Meet NIKBEN, the Stockholm-based swimwear specialists who’ll be styling the poolside and beyond this Summer.
NIKBEN is a brand that started just four years ago from the now well-established style hotbed of Stockholm, Sweden. Fast forward to 2020 and Nikben is playing a very serious role in providing some of the most stylish resort wear on the market.
With a growing fanbase, NIKBEN is the brainchild of friends Nicklas Abrahamsson, 34 and Benjamin Lega 40, who came together with a shared dream of creating a brand within the swimwear industry.
“I was raised in Spain, where my parents had a summer house,” says Abra-hamsson “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 Swe-den 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 ful-filling 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 possibili-ties within the sector. 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 – under-standing 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 complementary 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 US, North America and Canada, 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.
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 and reflecting 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 an 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.”
In five years time, 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.