Interview: RAQ founder talks Abbie Chatfield swim collection
RAQ Apparel founder Sophia Argyropoulos chats the inspo behind the Abbie Chatfield swimwear collab and the secret to finding the perfect bikini.
Busty babes, rejoice. Australian swimwear savant RAQ Apparel has teamed up with everyone's fave media personality, podcast/tv/radio host and all-round icon Abbie Chatfield to launch the 80s-inspired swimwear collection of our dreams. Unveiled to the world on Monday, the RAQ x Abbie Chatfield collection drops at 7pm AEDT on Thursday 13 January. Our crystal ball tells us this is gonna be a first in best dressed sitch, so make sure to sign up to the VIB (very important busts, obvi) newsletter for priority access from 6pm AEDT.
The collection is inspired by Abbie and RAQ's mutual love of 80s nostalgia and celebrating body positivity. Think your mum's favourite bikini back in the day. The collab includes a bunch of styles in 2 gorgeous colourways: a cute black and pastel floral "Flower Bomb" print and the scrumptious "Limoncello" yellow. Specialising in limited edition cozzies for well-endowed queens, the RAQ range includes 40 bra options between 8 and 18 band sizes, D and H cups as well as 8-20 in bottoms.
View this post on Instagram
Because everyone needs to match their swimmers to their 'fit, the collection also includes an adorable Flower Bomb linen shirt and pant set that's available in sizes 8 to 16.
The collection will set you back $99 for the bikini tops, $49 for bottoms and the linen loungewear shirt and pants are $135 each. True to RAQ's style, this drop is limited edition and won't be restocked. So once it's gone, it's gone.
Two Broke Chicks caught up with RAQ founder and director Sophia Argyropoulos to chat about working with Abbie, the inspiration behind the collection and how to find the perfect bikini.
Sally McMullen: For anyone who hasn't come across RAQ, can you tell us a little about the brand and the gap you're filling in the swimwear market?
Sophia Argyropoulos: So I started RAQ 4 years ago now, and it came out of me having so many struggles to find swimsuits that fit me when I was growing up. When I was a teenager, I struggled so much to find bikinis that would fit and support me and that also sort of reflected my sense of style. So I felt like I couldn't express myself in the way I wanted to. And there were just so many tears in the change rooms, it was me feeling self-conscious, feeling like I was the only one in my class that had my boobs busting out of my school uniform. So I always had those struggles and it just got to a point where I was really fed up. I was in Greece with my family and I was like "I'm going to start sketching up my dream bikini. The bikini that I would love to wear if I could" and that's when it all started.
I designed one and launched it in a black colour, kept it really simple. It was the closest thing to a triangle bikini but for a bigger bust, and we released it in 12 sizes. Then we slowly progressed from that. And every season we release new colours, we introduce new styles. And we've grown our size range to cater to over 40 bra sizes now. My research shows that over 60% of women actually wear a D cup or bigger. So it is like the majority of women. So us three are in the majority, but the fashion industry has ignored us for so long because they put us in the too hard basket. So we're there to solve that problem. And create a space in a community where women like us feel included and reflected and celebrated.
Alex Hourigan: The RAQ and Abbie Chatfield collection is a collision of two Australian body posi icons, which we j'adore. So how did that collaboration come about?
SA: It was so organic! When it comes to business, I'm usually hustling to connect with lots of people and get the brand out there. But this one was just so natural, because RAQ and Abbie are the perfect fit. It turns out that Abbie actually bought from RAQ a few years ago, and we weren't even aware of it. And then she posted a reel and it was her dancing around in her house wearing three different bikinis. And the song in the background was, "I Believe in Miracles" by Hot Chocolate. When that popped up in my feed, I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is just perfect. This is exactly what I've been trying to do with RAQ."
Abbie is the perfect face for it and her confidence and her happiness, and the celebration of wearing these bikinis that she could like, dance around and bounce around and feel sexy. It was everything we've been trying to do for RAQ. And from there, we just sent her a few more bikinis. I was like, "if you're gonna love them that much we'll send you more! I'll send you all of them". I didn't mind if she posted or not, I just wanted her to have them to say thanks and for all of us to sort of celebrate this.
