KD Syiaco-Tiu’s design savvy takes swimwear fashion-forward
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
FRUSTRATED with the lack of beach wardrobe options available, entrepreneur Krystle Dianne Syiaco-Tiu, or KD to most, figured she might as well make her own swimwear line.
Just as stylish and of good quality as the ones she usually gets at a higher price, her own brand is designed by KD herself and business partner Angela See, and is proudly Filipino made. They dubbed it as Soak Swimwear. Established in 2007, the brand has since garnered a cult following among jetsetters and beach bums across the Philippines.
At that time, KD had just wrapped up her marketing degree from De La Salle University, and fashioned her first venture after her personal need, for a market she knows so well, being a voracious traveler and beach lover herself.
“There weren’t a lot of local swimwear brands then,” she said. “Usually when buying online, it’s already $100 for one set. So my partner and I came up with a concept that provides swimwear at affordable prices.”
KD and her partner design the swimwear, which she said carries a handful of styles to suit different body types, and making sure for it to be fashion-forward and contemporary, and at the same time wearable, comfy and durable. Save for the fabric and raw materials that are sourced abroad, she said that all items are proudly made here.
“We get inspiration from runway trends,” KD said. “Whenever we see something we like, we think of ways on how we can transform it into swimwear. In fact, one of our bestsellers, the pleated maillot, was inspired by a dress. A lot of people like it because of the coverage, the style and details.” Soak has since expanded into other beach clothing like tunics, robes, cover-up and rompers made out of light and beach-ready material.
During the heyday of Multiply, KD said that Soak was also one of the pioneers of online retail in the Philippines. “We started online then got by through word of mouth. We would go to a friend’s house and show them the bikinis, and from there we grew. We started joining bazaars and then we had our first outlet in Retail Lab in Rockwell.”
Through their online shop, they have also reached buyers from around the world including China, Dubai, France, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, USA and the Caribbean. In Cebu, the brand is available in Cabana in Banilad Town Center, and in Hot Pink in Ayala Center — the only two shops outside Metro Manila that have it.
KD said though they have received several offers to supply it in shops overseas, they want to focus on the local market for now, and they have yet to launch their first retail distribution abroad, in Singapore.
Today, KD juggles her time between working on apparel and accessory pieces for Soak and flying in and out of Cebu, which has become her new home. “I like that I have the best of both worlds,” she said. “Before moving here I was actually scared that I might get bored, but it’s been good. Traffic is not as bad, and if I get bored here, I go home to Manila. If I get sick of Manila, I go here. I have two homes basically.”
Outside Soak duties, KD enjoys conceptualizing designs, whether for apparel or for personal items at home, and traveling — admitting that oftentimes she leaves for over a month or two.
Last June 12, KD opened Cabana, a lifestyle and wellness hub that houses Soak Swimwear and Nail Island Spa. The latter something she had thought of resulting from another need of hers: quality nail care.
“When it comes to business, I started really young,” KD shared. “We were trained to spend for our own. During college, we paid for our bills and travels. (That’s why) since grade school, I’d sell kung mga ano-ano. I’d sell stationery, stickers and candies, then in college — bags and imported clothes.”
And going beyond looking at the monetary side of it — KD has just as lucratively channeled her love for creative pursuits and travel through her ventures.
(Check out KD’s swimwear line at soakswimwear.com)
Photography: Banawe Corvera | Make-up: Carlo Damolo | Hair Style: Jerwin Bastatas
Assistance: Sunshine Gelbolingo and Judiel Dal, USJ-R Interns
Locale: Cabana Nail Spa and Joan & Klaire Shop