This guest post is by Lisa Haggis
If you love spending your summer days on or by the water, but cringe at the idea of buying (or wearing) a bathing suit, Julia Church has you covered. She is the founder of Nettle’s Tale -- a novel swimwear company that celebrates real women, their bodies, and their stories.
I’ve been almost giddy in anticipation of sharing this company with you (which is the surefire trademark of a brilliant brand). Let’s have a look at what makes Julia and Nettle’s Tale so worth talking about.
BUILT ON PURPOSE:
It can be difficult, sometimes, to spy a greater purpose at work behind the actions of a product or apparel company. Perhaps that’s what makes Nettle’s Tale so refreshing. Julia created the company, not just to fill the need for more body-friendly swimsuits on the market, but also to “bring authenticity back into media, society, culture and our relationships,” she explains. “Authenticity is really the heart of the company’s mission statement and we work towards achieving this mission statement by designing suits for and with everyday women.”
When she further describes this as “creating a type of world we don’t have to have anxiety about raising our daughters in,” I’m completely won over. And I haven’t even really seen the products yet. That’s the power of a brand on a mission.
MAKING IT A LIVING:
On top of the heart-centered vision, this brand solves a real and tangible problem customers face. “A lot of times if a woman feels comfortable in a suit, she is also worried it looks like she borrowed her mom’s suit,” Julia shares. “Whereas with our swimwear a woman can feel comfortable, even sexy, and that the suit is truly her own.”
Julia designs and sells various swimsuit lines based on the women in her life. It’s a beautifully elegant business model that is aligned with her vision of honoring real women.
Early on in her business, she took a chance on a crowd-funding campaign -- successfully growing a fanatical following as well as raising the desired funds. She marks this as a big turning point: “[Our] campaign did two things for us: 1. Showed us there was a market and desire for what we were offering and 2. Gave us the funding needed to launch into having a product to sell.”
POINTS OF DISTINCTION:
1) Authenticity & Empowerment
“In our lookbook, you won't see airbrushed models. You'll see women who look like your friends,” the company states proudly on its about page. Julia’s rally cry for authenticity in the media and the honest representation of beauty hits a tender note for many women indeed.
In its products, its marketing, and its relationships, this company lives and breathes authenticity and women’s empowerment.
Very key here is that the designs and quality of the swimsuits deliver exactly the outcome that Julia had set out to create: women celebrating and feeling beautiful in their bodies. A glance at the customer testimonials -- statements like "I feel amazing, sexy, and free in Nettle's Tale suits." -- and it’s obvious that the products themselves are empowering, which makes the company’s messaging all the more solid.
From the “Wise Words from Great Women” quotes on the site, to the inspiring updates shared on Social Media, the brand takes every opportunity to encourage women to stand proud as their authentic selves. Julia even steps boldly into the spotlight herself as a spokesperson and model for the brand.
2) Storytelling & Individuality
Julia designs “honest swimwear for the everyday woman.” But it’s in her definition and vision of that “everyday” woman that the magic really happens.
Scan the pages of the lookbook and you’ll see spirited women living out their summer adventures. Julia explains her initial vision in an intro video on the website: “I thought about all of the beautiful women in my life and how different and unique they all are and I was like I have to take these women and custom design a swimsuit for each of them. I want these women to be doing things they would be doing in their swimsuit in the places that they love. I want the photos to tell their story.”
And tell their story she does. The way she honors the spirit and individuality of each woman that inspires the swimwear is remarkable, right down to donating 10% of the profits from their set to the cause of their choice.
With columns on the blog like #TellYourTale and “Our Adventures” Julia and her team share their personal stories and encourage their community to do the same. It's easy to feel inspired by the strong and adventurous feminine image this brand projects.
3) Community Inclusion
You know that challenge that has you standing on a desk, waiting to fall back into the arms of your co-workers or friends? Something tells me that game would be a piece of cake for Julia Church.
From the beginning, Julia has capitalized on what seems to be a natural knack for investing in and trusting her connections and her community with the vision for her company. Giving the models freedom to choose their own causes; engaging local artists and photographers to put their own stamp on the brand; reaching out for help through crowd-funding; even manufacturing locally – Nettle’s Tale has truly been and continues to be a communal success story.
It’s clear that friendship and community are important values to Julia, and she has found ways to infuse them into her brand at every turn, leveraging them into one of the company’s inimitable advantages.
With a hint of pride, I think I sense a good dose of the Canadian spirit poking through the Nettle’s Tale personality. Julia’s bio reinforces this hunch: “[She] has a special place in her heart for Canada. Her designs are greatly inspired by her love for this land, her respect for the female form, and just the right touch of vintage.”
“I always describe the aesthetic as Marilyn Monroe meets the Pacific Northwest/West Coast Lifestyle,” Julia reveals. The result is a visual appeal that feels free and liberating as well as genuine and nature-rich.
The neutral color palette paired with clean and simple typography provides an airy and spacious backdrop for the bright, uplifting photography. The photos carry the brunt of the weight in telling and shaping the brand’s stories – showcasing the unique styles and personalities of the women behind the swimwear.
The symbolism behind the name of the company is also based on this theme of telling each woman’s tale: “Nettles are native to the Pacific Northwest and sting unless they are blooming. We want women to feel like they are blooming in our suits. So we consider the women ‘the Nettles’ and we are telling their personal tale through the design and giving them a voice on the shop.”
While the visuals of the brand are heavily geared toward the beauty of the promised lifestyle, Julia lets her sense of humor come through in her videos and the conversational pieces of the brand’s messaging. These moments of comic relief play a big role in shaping out the approachability and honesty of the brand’s character, as well as adding a fun bit of quirkiness. Naming the suits after real women – The Carli, The Kaycee, etc. – adds an extra dimension of friendship and familiarity.
All together, the effect is a customer experience that, not only has you coveting a suit, but also makes you want to stick around and become gal pals with Julia and her team.
There's a simplicity and elegance in the decision-making behind this brand that is incredibly inspiring. Julia stays in-tune with the people that she's creating for by creating with them. She draws inspiration from real people and places in her life. The reason this brand is so pleasurable to encounter is because it's so stripped back -- allowing the great products to speak for themselves and the company story and values to shine through.
Unlike so many other businesses trying to establish their footing in the market, she hasn't overcomplicated things. She has identified what matters to the brand -- honest storytelling, empowering swimsuit design, community building -- and concentrates on doing them very, very well.
So think about it: What would your business look like if you stripped it right back? At which things should you be concentrating on being great?