Then from there, I think I've mentioned her one time and the dance. I was like, "We should do a collab". And she's like, "yes, let's do it!" And then I was like, "Okay, let's do a call!" And then we did a call and I kept pinching myself. I was like, is this actually gonna happen? But she was so into it. And she's just so excited to have her own bikinis. She has designed them and they're Abbie's bikinis and how awesome is that?
SM: It's literally the dream, having your own custom bikini!
SA: Exactly. And it was just such a really organic, natural and collaborative process and we just sort of shared our different ideas and bits of inspiration and we're 100% on the same page. At RAQ, we draw so much inspiration in terms of our prints, our colours, our branding, our graphics from the 80s and and retro swimwear. All the references Abbie sent in were Kris Jenner in the 80s and that sort of thing. And then we just got carried away and we're like, "Oh my god, you dressed up like Kris Jenner, your hair naturally curly!". We were all 100% on the same page.
AH: I think you can feel that as well. As a consumer, when there's an organic fit and organic collaboration, you can definitely feel that through the product and through the brands and through the personality. You know how sometimes there are those collaborations with influencers and you're like, "Okay, so this was for paycheque"? But this feels so organic and so right.
SA: Yeah and whatever comes out of it, it has just been so fun. The whole process to design the range and do the photoshoot together and then now finally, release it to the world. On the day when Abbie was modelling, I was like, "she is the perfect person to be the face of RAQ and to be wearing these bikinis".
I've worked with a lot of models now and I've never seen anyone so confident in bikinis and it didn't matter who was in the room, men, women, people coming in and out. She was just 100% herself the entire time. And nothing changed that. And you didn't have to even guide her, or tell her to do certain poses. She was just doing them and we're like, "we just need to be filming everything she's doing and capture everything because it's perfect".
View this post on Instagram
SM: That says so much about the bikinis and how comfortable they are too. You announced the collaboration a few days ago and Instagram went wild. What has the reaction been like for you?
SA: I didn't know what to expect from this because Abbie is such a prominent person in Australia, on social media and on TV. It's sort of hard to fathom her reach. And she's got such a strong, loyal following. I've never been a part of something like that. So I just didn't know what to expect. But as soon as she announced it and posted those photos on her Instagram, and everyone was so excited. And I think because she's so authentic and shares so much of her own story and her own struggles, whether it be like body confidence or people trolling her online, or people saying negative things about the way her bikini fits. People have followed that journey.
So many of our followers are inspired by her confidence. They look to her and they're like, "Oh, she's got big boobs, and she can do that she wears this, what brand's she wearing? What type of clothes does she wear?" And so I think everyone is like "Abbie's wearing it. I want to wear it too."
AH: That's amazing. You've mentioned the 80s aesthetic, but can you take us a little further into the inspiration behind the aesthetic of his collection?
SA: It really was retro photos and swimwear. I do a lot of hunting in op-shops. I'll find old bikinis and I'll buy them and have them around the studio. So they're always in my mind and I've been thinking about florals for a long time. I don't know about you guys, but the only option for me when I could buy a bikini when I was a big busted teenager was like a daggy floral that's made for my grandmother. So when I started RAQ, I was like, "I promise I will never do a floral bikini". But then over the last couple of years it's starting to really grow on me. There are so many cute floral prints.
So I had been thinking that and then when it came to discussing the range with Abbie, she mentioned floral and she sent me a few reference images and we were like "We just have to do it. And if we're going to do it with anyone, it's Abbie." Abbie's gonna sell florals. And we've chosen a print that's really bright, bold but also has some pastel colours in it as well. It's really cute. We've got it in a few different styles as well. Some people feel more comfortable in something that's a little bit more structured and supportive, like the Underwire Crop. Some people prefer something that provides the coverage, but it's still like a string bikini. And that's our Multi-Way top. And Abbie loves yellow, so we were like, "we have to do a yellow one!". And RAQ has never done a yellow bikini. So we did the Limoncello.
