’ offices, trying to do everything in my willpower to keep my beloved Frankie, and then Frankii, as she was. However, it got to the point where enough was enough; it was time to take the leap and change the brand name to something unique and bold that stood out on her own. So, I said goodbye to the past and hello to IIXIIST. The biggest challenge I faced in the rebrand is that it was swiftly followed by COVID-19, which is quite bittersweet really, being overshadowed by a global pandemic.”
“Always keep your finger on the pulse—it’s imperative to navigating a business idea in its entirety. Times have changed—the current global climate has impacted consumer behaviour and created uncertainty. I would advise any budding entrepreneur to NOT jump in until they have a bulletproof marketing plan. Unless you already have an established audience and are able to talk with them immediately, you need a solid strategy to support what you want to do and how you are going to do it. The market is too volatile, as are consumer shopping habits—these two alone are a recipe for disaster. Education is QUEEN so I encourage everyone to thoroughly exercise their due diligence and add market research, trend research and strategic marketing planning that covers your first 24 months in business to their to-do list.”