Swimwear for Everybooty: A Q&A with Kitty and Vibe Founder Cameron Armstrong

Swimwear for Everybooty: A Q&A with Kitty and Vibe Founder Cameron Armstrong

We chat with Cameron Armstrong, founder of Kitty and Vibe, about booty sizes, taking risks and making swimsuits more friendly.

This conversation has been edited for clarity

Christine Yarde: Let’s start off with what really motivated you to take the plunge into plus-size inclusive swimwear.

 

Cameron Armstrong: Yeah absolutely. I think from a young age, every time I had a conversation with friends or with any woman when you’re shopping for swimsuits and you hear chatter around you, it’s such a vulnerable shopping experience, it’s such an anxiety inducing and emotional experience that oftentimes is so negative.

It was really fascinating to me that a product had so much power over us. And as I looked at the industry as a whole, the [swimsuit brands] that did carry a wider size range didn’t proudly show those sizes, it was still more often than not, a caucasian size 0 model, just not a clear representation of women in the world.

It’s so broken and there’s so much opportunity. So how it started was, I was at the beach with my family. I wanted a new swimsuit and went to a local boutique and had such a poor experience – tops too big, bottoms too small. I got home from the vacation empty-handed without a swimsuit and I started holding focus groups in my apartment in Manhattan and telling girlfriends to bring their friends and I just asked them to talk about their experiences with swimwear and found out, everyone was unsatisfied. 9 times out of 10 they loathed the shopping experience. It wasn’t just dislike, but they hated it — it’s rare to have such negativity and so, I kind of created the universe from Kitty out of that same sentiment and wanted to create a product that actually felt positive that was fun to try on and made you feel seen and celebrated.

 

CY: I think that’s amazing and something you said that really stuck out for me is the way a product can control us and not only control us but control how we see ourselves.

 

CA: Completely! So we’re reclaiming that power and making it actually fun and seeing the product for the first time as a friend and not an enemy.

 

 

CY: I love that – seeing it as a friend and not an enemy. Is that where the idea of calling the brand Kitty and Vibe came from? How did that come about?

 

CA: First and foremost, you’ll notice the sizing metric is one of a kind. So, with our bottoms — my biggest complaint when it came to swimsuits was that I always had too much fabric in my bikini bottoms. So, in the focus groups, I started measuring everybody. And I have no experience as a designer or in fit, I just had a measuring tape and was like “I’m going to investigate.” I found that at her inseam – from her belly button to her tailbone – essentially her crotch – her “kitty” was the biggest differentiator. So women who had identical hips had totally different inseam sizes. So I created this sizing metric that took into account differing inseams which usually means different butt sizes, so we had a longer way to go, so all of our bikini bottoms have two inseam options for every hip size.

So that’s where “kitty” came from cause I was measuring their kitties. That’s really where it’s from and this was like 2017 – think about 2016 the election and it was a huge women’s movement year and pussy power was there, I couldn’t call it pussy so I called it Kitty.

 

CY: I love it!

 

CA: The “Kitty” truly speaks to the technical aspect and the “and Vibe” encapsulates all of the emotions that come with it. So the suits have different “vibes”—prints that come to your doorstep with a mood-boosting playlist that matches the vibe of the suit. We kind of create a universe and persona by the print. It’s gotten to the point where customers refer to the print by their name, which in turn makes it feel more like a friend.

 

CY: The idea of trying on a swimsuit with a playlist to match the vibe of the suit is so cool and refreshing – what are you really hoping that women feel when they try on these swimsuits and listen to the music?

 

CA: Yeah! I think by playing the music ahead of time and you actually get into a positive mental space and it actually offers another tool to set you up for success because so often I think when women would try on the swim suit, they would not be in a good headspace, so it kind of breaks that pattern and sets them up for success.

 

CY: Since you mentioned getting into a positive mental space, I’d love to know, what is your idea of true confidence?

 

CA: It’s something I currently struggle with especially with social media and constant comparison. Like, “I didn’t take enough vacation and now I’m envious someone is on vacation”. For women a lot of it is about body image and just constantly comparing so I think true confidence is when you can break out of that mindset and just really be in your full self and feel comfortable where you are. When wearing a swimsuit it’s such an excellent opportunity and the biggest test you can give yourself, to see like, “this is me,” if you can break away from what all the stereotypes are and what all the comparisons are and can just be in your own moment and if you are happy in that moment, just for you, that is confidence.

 

CY: I agree. It is moment by moment, day by day. Speaking of confidence, you mentioned not having experience in fit or swim. What gave you the confidence to say, “you know what, I’m going to learn this from scratch and start this business?”

 

CA: I was looking around me and it really was at the beginning and the boom of female entrepreneurs and I kind of believe it was that time period, where I was like “women are making a difference right now and really starting to be taken seriously in business,” and I wanted a piece of that. I wanted to see how that feels. I think first and foremost I have to say a bunch of that confidence was already paved because there were women already doing it and succeeding.

I think that’s really what made me do the leap – just being immersed in New York City and seeing women already doing this. Just kind of being hungry for something that could be my own. Really building something with my own two hands – and if you DM the Kitty Instagram, it’s still me responding because I’m so attached to building those connections and seeing how my day to day work makes someone’s life better. Even though it’s a swimsuit it’s so much more than that, it’s really unlocking confidence and acceptance of women.

With Kitty because I was already breaking this barrier and making this garment feel like a friend, it was instinctive, when these women were writing me to say “I love you, I support you, I’m so in awe of you” kind of “so many feels,” I really continued with because that’s why people are so attached to the brand because the brand voice really is something that cares. A lot of times with swimsuits if you post a picture and tag the brand, they’ll like it and post one emoji.

 

CY: Right, like “we saw you.”

 

CA: And I’m like “ tell me everything, how are you feeling, thank you so much!” I feel like that has set the tone to feel less like it being aspirational and very attainable.

 

 

CY: Yes, definitely. I love that you mentioned being so freely willing to say “I love you.” I think people put so much pressure on the word “love” but “love” is free, it’s really for everyone and every relationship and I think that’s why it’s so amazing that Kitty and Vibe and Dia & Co are coming together because we love our community. And we work hard to create that intimate vibe and connection. Speaking of Kitty and Vibe and Dia & Co coming together, can you tell us a little about the swimsuits that will be on the Dia & Co Shop?

 

CA: Yea, first of all, I love the assortment you’re carrying – it’s such a good mix of our vibes and so many different personalities and I think every Dia & Co customer will be able to find something to fit their vibe. I think this collection will be received really well because it’s supportive for larger bodies with lots of different features. For example our scoop neck top is one of our best-sellers, it’s kind of a sports bra fit and sizes DD and up have an inner layer of power mesh to give extra support. We were able to add these features without compromising the look and not have to make it super modest- you can still show skin but give support.

We actually worked with a handful of Dia & Co ambassadors to make those fits so we went through several rounds of fittings to get the perfect fit on their body and the final product they were so excited about.

 

CY: As a female entrepreneur, what would be your advice—what’s something you’d want other female entrepreneurs to hear from you?

 

CA: The entrepreneurial journey has so many ups and downs, it really does ebb and flow and I think especially when you’re building something from scratch you’re going to see it all — its really not to get too down in those low moments but also to cherish and celebrate those high moments and know that it’s going to consistently go up and down for you.

I truly think you’re already halfway there the moment you start — that’s truly the biggest thing, is once you take it from an idea and take it to the next step, you’re already well on your way.

 

Shop Kitty and Vibe on dia.com.

 

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