Arabella MacRitchie founded her swimwear brand Arabella London back in 2016 after studying art history in Scotland...
Despite the sub-zero temperatures she experienced in her university years, she was forever dreaming of summer. She launched her brand when she was just 24, setting out to design “pieces that are as cleverly constructed as your finest lingerie.” The brand took two years to develop and to achieve the result she did, MacRitchie spent six weeks in her Moroccan factory, overseeing the production process. “Those first samples should be framed! The beauty of the product now is the couture-like craftsmanship, quality, and fit, but it took the unimaginable to achieve this,” she says.
Her pieces, she explains, are multi-purpose. “These are not only built simply for the beach but rather hard-working separates that can slot seamlessly into a woman’s wardrobe,” she says. In other words, they’re as functional as they are beautiful. The size range runs from cups in A/B to DD/E and sizes 6 – 14+ on the body and Arabella London hangs on the racks of luxury retailers such as Harrods, Selfridges, and LuisaViaRoma and she’s just launched in Victoria’s Secret in the US.
As an entrepreneur from a young age, she credits her father for instilling an unflappable determination in her. “My dad’s view was that there’s no failure in this. You either don’t succeed and have learned a great deal or you succeed, and the dream career is yours. Cliché, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know – better a life of ‘oh well’ than ‘what if’.”
Here, we find out more about the world of Arabella London.
Go to www.arabellalondon.co.uk
You studied art history - what were your initial career aspirations and what prompted the move into fashion?
My mind was set on creating a swimwear line right from the get-go. University years at St Andrews spent defying Scotland’s sub-zero temperatures had me forever in a summer state of mind – wardrobe staples like delicate bralettes and bodysuits paved the way for the sculptural bodies that bridge the gap between swimwear and ready-to-wear, transitioning from day to dancefloor, beach to bar, spring to summer and autumn to winter. But with a twist – not another formless design but instead pieces that are as cleverly constructed as your finest lingerie.
My route into fashion was atypical. I went from art history to the art of the body in the space of a summer. I chose the road less travelled, opting for the unconventional, hustle-heavy life of an entrepreneur instead of the traditional, expected career path. And I don’t regret it for a second.
Arabella London has a distinctly timeless feel to it, although with a nod to the 50s. What is it about that period in fashion that's still so relevant?
The iconic decade is as relevant today as it was then. The era marked the rise of “The New Look” – after years of fashion oppression, women were made to feel dainty and elegant again. The focus was on the female form, with shapes celebrating womanliness rather than trying to hide it – fitted bodices, a slender, nipped-in waist, and boning in the chest and torso prevailed. It was all about form-enhancing silhouettes with maximum body shaping, much like our swimwear, in fact.
My aim was to create a collection of core silhouettes that were neither trend-led nor age, shape or size-specific. In a time of increasingly formless silhouettes, our pieces combine couture-like craftsmanship with ultra-sophisticated silhouettes to create swimwear that feels fabulous and looks endlessly elegant. The pieces are smoothing and shaping, form-fitting with a touch of 50s femininity. High Waist briefs come all the way up to the natural waist – no belly button to be seen – and the back of the 9.2.9 Swimsuit echoes traditional corsetry. The gently ruched, shoulder-skimming straps on the Modern Bustier are a nod to the elegant evening gowns popular in the era.
Can you tell us a little more about your concept of ‘swimtimates'?
First and foremost, the fabrics are quick-drying, chlorine-resistant, and woven from super-opaque microbes to protect you from harmful ultraviolet rays. However, these fabrics can also be used for activewear and ready-to-wear purposes thanks to the unique structure of the knit. They are ultra-light, allow for total freedom of movement, retain their shape, and feel incredible against the skin. The fabrics are also special enough for after-dark including textured fabrics from France and Spain, metallic silver and plum lamé sourced from Como, and the most striking glitter midnight blue that shimmers from every angle – it’s as if you’ve put the KiraKira filter on it!
Defining details also make the pieces versatile. The scallop-edge detail on the Contour Swimsuit is ultra-glamorous and fit for evening wear, as is the Modern Bustier, which is perfect layered under a tuxedo jacket. More relaxed styles such as the Plunge Crop or One80 function equally well as T-shirt bras or comfy “swimtimates” – underpinnings for the everyday.
And your highlight?
Seeing my name on the racks of world-famous luxury stores like Harrods, Selfridges and LuisaViaRoma were real “pinch me” moments. The most recent highlight is our launch in the US. As part of its ‘Brands We Love’ curated collections, Victoria’s Secret searches the globe for game-changing labels that promise to offer its customers something truly special. Arabella London was handpicked to be sold on the lingerie giant’s website. This was the first time we are available in the US – a pivotal moment.
You launched your brand at just 24 - what gave you the courage to take the leap?
By 24, I had already spent two years painstakingly working on the concept, and I was 100% ready to share it with the world. But at 22, I needed courage more than ever before. You must back yourself, as you will always be your biggest supporter.
Swimwear is often quite unstructured. What is it about wiring, panelling, and contouring that you love?
Combining stretch-fabric, integrating wires, moulded cups, and panelling is the only way to create unique shapes on the body that stay put. Think a sweetheart neckline or a bustier effect achieved with balconette cups for instance. The alternative is a flimsy triangle bikini and a nearly inevitable nip-slip!
How do you make swimwear work for a range of body types?
My mission is to instill vacation-ready confidence in every woman and create swimwear that is exciting (and not nerve-wracking!) to slip into. The size range is broad – cups sized from a A/B to DD/E and sizes 6 – 14+ on the body. Customers can select top and bottom sizes independently and choose from High Rise or Low Rise and moderate- or full-coverage briefs. The pieces are crafted with clever details to flatter the figure. Wide, ruched straps look ultra-glamorous whilst adding that extra bit of coverage at the inside of the arm. Structured cups teamed with oversized, adjustable tie-fastenings at the back create the perfect fit. This close attention to detail has paid off, with women in their 20s through to their 60s heaping praise for the confidence-boosting, figure-flattering fits, and thoughtful twists. But of course we are constantly learning and evolving.
What does a day in your life look like right now...
The pace has temporarily slowed down on 2021 developments due to closure of the factory and fabric mills, but I am still non-stop busy with our current collection. I’m absolutely determined to come out the other side strong enough to ensure the comeback is greater than the setback we’ve all experienced.
What are you loving right now?
- The unbelievable six weeks of sunshine.
- 111 Skin’s Y THEOREM REPAIR SERUM. It’s amazingly soothing and nourishing after sun exposure. I like to pair it with the SUB-ZERO DE-PUFFING ENERGY FACIAL MASK for an at-home spa treatment.
- Hourglass Cosmetics as always.
- The time to reflect and recharge. That being said, I am ready to slip into heels the minute the dancefloor calls!