COMBINING functionality with fashion is no easy feat, with one designer making the most of Brisbane's scorching sun.
With aspirations to start her own business, Kara Chiconi (pictured) decided to capitalise on a gap in the market for womenswear that could be worn straight from the pool and to the shops.
The result is IdleBird, a collection of garments that offer a rating of UPF50+ (ultraviolet protection factor) usually reserved for rashies.
After 12 months of sourcing materials and learning about manufacturing, the label was officially launched last October.
The range of tanks, tunics and swim shirts start from $120 and are made out of lightweight, quick-drying and chlorine-resistant fabric from Italy.
"It was a bit of a struggle to explain the concept of using a unique fabric that's typically only used for swimwear or cycling jerseys and use it for fashion pieces," Chiconi says.
"I was met with blank looks and it took a long time to source a manufacturer who could deal with the fabric and understand the idea.
"The feedback that I've been getting from customers is once they receive the piece and they start wearing it, they can't believe how lightweight it is.
"It's such a strong selling point and one of the key features of the pieces."
Chiconi says each IdleBird piece receives its own positive feedback from customers depending on use, with fair skinned ladies "lapping up" the extra coverage from the swim shirts.
The Goddess tunic (pictured below) has also resonated with shoppers and she says it's the mix of universal design and protection in the form of a dress.
"It was always going to be an interesting few months to see the reaction and I'm very pleased," she says.
"I've taken the feedback on board when looking at the next few pieces I'm going to release and making sure they cover a wide range of purposes."
The first release has been hailed as an educational exercise, with Chiconi poised to expand the collection.
"I've had a lot of designs ready for a long time and it was very much a case of proof of concept," she says.
"I wanted to know that people could get their head around the idea that you don't have to take off what you wear to the beach to get into your day.
"Now that I've proven to myself that there is a market there, the next range is expanding to pants, shorts and more interesting fashion pieces."
Chiconi has the US market in her sights and plans to introduce the new samples overseas in time for the northern summer, where an appreciation for sun-safe fashion already exists.
"We've seen it happen with the rise of sun protection from a beauty product perspective; it's a logical step that it then extends into what you wear," she says.
"From a business-plan perspective, if we can wait out until the market here catches up with filling that out in the US, then that just works out perfect."
The second release is in its early production stage and is expected to be available later this year.
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