How Float Swim went from Instagram to one of Manila's most exclusive boutiques in one year

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Tracianne "An" Estrada, the founder of Float Swim, a stylish and savvy take on surf and beach culture for women of all shapes and sizes. The swimwear line, once exclusive to Instagram, is now available at Adora. Photo by RALPH MENDOZA

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Among the Instagraminati, the story of how Float Swim came to be a darling in the local retail scene is a known one. Tracianne Estrada — better known as An, surfer chick, rad skater, perpetual wanderer, and beach devotee — teased the launch of a new project on her Instagram account a year ago, posting photos that evoked the charm of retro beach culture, all subdued pastels and sandy bums, with skies and legs that went on for days. As a photographer, Estrada had an eye for color and composition; as a surfer, she knew that her ideal suit would combine functionality with femininity, sexiness with practicality. The combination became grounds for an instant fashion hit on social media, and the online identity she had cultivated from years of posting dreamy travel photos would be the emerging entrepreneur’s greatest asset.

An Estrada 1a Estrada has been hands-on with Float, from designing the suits to packing orders, from driving to suppliers to handling customer service. Portraits by RALPH MENDOZA

Estrada started out with just four styles: a half-sleeved maillot called the Giselle; Christy, a two-piece rash guard with ties in the back; a onesie with a plunging neckline known as the Linda; and a little bandeau bikini with off-shoulder sleeves she named after her twin sister, Trasienne. The sisters planned a surf trip to Siargao to wave-test the samples, with themselves also shooting and modeling the lookbook. For sporty yet style-conscious women who were aesthetically turned off by the big logos or loud prints typically found on surfwear, Float established itself as a worthy alternative. When Estrada did an early pop-up at the Kapitolyo store Easy Skate and Surf with just a limited run of styles, she almost sold out that day, not expecting that word would spread so quickly, despite her innate marketing skills on Instagram.

“I used Instagram because I was familiar with the platform,” she says. “Back then I didn’t know how to work with a website. But with Instagram, I knew what type of photos worked, how I wanted the feed to look, and the best times to post. My vision was also clear from the beginning. I patterned it after my life. The Float girl is actually me — a girl who loves adventures and sports and doesn’t mind getting dirty.”

An Estrada 5a Estrada says that her vision for Float was "clear from the beginning." "I patterned it after my life," she adds. "The Float girl is actually me — a girl who loves adventures and sports and doesn’t mind getting dirty." Portraits by RALPH MENDOZA

Adora — the Greenbelt department store that carries vaunted luxury brands like Chloe, Givenchy, and Valentino, alongside the breakout in-house label Harlan and Holden — will be stocking Float Swim this May, just a little over a year since it was launched. Estrada has had offers from resellers before, but always turned them down because of her desire to maintain the “quality, standard, and charm of Float.” The brand being a direct and very personal extension of its owner, her protectiveness over it is understandable. But when Eman Pineda, the founder of Adora, visited her old stockist for coffee and suggested she do a pop-up for the department store this summer, she took the offer because “I believe Adora can take good care of the brand.” She adds: “I knew my brand was in good hands when the first thing Eman said was to make sure my space would look and feel like Float.”

An Estrada 5 Estrada encourages "Float girls to go out and try something new, try a new sport, or even just to go out and travel — anything to get out of their comfort zone." Portraits by RALPH MENDOZA

For a self-confessed “floater,” running a near-cult status label has been a thoroughly grounding experience. Instead of her usual weekend and holiday beach jaunts, she’s chosen to stay home and work to keep up with the demand for her swimmers, which has proved to be year-round. People may not realize that she’s been hands-on with everything, from designing the suits to packing orders, from driving to suppliers to handling customer service. En Estrada, her sister, joined the team late last year, helping with the creative direction, design, and packaging, because An knew she couldn’t keep doing the whole operation on her own.

Together, they’ve also made the suits available in separate pieces, in response to client requests for the ability to purchase different-sized tops and bottoms, as many women’s body shapes are, in fact, “irregular.” Estrada is adamant about Float being a body-positive brand, which is why their new campaigns are largely Photoshop-free: “We celebrate stretch marks on our Instagram page and I’m happy that our customers notice that.”

An Estrada 4 Estrada is a photographer and surfer — a combination that became grounds for an instant fashion hit on social media. Portraits by RALPH MENDOZA

The creativity doesn’t stop at the shoreline: Float recently released limited-edition skateboard decks, dad caps, and scuba bags. “Designing my own board is something I’ve always dreamt of doing,” Estrada says, “and I guess it’s also my way of encouraging Float girls to go out and try something new, try a new sport, or even just to go out and travel — anything to get out of their comfort zone.” With Float’s flirty performance wear, stacked with UPV 50+ sun protection, you can also just look like you do.

An Estrada 2 Estrada is adamant about Float being a body-positive brand: “We celebrate stretch marks on our Instagram page and I’m happy that our customers notice that.” Portraits by RALPH MENDOZA

 

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Float Swim at Adora is located on the third floor of Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City.