GET WET IN STYLE WITH NIKBEN
NIKBEN is perhaps a brand you may have heard of, or maybe you have seen some of the unique, cool designs that are being presented by the brand which started just six years ago from the hotbed of design talent in Stockholm, Sweden. Fast forward to 2020 and NIKBEN is now playing a very serious role in the providing some of the most stylist resort wear on the market.
With an evolving community and growing fanbase, NIKBEN is the brainchild of friends Nicklas Abrahamsson and Benjamin Lega, who came together via a mutual friend but bizarrely shared the same dream about creating a brand within the swimwear industry. “I was raised in Spain, where my parents had a summer house,” says Abrahamsson “I suppose with Marbella having one of the best climates in Europe, that drove an initial interest for swimwear and the style of resort clothing.”
Following a career in finance, having studied at Lund University in Southern Sweden and a period living in Zurich and Shanghai, Abrahamsson decided that he wanted to do something for himself, away from an industry that perhaps wasn’t fulfilling his lifestyle choice. “I always wanted to start my own business and when the swimwear industry really started to take off in 2013, I started to look at the possibilities within the sector - it's very different from having a denim and casual apparel brand for example where there are so many brands. There are actually very few main players in swimwear, where perhaps 10 big brands have 90% of the market,” he adds.
With well-known names including Orlebar Brown, Vilebrequin and Ralph Lauren, NIKBEN throw themselves into the mix with edgier designs to sit alongside the more classic pieces and a strategy not to be considered merely seasonal - understanding the north European mentality of needing to ‘get away’ to sunnier climates throughout the year. “We have both mid-to high end price products, but they are achievable,” says Lega, who spent 7 years studying in London, which included graphic design at Central Saint Martins with credentials including working for the likes of Bauer Hockey and Volvo. “I guess we are effectively selling a dream for people day-to-day, providing a product that can help them to realise that little bit of escapism.”
Having met initially back in 2006 in Marbella where Lega was designing a restaurant, the two would meet regularly until after a hiatus brought them back together in 2013 when Abrahamsson invited Lega to discuss the idea of starting the NIKBEN business. “We started out with the simple idea of creating a new swimwear brand that was perhaps edgier and offered something different,” says Abrahamsson “It needed to be an easy sell in and we started out by literally travelling to different countries and different stores with our one swim-short product.” After realising that having complimentary products would enhance the NIKBEN label within a store environment, the brand started to look at the niche world of Resort Wear and the possibilities of additional product lines that could cement the brand name.
“We simply needed more space where customers could experience the entire concept, we are pretty well-known for our prints and we believed that would give us more space,” says Lega “NIKBEN really flirts with streetwear and is a bit more edgy, and we are also a unisex brand without having to shout about it." With NIKBEN product being produced across Portugal, Poland and Thailand as well as Turkey, sustainability is also high on the agenda of the business with both swim shorts and packaging made from either discarded ocean plastics, recycled or organic materials. There is also a distinct focus on the packaging of product.
“We try to create nicely designed packaging like the recycled PVC bag that can be re-used either for keeping wet swimwear in or as a beach bag to carry and protect personal items - phones, wallets etc.,” Lega adds. With distribution now in 40 countries, Sweden is the key market, holding 40% of the whole distribution, followed by North America, UAE and Spain. NIKBEN presents two offers across two categories - the mid, classic playful and colourful and then the higher-end studio where perhaps less is considered more. “To be honest, we could say that our target market is that 20-40-year-old majority, but we really don’t want to be like that,” says Abrahamsson. “We want the brand to appeal to the 65-year-old who wants to wear our long sleeve T-shirt, which is totally OK for us.”
Raising a few eyebrows due to being a Resort Wear brand from Sweden, which is a welcome distraction, NIKBEN is looking at furthering their offer with a Tote/beach bag and a mindset that is always open to brand collaborations. “In terms of collaborations, we have done this type of thing with, for example, Universal Studios and the Minions Movie, however, we would not want to do something that didn’t make sense or that we couldn’t do to our best ability,” adds Lega. “It is interesting to see two brands come together to achieve something of course, but we would be skeptical about creating a product that we know is done so much better by other people."
The recent pandemic has not dampened the performance of the brand either, which has been an emerging trend with younger, more agile businesses “We’ve seen a growth in the online business,” says Abrahamsson. “We have had time to reflect a lot over the last couple of months on the retail situation. I believe that in perhaps five years’ time, maybe sooner, the physical retail situation is going to be really struggling. We’ve managed to build organic online growth with strong conversions. There seems to be more money to spend and people are treating themselves to goodies - we’ve doubled sales as opposed to last year, which is a huge up-side.” Fast forward to 2025 and NIKBEN hopes to have a recognisable market share in both the UK and the US “I think we would like to have an 80%-20% direct-to-consumer model with an online to physical retail ratio,” says Abrahamsson. “I would also like to see us established in women’s swimwear,” he adds.