AH: I love the name Limoncello as well!
SA: Yeah, it's fun to put a name to it. So we've called the floral "Flower Bomb" and then "Limoncello" and it also inspires the way that you're going to shoot it as well. So we got some cute shots of Abbie wearing the Limoncello holding a bottle of Limoncello. And it's just cute to refer to it in that way. Like on the website and when you're discussing it.
SM: Abbie is a fabulous advocate for body positivity, as you've mentioned, and not giving a damn all around, which I think is what so many people love about her. How is that sort of mantra personified through the collection?
SA: I think just the fact that Abbie is the face of the collection says it all. And her being in every photo, and just that it screams authentic Abbie, because she has got so many different looks. Like different hairstyles, and when she's on Bachelor in Paradise, or Bachelor or a I'm A Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here, or she's doing another collaboration. She's always looking different. And I feel like in this drop it's just so authentically her. In the videos that we're posting, and her dancing around and being goofy and confident and I think that's how the authenticity comes through in the range.
AH: What are your tips for finding the perfect bikini when you're shopping online and when you're shopping at RAQ?
SA: Well, although it has been hard for busty women to find bikinis and bras that fit them in the past, I think it's becoming so much easier these days. Around the time when I launched RAQ 4 years ago, there were 2 other swimwear brands that were Australia-based that launched at the same time. And now there are more international brands doing bras and somewhere for women that are D cup or bigger in bra sizes. And I think these brands that specialise in D cup and above, they've put so much work into developing this product. So it is specifically designed for women like us and so that people can find the right fit the right band size, the right cup size and the right style for them. So you can sort of trust that if you're going to a specialty brand, like RAQ, that the work has been put in.
And for instance, on our website, we've developed a fit calculator where you can go in and select just the bra size of your favourite bra. And then you can go through a series of questions to work out how it is fitting you and what you would change about it to make it fit better, if it could fit better. And then that spits out your bra size that we think you are. And then you can go to our product pages and read the fitter's comments which I've written. And it recommends if this is your size, as per the fit calculator, we recommend opting for this size in order to have more cleavage or to have more coverage and support.
We've also got so many reviews on there. So customers can upload photos with their reviews and it says their bra size on there. So I find that a lot of our customers do that. And they scroll through and they look at all the other customers and think, "Oh, my body is similar to theirs. My boobs are a similar fullness or similar shape. She's wearing that size." So referring to customer pictures, reviews, written fitted comments, using the fit calculators and other resources on the website, it's actually easier than ever. And these days the brands have really easy return and exchange policies.
AH: I love that you've got "if this is your bra size, go this size; if you want this or this size, if you want that go this style". I'm like, these are my best boob years. I'm not locking them away. I want them supported, but I'm getting them out. Whereas Sal at the beach, I know she's like "Nope. Put them away."
SA: Yeah, I'm 30 now, and when I was a teenager, my boobs were just like absolute rocks. I was an 8 FF and they were just way too big. But now I'm 30, and they're less full and they're going down. And I'm like, I wish I was more confident back then and in my 20s to just rock them. Pun not intended. So yeah, I say to anyone younger. Just rock it.
AH: Get 'em out, girls!
SM: Two Broke Chicks endorses this message. What are some common mistakes that you see people making when they're buying swimwear? Because I know it's getting easier, but it's still hard, especially online. So what are some of the common mistakes? And how can you avoid them?
SA: Because there have been limited options for women who are bustier in terms of bikinis and bras that are in band sizes and cup sizes, because so many brands have only really gone up to a D and then they'll go up in the band size. So they'll go high in band size, but somebody D. So, so many women end up opting for a D in quite a large band size. So the back is quite loose because every time you got a band size, the cup size goes up with. And they could technically be smaller in the band if they want and then they'd go up in the cup. And it would probably provide more support, because it's a firm supportive band. So I find a lot of women think that they are, for example, a 10 D or 10 DD, but some of those women could be more like an 8 F and that might be a better fit for them. So that's quite common and why I recommend using our fit calculators.
