A gorgeous waterfront home, a partner who plays AFL, and a swimwear label with a 200K strong social media following that counts Hailey Bieber and the Kardashians among its customers.
If it sounds like Rebecca Klodinsky is living her best life, you’re right.
The founder of multimillion dollar swimwear brand IIXIIST confirms she’s got it pretty fantastic at the moment.
But don’t think for one second any of it came easily. Behind the seeming glitz and glamour of running a successful fashion brand is an incredibly hard-working woman with a lot of grit, resilience and tenacity. With a toddler in tow, to boot.
In fact, nothing about Rebecca’s success was handed to her on a silver platter, so much so that for the first few years of running her now $7 million business, Rebecca did pretty much everything on her own.
“I built my first website myself,” she said. “I didn’t have the money to pay someone so I taught myself to code by watching YouTube videos.
“And that’s probably my biggest tip for anyone starting out in their own business: It’s easy to get someone else to do something but if you do as much as you can it teaches you good financial hygiene.”
Rebecca was in her early 20s and completing a double degree in psychology and forensics when she started her label, then called Frankii Swim. It was born out of necessity; She spent a lot of time at the beach and it was annoying to have to change clothing to swim after doing a pilates class. And so her signature multi-purpose triangle bralette was born.
“It was really scary to make that conscious decision to stop pursuing a guaranteed career or profession to follow something so unknown,” Rebecca said. “I’ve only ever been an online business and e-commerce was just dawning, there was no Instagram and no Shopify. This was back when there was still lay-by.
“It was a leap of faith, I guess. And then I was so hungry and determined to keep it going, and I was rewarded with the pleasure of seeing it work.”
It was 2015 when the brand had its first celebrity moment. Kylie Jenner ordered directly from the website. Soon after, Rhianna’s ‘people’ called in. And it was every bit as satisfying as any business owner might dream it to be.
“At first we thought it was fake,” Rebecca said. “But you know, we thought if it WAS actually Rhianna, we better give her some pieces! Seeing it was so cool, and it did change things. I thought: People can see me, I’m not just quietly working away on the Gold Coast. My ears pricked up to the fire that I had started.
“But it was the right time for it, I caught a wave. Instagram was new, and the brand ticked a lot of boxes for consumers that otherwise weren’t being ticked. The growth just happened, I didn’t have to pay anyone for endorsement.”
If you’re a start-up in the fashion space reading this and you’re seething, Rebecca can understand.
“I don’t know how, in this climate, they’re doing it. Pre-COVID I would have encouraged anyone thinking about starting their own thing to just do it. But COVID seems to have prompted everyone to do it and every market is so flooded. It’s scary.”
With the competition growing, Rebecca attributes the brand’s ability to maintain a 333% profit to offering a consistent product.
“We have a strong customer base and they know what to expect,“ she said. “We don’t jump ship when there are new trends. There’s no tie dye or terry towelling; It’s just a classic design.”
Sustainability, which has become uber-trendy in swimwear in recent years, is one thing the brand has always stood for. Today it emphasises small production runs, 100% recycled ocean waste fabrics, eco-friendly dyes and manufacturers that are 100% child labour free. It’s no wonder the brand has a cult celebrity following.
If you need another reason to love the brand, Rebecca promises that it does not photoshop its models.
“I actually don’t really have any angst about what we post on Instagram – although my social media team does,” she said. “If it were up to me, I’d be posting photos of my lattes. It’s just important to me that we post as freely as we can, and we’re open, transparent and easy-going. And also that we use clean and sophisticated language. I don’t want to speak to every person as though they are 18-25.”
With a team of just five, Rebecca has long left behind the idea of running her business like a big corporate.
“I’ve grown as a person since starting the business and I’ve relaxed and found my bearings in life,” she said. “I just have people around me who are like-minded so it’s not like dragging your feet into work every day. The team are excited when a call from Hayley Bieber comes in.”
A typical day starts with a workout and then the morning is spent with her son, a toddler who she has full-time. By 8am she’s in the office, and work usually entails checking grid content, going over look books and choosing models.
“There’s not a lot of structure, I just know what’s what at all times,” she said. “l tackle what needs to be done in that moment. As long as I can be left alone for three hours in the morning, we’re good.”
She admits she’s ‘very very on, all the time’ when it comes to work but doesn’t consider it a downfall.
“I’m so lucky to be able to do what I want for myself and to have done it for such a long time, I feel I have freedom,” she said. “I don’t collapse into bed exhausted at night. I’ve never thought about quitting. Although around Fashion Week I did think it would be nice to have a boss and be able to call in sick for one day.”
Her relationship with Geelong Cats player Lachie Henderson means she splits her time between Melbourne and the Gold Coast. She credits him as an immense support last year when she got out a bout of endometriosis for the first time so severe that it required emergency surgery, and then she contracted COVID.
“Lachie is so supportive, and he’s respectful of my work ethic,” she said. “I am nuts and bonkers but he sees the return that I reap. Equally, I wouldn’t come on to the AFL field when he’s playing and be all demanding that he do bath time for baby. We have respect for the other person’s job and life.”
In terms of what’s next for the business, Rebecca * might * consider a children’s range and loungewear.
“However, I’m a big believer in if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” she said. “I don’t have any aspirations to take over the world. I just want to do a good job have all that I need and that’s enough for me.”