Young entrepreneur makes a splash in the fashion industry with swimwear side hustle

A budding fashion designer from Cardiff who launched her own sustainable swimwear business during lockdown is already making waves with Instagram influencers and reality TV stars.

24-year-old Lydia Hitchings’ business, Rosy Cheeks, produces hand-made, made-to-order bikinis in a bid to reduce waste and challenge fast fashion.

Putting her Cardiff Metropolitan degree in Textiles to good use, Lydia designs all the on-trend prints for her bespoke bikinis from her bedroom, between a part-time receptionist job and training with the Wales National Netball team.

Lydia started her business with the help of Big Ideas Wales, part of the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service and funded by EU funds. The service is aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea, including students and graduates.

Lydia said: “My target market is 18- to 30-year-old fashion-conscious women so social media was always going to play a role in my business, but the various lockdowns confirmed the need for a strong online presence. I’ve been reaching out to Instagram influencers for gifted collaborations and already seen success with star of the TV show Made in Chelsea, Ruby Adler, posting pictures of my bikinis to her hundreds of thousands of followers.”

The bikini sets start from £52 and are all completely custom-made using a choice of five different prints. Currently the bikinis are offered in the ‘triangle’ style, but as a self-taught seamstress, Lydia hopes that with practice she’ll be able to offer a wider variety of styles including square necks and halter tops.

Talking about where the idea for Rosy Cheeks came from, Lydia said: “Throughout my degree I’ve always specialised in visual designs and during a university project my tutor suggested that my prints would work well for swimwear.

“At the time, sewing was not a strength of mine, but through the Centre of Entrepreneurship at university I applied for a grant which allowed me to invest in a sewing machine. From there it was a mix of YouTube tutorials and trial and error that bought Rosy Cheeks swimwear to life.”

For the young entrepreneur, what started as a final year project is now flourishing into a successful business with over 35 orders placed in the pre-sale. Lydia currently takes orders through her Instagram page @rosycheeksswim, and is hoping to sell via her website in the near future.

Lydia first discovered Big Ideas Wales after attending one of its free events, Big Ideas Celebrated, during university. She was then referred to a Big Ideas Wales business advisor who offer one-to-one support to young people at every stage of setting up their business.

Speaking about building the business from the ground up, Lydia said: “Rosy Cheeks was just a dream when I first heard about Big Ideas Wales, so to hear from business owners, many of whom had used the service, about their ideas and products was really inspiring. Following the event, I reached out to Big Ideas Wales who put me in touch with a business advisor, Miranda Thomas.

“Like so many other young people I found that graduating in such an uncertain climate during the pandemic meant that there weren’t many job opportunities about. However, I found myself with the downtime to work on my sewing and get Rosy Cheeks off the ground. I was lucky to have the support of services like Big Ideas Wales during that time too.

“During lockdown I had a lot of one to one calls with Miranda who was always on hand to answer any questions I had, from creating a business plan to helping me understand networking. While it’s certainly hard running a business from your bedroom, it’s been a huge relief having the support of Big Ideas Wales throughout it all.”

Miranda Thomas, Big Ideas Wales business adviser, said: “It’s great to see how Lydia has launched a successful business in just a few months. She is a true entrepreneur who has used her skills and drive to get Rosy Cheeks swimwear off the ground and into people’s wardrobes. I have no doubt the work she has put in ahead of the summer months will bring continued success for Lydia and her business.”

Steve Aicheler, Entrepreneurship Manager at Cardiff Metropolitan University said: “We’re really excited about Lydia’s business, not only is she creating great products but her strategy is underpinned by a passion for sustainability and the environment. It’s great to see Cardiff Met graduates challenging the status quo of fast fashion and creating values driven businesses like Rosy Cheeks. Lydia has really benefitted from being able to access support from Cardiff Met, funding from Santander Universities as well as advice from Big Ideas Wales. It’s great to see joined up support for young entrepreneurs.”

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