AH: Yeah, I think we've all been there. I remember the days of a gaping band, because I always had the clip.
SA: And then you have to manually tie the back? I used to do that.
AH: So what's the price tag for the items within the Abbie Chatfield collection?
SA: So we keep it pretty simple. All the tops are $99, the briefs are $49. And then we've got the cute linen shirt and lounge pants that match the floral set of bikinis. Those ones are $135 each.
View this post on Instagram
SM: So for anybody who is used to shopping at fast fashion brands or hasn't invested in good quality swimwear before, why is it so important to buy high quality swimmers even if it comes at a higher price tag?
SA: Well, our price tags reflect the research and development involved in designing these pieces. And also the materials used to make them and it just comes down to that if you're trying to support your boobs, there's going to be more fabric and there's going to be more materials and hardware in there. There's going to be underwire, there's going to be power mesh. There's going to be extra layers of fabric. So that just makes it a little bit more expensive to actually produce versus something that you'll buy from a fast fashion shop that's not specifically designed to support fuller busts.
The price tag also reflects the huge size range that we have. We cater to over 40 bra sizes. Standard swimwear brands only cater to around 5 sizes, XS, S, M, L and XL and then they stop there. So to develop that many different sizes, and then to produce that many different sizes it just takes more time, it takes more manual labour, adjusting your machinery. So you're paying for something that's specifically designed for you, for your exact band size and cup size. That's pretty much why it is important to invest, if you want something that really is going to fit you and support you. And then we also design our swimwear so that it lasts. We want you to be able to wear it season after season. So I guess every person just has to weigh up their priorities.
SM: As somebody who has bought on both ends of the spectrum, I 100% will invest the dough in a good pair of swimmers because like you said, otherwise they don't last longer than a season and then you end up with bally swimmers and the underwire sticking out into your boob. It's just not the vibe.
SA: And even if you're investing one swim set for the season that fits you really well and you feel comfortable in it. Also with our Multi-Way Top and the Tie Side brief, they're designed so you can wear them in so many different ways. You can do over the shoulder. You can do halter neck. There are 2 straps on either side, so there are so many different combinations that you can do. Another thing is that I wear my RAQ bikinis as my bras. I'm wearing the Multi-Way right now over the shoulder. I wear my crop every other day just as my bras, so I actually want to inspire and encourage women to wear these pieces as part of their day-to-day outfit. And it just looks cute. It adds another element to your outfit, so you're gonna get so much use out of it.
SM: Yeah, absolutely. I saw that Abbie was wearing one as a sports bra. I was like, "that's some witchcraft right there".
SA: Yeah! My sister does that too.
AH: So this is your final drop of the season but can we expect for the collection to be restocked in the future? Or is this a "one shot, one opportunity" moment?
SA: We don't have plans to restock this. We encourage everyone to get in quickly. And that's the same with all our releases. I don't want to have to repeat over and over the same colours. It's more fun to be able to introduce new colours, so people have more options. And it's more fun for me, to be able to design new things. So we don't really restock. There are a few different colours that we do restock, but not necessarily this drop.
So we recommend people snapping it up so that they're not disappointed. I'm sure there are gonna be people in a few months who say, "oh my gosh, I've missed out". And we're like "we told you!".
SM: What else can we expect from RAQ in 2022? It's already shaping up to be a very big year.
SA: Well, we're currently working on sports bras actually. It's a logical progression from what we're already doing. The idea behind RAQ is to encourage people to live their best life and go out there and not be held back by the size of their boobs. And so the logical progression there is sports bras and activewear that goes with that. And in our RAQ bright colours and pastel colours as well.
So that's in the works right now and we're aiming to release that later this year. It will be like how busty women have always wanted to be like the smaller busted friends and have lots of different options and cute options for their bikinis. We'd like cute sports bras that act as a top. We'd like matching bike shorts and a tee that you can throw over the top. And more matching linen and sarongs. Everyone likes matching bikinis to their sarong or outfit. RAQ had to toe.
Images: RAQ Apparel