‘Defied expectations’: How Tash Oakley conquered the $52 billion swimwear market

Entrepreneurs

Many influencers worldwide have transformed their fame into businesses, but few have been as successful as Tash Oakley, the co-founder of Monday Swimwear and The Pilates Class.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 27: Tash Oakley attends the re-opening of Louis Vuitton’s Sydney flagship store on November 27, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)

Tash Oakley will be speaking at Forbes’ upcoming Leadership Summit on February 27 in Sydney. You can secure your spot here.

Influencer-turned-entrepreneur Natasha Oakley was born to two Sydney entrepreneurs: her mother started her own real estate agency, and her father founded a private investigation firm. And Oakley – even from a young age – says she was paying attention, even if she didn’t have a business idea – yet.

Fast-forward to 2012 and Oakley, then-22, now-33, was trying to make it in Hollywood with her photo and video production company, Datreats Productions. But it was her side-gig, a blog venture in partnership with Devin Brugman, whom she met in Maui in 2009, that put her at the forefront of a new wave of celebrity created on social media. The concept for the blog, called A Bikini A Day, was simple: the pair, who met in Maui in 2009, would post a picture of themselves wearing a different bikini each day. By December that year, they’d amassed 180,000 followers.

“Designers worldwide eagerly sought to feature their swimwear on our platform,” Oakley says. “Our shared love for the beach and swimwear propelled our blog to rapid success, making it one of the most prominent marketing platforms in the swim industry.”

And this formed the foundations of what would go on to become Monday Swimwear, the pair’s now-10-year-old swimwear company taking a chunk out of the enormous global swimwear market, which was valued at US$19.1 billion in 2021, and is expected to reach US$34.2 billion (AU$52.3 billion) by 2031.

“Through wearing countless bikinis over the span of several years, we identified market gaps and honed our personal preferences, laying the groundwork for Monday Swimwear,” Oakley says.

“Recognising a need for chic, timeless designs that flatter all body types, we aimed to revolutionise the dreaded ‘bikini try-on’ experience, offering swimwear that instills confidence rather than insecurity. Our mission has always been and continues to be empowering women through fashion.”

Oakley pictured kicking off summer at Bondi Beach Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney. Image: Getty

The company was estimated to have turned over $40 million in 2021-22 and, last year, Monday’s sales grew by more than 33%, primarily through its direct-to-consumer channel. It claims it has shipped out to more than 500,000 women worldwide, and is forecasted to grow by another 40% year-on-year, and will ship to more than 30 countries.

To date, America is its biggest market, but last year, Australian sales grew by 46%, Canadian sales by 40% and UK sales by 64%, when compared to the year prior. In the UK, the company says sales were driven by its wholesale partnership with UK premium retailer, Selfridges, which reportedly said it was “most successful swim brand launch to date”.

“Monday Swimwear has defied expectations by maintaining steady growth even during challenging periods,” Oakley says.

Oakley and Devin Brugman walk the runway during the Monday Swimwear Fashion Show at The Paraiso Tent on July 12, 2019 in Miami Beach. Image: Getty

The company also recently launched an activewear collection called Monday Body – a request from their customers – which sold over 10,000 units in its first two weeks.

“Our customers appreciate the thoughtfulness that goes into every design, as we prioritize creating timeless, essential pieces over fleeting trends. Their enthusiasm for our brand has led to numerous requests for expansion into other categories, with activewear emerging as a natural progression.”

“Our experience as influencers has given us valuable insights into the nuances of social media, providing a significant advantage.”

Tash Oakley

A Bikini A Day’s still-strong following (460,000 on Instagram), combined with the pair’s personal social media followings (Oakley, 3.6 million, Brugman, 1.5 million) has been pivotal to their brand’s success, Oakley says.

“Social media has played a crucial role in propelling our brand’s success, and we’re incredibly thankful for the opportunities it has provided, particularly through platforms like Instagram,” Oakley says.

“As founders, we’ve embraced the dual role of managing our brands behind the scenes while also serving as their public faces. It’s definitely a juggling act, but one we’ve mastered and enjoy. Our experience as influencers has given us valuable insights into the nuances of social media, providing a significant advantage. From the outset, we’ve been meticulous in crafting our digital strategy, recognising its importance from day one.”

Looking ahead, Oakley says the company is in the initial phases of exploring a bricks-and-mortar expansion following its pop-up shop at the Grove in Los Angeles last year. It also plans to target Europe, the UK and Australia through unique collections, tailored events, retail partnerships and influencer trips.

Oakley, whose estimated net worth is $110 million (up from $83 million in 2022), is also at the helm of another business: The Pilates Class. During COVID lockdowns, she approached her pilates instructor at the time, Jacqui Kingswell, to launch a global online fitness platform.

“Drawing from previous experience launching an online fitness platform, I was thrilled to apply that knowledge to a venture with immense potential,” Oakley says. “Our unique point of difference lay not only in Jacqui’s exceptional pilates instruction but also in our ability to blend inspiration with grounding for our members. We prioritised fitness as a holistic approach encompassing mental well-being as much as physical transformation, particularly during a time when it was most needed.”

To date, TPC has more than 150,000 subscribers across 118 countries. It’s opened a pop-up studio in LA, gone on a community world tour, hosted influencer events and created a line of now sold-out merchandise and apparel. Oakley says there’s a lot more on the cards in 2024, including major collaborations and more studio locations.

What do the next 12 months look like for Oakley and her businesses? “Insane in the best way possible,” she says.

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