You can’t say “Singapore” without thinking of bright sunny days and poolside lazing. But a lot of us mamas worry about exposing the kids (and ourselves!) to too much sun. That’s where Andrea Liu, founder of FROLIK swimwear, comes in. Earlier this year, she launched the gorgeous family swimwear and accessories line with built-in UPF 50+ UV protection that looks and feels great.
We sat down with Andrea to find out more about veering into fashion from a successful career in advertising, moving her kids around the world on the back of a 3-month tourist visa, and how life in sunny Singapore has inspired her vibrant and unique designs.
The FROLIK story began when Andrea moved from London to Singapore in 2011 with her family (daughter Maya is 8, and son Lucas is 5). With a love for fashion and design, she soon realised she wanted stylish swimwear for her children that suited Singapore’s year-round tropical climate…
How was FROLIK conceived?
It had been a lifelong ambition of mine to do something in fashion, as I’ve always had a passion for creativity and design. But coming from an Asian family growing up in the UK meant that I was ‘steered a lot’ by my parents to get the right schooling and choose the right subject at University. Fashion was definitely not an option and instead I ended up studying Marketing and Business Law.
In Singapore I initially worked from home for IBM in a marketing role. I could work around the kids’ schedules — it was ideal. But with them at school full-time, it was finally my time to turn the dream into reality. I was ready to pluck up the courage and take a risk.
In April 2013 my husband and I began brainstorming business ideas; swimwear came up and was quickly dismissed, but it sat with me for a few days and it became a reality when I saw the gap in the market. I was determined to make it work, so I quit IBM in December 2013 and started FROLIK in 2014.
We live in the tropics, where the sun shines and temperatures don’t waver below 25 degrees! I found it hard to buy good quality kids’ swimwear with style. Everyone I know here says they ‘pop’ home to get swimwear in Australia, the UK or the States. It just made sense to showcase a stylish brand of swimwear that is affordable, yet high quality and durable.
What’s the inspiration behind FROLIK?
We love nothing more than seeing families make the most of their time together — whether they are building sandcastles on the beach, paddling in the sea or splashing in a swimming pool. I wanted to build a swimwear label for the whole family that carries timeless, sophisticated and vibrant prints that are both gender- and age-neutral. While FROLIK is centred around unique designs, quality of the fabrics is the highest concern, because I want the swimwear to last and be durable.
My first Ocean Collection has five gorgeous prints inspired by the many amazing beach holidays we’ve taken as a family since moving here.
What sets FROLIK apart from other brands in the market?
FROLIK cuts are timeless and elegant for any sun-loving family, and we do matching swimwear the whole family can wear — the colours pop, and the emphasis on style and UPF50+ protection always shows. Our vibrant swimwear lets the whole family look and feel great in the sun, sand and sea, whilst still blocking out 97% of the sun’s harmful rays.
What were you doing in life before this adventure?
I was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the UK, and my husband is Australian. We met in Asia when I was working in Hotel Marketing, then moved to Sydney for seven years, where I fell into advertising and worked for M&C Saatchi. After getting married, we moved to London. I continued my career in advertising and enjoyed living the ‘London lifestyle’, until I got pregnant and became a full-time mum, then had my second child three years later.
In between kids I took a fashion styling course at Central St Martin’s in London and became totally invigorated, working as a stylist for a Mumpreneur business for a few years and loving it.
My husband and I wanted to do a stint in Asia, ultimately deciding on Singapore because it seemed so family-friendly. So we sold our house, my husband sold his business and we packed our bags on the back of a 3-month holiday visa. Luckily my husband found a job within a month! It was certainly a huge risk, and some of our friends thought we were mad.
We’ve been here almost four years now and it’s worked out great – Singapore’s lifestyle is amazing and the kids are having a ball.
Tell us a little about your children and family life. What’s Andrea the mom like?
I’m a very hands-on mum! Even when I was working for IBM I’d make sure I was around for when the kids got home from school, and insisted on sitting with them for dinner, bathing them and putting them to bed.
Maya is 8 and loves to get involved with FROLIK. In fact she helped me with my first collection and enjoyed brainstorming ideas of the Ocean. We discovered that my son Lucas loves the camera when he appeared as a model for FROLIK. He now strikes a model pose whenever we take pictures of him.
The kids love being active at the weekends and in between ballet, football, drums and gymnastics we are just chilling by the pool and catching up with friends. We are lucky to be able to spend most weekends outdoors in the sun as opposed to those long, grey UK winters!
How does shopping at FROLIK work?
FROLIK is online and everything is available at www.FROLIKbeachstyle.com! However I know that with a growing brand that’s newly launched, people need to see and touch the swimwear. So I am doing lots of fairs and pop-ups around the city to build up awareness before I can fully rely on online sales. Plus I like meeting customers face to face. I am also looking at getting some shops to carry FROLIK so watch this space! My next event is happening on 5 & 6 December at the Tanglin Trust School Fair.
What’s next for you and FROLIK?
We’re busy working on my nextSpring/Summer 2015 collection, as well as our new ‘Dads’ range. My goal is to introduce a new collection each year. At this point I have launched the kids range, and my vision is to introduce a bigger version of the boys for the Men next year and eventually produce kaftans and swimwear for the Women.
I’m doing this at my own pace as my priority is still my kids, so I need to make sure that everything is manageable. I’m enjoying every moment of it, so for me it’s not work – it’s a passion.
Any parting tips for Sassy Mama readers?
It’s never too late! If you have a burning passion that you still ponder or procrastinate on – make it happen!
Surround yourself with friends, mentors, and family who believe in you and support your idea – they end up being the driving force to push you along the way and when in doubt, they’ll be there to give you advice and guidance. I have also joined some amazing and supportive women’s entrepreneur network groups who are my go-to with business issues.
And of course – buy your swimwear from FROLIK, for peace of mind against the sun! I hope that your family has as much fun in the sun wearing FROLIK as we did creating it.