How Love Island can make you a must-have item

Entrepreneurs

Just a little prominence on Instagram and reality television and Vacay Swimwear is now the go-to men’s fashion brand from Australia.
Vacay Swimwear launched in early 2017 by founders Jordy Kallios (right) and Corey Decandia (left), both from Adelaide, South Australia.
Vacay Swimwear launched in 2017 by founders Corey Decandia (left) and Jordy Kallios, both from Adelaide, South Australia. | Image source: Supplied

Vacay Swimwear launched in early 2017 with founders Jordy Kallios and Corey Decandia, from Adelaide, South Australia, self-funding the business when they were 21 by each tossing about $15,000 into the pot.

Five years on and they are the go-to brand for swimwear on Love Island Australia 2022 and looking to grow their presence across the globe.

“We loved travelling,” says Corey. “We were in Mykonos together and we kind of just noticed that a lot of the guys were wearing these swim shorts that had a bit more tailoring. Four or five years ago Australians were wearing long, baggy boardshorts. There really wasn’t much else around.”

“So it was just kind of like a light-bulb moment that we thought we could create something for us and that other people like us in Australia would like this kind of style,” says Jordy. “Australians tend to follow fashion trends from the European markets and money trends from the US.”

By naming the styles after different cities around the world, they hoped to create an emotional connection, either for people travelling to that destination, or having had a great time there on holiday. And they went on Instagram.

They were a couple of savvy marketing graduates who had been flipping Instagram accounts to make money initially, so they understood the power of social media in more ways than one. They were picked up by The Iconic and then their sell-out success in a few David Jones stores saw them quickly added to every DJs store in Australia.

“We were 21 with dreams, nothing to lose,” says Jordy. “We just said ‘Let’s give it a red-hot crack and see how far we can take this’.”

Didn’t want ‘dead-end’ jobs

Corey adds that “we were very creative initially, but in terms of wanting to be our own boss, essentially, that just kind of came because we had an idea”. “We’ve worked with people in the past and kind of saw that way of living and that was more of a mundane lifestyle where you were in kind of dead-end jobs. But we also just knew that we wanted to do something for ourselves.”

What started as an idea to make cool swimwear for themselves led to them “basically being in the largest online retailer in Australia and a largest physical retailer” and going after the American market and European markets.

“We essentially want to be able to fill the suitcase so when a man goes away, his whole suitcase is full of Vacay.”

In 2021, the US and Canada made up about 67% of Vacay’s annual sales revenue and the co-founders say they have matched that in 2022, despite all the supply chain and manufacturing issues that have hit them.

“We recently got back from the States this year … and we’re flying back there in February as well. We’ve got a couple of meetings lined up at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, a couple of trade shows over there. And we’re currently stocked in a few hotels, the Four Seasons, and some other big hotel chains as well,” says Jordy.

On Love Island Australia 2022, Tak certainly turned heads in a pair of leopard-print shorts from Vacay Swimwear.
On Love Island Australia 2022, Tak turned heads in a pair of leopard-print shorts from Vacay Swimwear. | Attribution: Nine

They are marketing to the man who loves to travel, and someone who likes showcasing his personality and is happy to step outside their comfort zone, they tell Forbes Australia in an interview.

Find your mentor

At the start of the business, we were burning a lot of our budget, because we weren’t educated in areas of the business like we are today, says Jordy.

“Now if you are starting a business there is so much knowledge at your fingertips. You can go on YouTube, there’s tutorials for everything – how to make a website, how to run a Facebook campaign, how to make a good ad creative – but back then, six, seven years ago, it was more ‘Do It Yourself, fail and work it out’. Now you speak to people and network and take what works and what didn’t work. So someone’s long road will be much shorter,” he says.

Businesses perhaps don’t quite realise the sort of the broad implications of changes in the economy or geo-political impacts, he says.

“They have an idea. They’re entrepreneurial in spirit, they want to go for it. They do but you know, two to two and a half years in they are failed, because they haven’t seen the big picture, or they haven’t had the mentoring.”

Corey adds, “We’ve learned so much from the screw ups.” And when they mentor students and potential business entrepreneurs, they tell them about their mistakes and things that worked well of not so well for them. “It’s been a gruelling journey, and it hasn’t been completely smooth 24/7.”

They predict shoppers will want to go back into stores as people “miss going into a store, feeling the physical product”. “We’ve noticed online has remained the same but our wholesale and retail sector is gaining.

“We’re continuing to expand the product offerings. We have a lot of linen. We have a lot of terry cotton. Swimwear is our bread and butter. We essentially want to be able to fill the suitcase so when a man goes away, his whole suitcase is full of Vacay.”