Discover the story of Anna Laura Hoefer, Founder and CEO of Ripa Ripa - the mordern and elegant take on Italian men's swimwear 🩳
In our conversation, Anna shares the story behind her brand, talks about the challenges linked to supply chain and inventory predictions, and presents best memories at the company!
How did you get started in the world of fashion?
Ripa Ripa was born in spring of 2015 on the Ripa di Porta Ticinese canal in Milan. At the time, there was no original men’s swimwear around, everything was either too tight or too loose, too long or too short and the fabric often looked and felt too synthetic. So with a suitcase filled with different swim shorts and a blue Fiat Panda from 1998 we drove around Italy to look for a manufacturer that could achieve our vision of creating an elegant swim short.
What were some of the challenges you faced when starting RipaRipa?
In the beginning, most of the difficulties were linked to the supply chain - creating a perfect mix for our fabric composition, finding the suppliers for each little element of the swim short, from a specialised rope manufacturer to a labels producer, and initially having to respect elevated minimum order quantities.
However, besides all that, the biggest challenge we faced in the beginning was finding a high quality manufacturer for our swim shorts - somebody who would accept smaller minimums yet maintain a high quality and have a cost which could fit our vision of creating an accessible luxury product. We knew from the start that this mix wouldn’t be easy to achieve but at the same time we stepped on this journey with a firm belief that our products had to be fully Made in Italy… and now are extremely happy to see that we have successfully implemented this in real life.
Your products embody the perfect mix between contemporary and vintage craftsmanship. Could you explain how you are redefining Italian swimwear?
Together with a team of tailors, we worked on redesigning a classic swimsuit to achieve a perfect cut, making men’s swimwear more elegant. We tried to avoid the very common “parachute effect”, but instead created a cut which is more straight, more similar to the fit of trousers.
The fabric we created is a brushed quick drying fabric which feels like cotton, and gets a vintage feeling after some time. The drawstring was sourced from a local nautical rope manufacturer to recall the aesthetics of vintage sailing boats.
Inspired by the vibrant colours and patterns of the Mediterranean, we wanted Ripa Ripa to embody the essence of the Italian summer. The designs are fully drawn in-house and make you travel through Italy, its culture, its ornaments, such as Sicilian tiles. For our fifth collection last year, we reinvented our classics by drawing all the patterns by hand to add an even more personal touch and creativity to our creations.
Every brand aspect of Ripa Ripa fully immerges you into Italy, from our film photography to the products and their designs. We believe in quality over quantity, in the return to owning one great, well-made product rather than many standardised, mass-produced goods.
Your men’s collection is very refined and chic. What motivated you to start with men's clothes? And have you ever thought about launching a women’s collection?
We jumped into the world of men’s swimwear as we saw an evident gap in this market. My business partner Oliviero couldn’t find a swim short which was, what we considered, beautiful and elegant at the time. There were no swim suits at an accessible premium price, they were either too overpriced, covered by colourful animals or of a very low quality.
The women’s collection... this is probably the question we get asked the most. At the moment we would like to focus solely on menswear, to be always perfecting our offering and become even better at what we are doing. We believe in being great at a few specialised products rather than diversifying quickly.
Though, we don’t deny that we are always intrigued by new ideas and have indeed been thinking of a small women’s capsule in the near future! Let’s see, let’s see :)
We got in touch because you wanted more predictability to move to a leaner production cycle. Can you share what’s most difficult about planning your inventory and what you’re doing to mitigate that?
Probably it is one of the most puzzling parts of our business. It all starts when we commence with new collections - designing new patterns, gathering fresh ideas. The development of new products and patterns takes place one year before the collection is actually released to the public. We have to order the inventory for the upcoming season before getting feedback from the market, before seeing the current collection’s final data of the year.
In the beginning ordering the inventory is often majorly based on intuition. Though with time, the approach changes and now relies heavily on an analytical structure with a lot of data. We also learnt to stay very objective in the planning process, as our personal favourites do not always become absolute bestsellers, trust me my favourite is not our bestseller at all!
It is difficult to predict what people will like and eventually buy the year after. One has to constantly adapt to external changes. But we are also very lucky to have customers who help us with ideas and define the direction, sign up for sold-out products that serves as an indication of the right path to take.
To mitigate these problems, we have created several excel models which help us in the analysis and forecasting of the inventory, but we are all human, and human mistakes happen everywhere!
Let’s end on a positive note ;-) What was your best moment at RipaRipa yet? And what are you looking forward to?
Deciding on my best moment is pretty impossible, I can tell you the first three highlights that immediately come to my mind…
Seeing strangers wearing Ripa Ripa at the beach on our travels :-)
Opening the doors of our very first pop up in Milan and seeing the community we have created over the years in store, being able to transmit our vision and passion through a physical space.
The moments when we arrive at our atelier close to Naples, hearing the ascending sounds of the sewing machines, seeing patterned fabric transforming itself into swim shorts and jumping into endless hours of discussions on the length of a stitch with our seamstresses.
We are very much looking forward to dressing elegant men from head to toe in Ripa Ripa!