How One Swimsuit Designer Is Staying Optimistic in the Midst of the COVID-19 Crisis

When I talked to swimwear brand OOKIOH's founder Vivek Agarwal about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting his business, he made one thing predominantly clear: the industry message is not to shop right now, but to support. One scroll through Instagram makes this clear, but particularly on OOKIOH's page, where a link to the MaskForce NYC Go Fund Me Campaign sits in the brand's bio. "It doesn't necessarily mean spending [directly on the brand's site]," Vivek told me.

OOKIOH is known for regenerating ocean waste to make its quality swimwear, which is why it's my absolute favorite swim brand, and also why I am not at all surprised that the label is leading the charge in optimism during an economic crisis. "I believe that as the world grapples with the new normal, scientists and researchers across the world are trying to find a solution for this pandemic and they will. I am hopeful that, together, we will soon be able to flatten the curve, and, the uncertainty of tomorrow will no longer exist. People will celebrate life with vigor, and that would help the sales," Agarwal said of his general prediction for the future.

While people are still consistently searching for swimwear right now — perhaps as a method of escapism or to actively prepare for summer days ahead — shopping for a beach look is not exactly top of mind and may feel like an unnecessary purchase, especially when travel is restricted and so many vacations have been canceled. We had questions for Agarwal that revolve around one key topic: how does a swim brand fare during a time like this? While Agarwal's responses are only specific to OOKIOH, they likely represent the scope of challenges many swim labels are grappling with at this moment. Scroll down to see what we learned.

What's Your Focus For the Brand Right Now?
Courtesy of OOKIOH

What's Your Focus For the Brand Right Now?

"Like every other brand, OOKIOH isn't immune to the current climate. However, instead of sales, my priority is to ensure that I pay the salaries [of my employees]. I want to ensure that our community doesn't feel that OOKIOH is a tone-deaf brand existing in a virtual world where it is sunny, and people are enjoying the beach. Sales will come when the current protocols and safety measures are withdrawn. Meanwhile, we are focusing on getting the word out about our Spring 2020 collection and new product categories that sell throughout the year."

How Are You Engaging With Customers?

"OOKIOH has completely revamped its social media strategy and messaging. Our tone has changed from 'fun' to cautious optimism. We are staying away from the 'wash your hands' messaging, which is a known fact now. Instead, we are creating playlists for different scenarios (such as relaxing or focusing on work), workout videos, and recommendations for books, podcasts, movies, etc. that are aligned with our positive outlook."

What Do You Want Customers to Know About Shopping Right Now?

"I would like the customers to support small businesses and brands right now, even if that means leaving a positive review on an item. I would also urge customers to be a bit more patient than they usually are. The onus is on the brand to communicate it effectively; however, for small businesses with tiny teams, sometimes it is difficult to do that. Shipping times have gone haywire, and warehouses everywhere are open for a limited time with reduced staffing for the safety of the workers. Understanding that we are all in this together and showing support and kindness will get us through this."