TOMIA Swim on building a fashion label and facing Breast Cancer
TOMIA Swim is a UK based resort and swimwear label established to innovate the industry and create timeless styles. With swimwear independently designed in house, TOMIA brings unique yet classic swimwear to the market without compromising on style and is currently building their first ever mastectomy friendly, post surgery collection. With a driving force to adapt how the fashion industry produces garments, TOMIA creates lasting pieces that their customers will want to wear time and time again. The promise is to provide swimwear that is here for the long haul, not the landfill.
TOMIA Swim was founded in 2019 by Founder and Designer, Katrina Dilnot, when the designs she so desired were completely out of grasp. Being obsessed with travel, Katrina noticed that the market was flooded with short term trends and designs that would be out by next season. In a world of fast fashion she wanted to create a range of swimwear that customers would want to wear time and time again, rather than something that would go out of style after one wear. The first year of TOMIA was successful, landing a partnership with ASOS Marketplace, a spot at London’s Regent St. store Showcase.co for the summer and Katrina was shortlisted for GBEA Young Entrepreneur of the Year award twice in a row. Their following grew on social media and the collection of 4 designs developed into 9, consisting of 4 bikinis and 5 swimsuits, each independently drawn and designed by Katrina. The collection, combining classic cuts with ribbed fabrics, mesh details and modern prints, includes skimpy bikinis perfect for catching some rays, minimalist swimsuits with statement colours and unique cut outs creating bold silhouettes.
Of course when the pandemic hit, plans went on hold and flights grounded. The need for new swimwear became less and less the further lockdowns continued and like many other businesses during the pandemic, it was time to review TOMIA and the direction they were heading. Just as the new ‘normal’ kicked off and the relaunch of TOMIA was in action, Katrina was diagnosed with Breast Cancer on her 27th birthday in January 2021 – an unexpected diagnosis that turned her world upside down. A whirlwind of months saw in 2 operations, radiotherapy and hormone treatment that left Katrina feeling like a completely different person. Whilst one of the biggest challenges of her life, Katrina wanted to bring something good from her time being poorly.
‘Life gets in the way and throws so many unexpected things in our direction, although I am now a big believer that everything does happen for a reason – tell me that whilst I was having treatment and I would have laughed. But I see it now. Being poorly was a huge life lesson for me – I learnt so much about myself, my bond grew stronger with those I love and I treasure life and its precious moments so much more now. Everything I do now I do with a different mindset and a big driver was to help and support others, just like others done for me when I was at a low spot.’
MY.TOMIA; the future of the business
As her motivations and perspective on life changed, so did her plans for the swimwear label. As if swimwear wasn’t hard enough to buy – add a life changing operation to the mix and the challenge is even bigger; Katrina knew she wanted to change this. Mastectomies and preventative Breast Cancer operations can leave women feeling detached from their body and self esteem can take a hit. Adapting to new scars, less mobility whilst in recovery and a body that is no longer symmetrical are just some of the aspects an operation can impact, not to mention the need for soft seams and comfort to ensure affected areas are not aggravated. There is a large range of mastectomy friendly swimwear on the market however all follow a very similar trend; unflattering, frumpy and old fashioned in design. In a time where women need to feel great about themselves, the items of clothing they wear can play a big part and this is where TOMIA’s mastectomy collection, MY.TOMIA was born.
‘After the pandemic and my diagnosis I was naturally left reviewing the plans for TOMIA and what I saw for the future. Joining the breast cancer community and seeing the struggles other women face, inspired me to make a difference to a group of women that need it most. Being part of this community feels bitter sweet. You never think you will be a part of the community, nor do you want to, however when you do become a part of the group you feel so grateful for the incredible support. I connected with women of all ages who were facing their own journey with Breast Cancer and I had a huge desire to help.’
After research and plenty of discussions, it appeared Katrina was not alone with her thoughts around the lack of fashionable mastectomy swimwear, with many women struggling to find something flattering and stylish whilst comfortable on scars and supportive of uneven breasts after surgery. Discussions evolved into sketches into tech packs and soon to be samples; the first steps to building a swimwear collection for post mastectomy bodies whilst bringing glamour, confidence and style into the mix. The collection will include pockets for breast forms and a medium coverage to feel the safeness required, whilst making sure their customers feel incredible! Each design has been carefully thought out to support women who have had single and double mastectomies, with or without reconstruction. Based on the versatility of the designs those not affected by surgeries can also wear each swimsuit and bikini.
The MY.TOMIA collection is due to launch early 2023 starting with 4 designs in the collection. To follow their journey and stay up to date with the latest on the collection you can subscribe here or keep an eye on behind the scenes over on TOMIA’s Instagram. TOMIA isn’t just about sexy swimwear either; building a community of like-minded individuals that are in need of support is a priority too. Whether someone is recently diagnosed or learning to live with a diagnosis, TOMIA will be a safe place for all things feel good; a place for questions, honest conversation, advice and everything in between.
The Entrepreneur Life
As an entrepreneur, challenges are thrown your way – not just from a business perspective but also personal. You are the business and the business is you. That’s why when Katrina is asked about what she has learnt from running a business or tips for aspiring entrepreneurs the answer doesn’t feel the usual ‘corporate’ style.
‘Life will take you on a journey – sometimes not an anticipated one. We can plan, plan and plan some more yet life might have other ideas in store. Instead, trusting the process is important because otherwise you can get so caught up on the details and what didn’t go to plan, you waste that precious energy. When COVID hit and I was diagnosed with cancer it was very tempting to pull the plug and give up but I knew deep down I had a driving force to turn my ideas into reality. Now.. that didn’t mean hustle so hard that I didn’t have time for anything. Instead I set up my daily routine that worked for me and the life I wanted – time for fitness, family time and house projects whilst leading success with TOMIA.’
‘Balance is everything and really it only takes that 1 little step forward day in day out that will end up having a huge impact on your business 6 months down the line. Put one foot in front of the other each day around something you are passionate about, then watch your dreams unfold beyond your eyes.