After conquering the swimwear world with its chic designs and luxe fabrics, Onia is expanding at a rapid clip. So far this year, it’s introduced activewear and denim, and according to Nathan Romano, co-founder of Onia, that’s just the beginning. He speaks to us about starting the company, why it is expanding, and a new campaign that showcases the brand’s new vision.
What inspired you to start Onia?
When we started the company in 2009, there was a void in the market for clean, well-made swimsuits. It then trickled down to other travel and resort-wear essentials that you could wear on vacation and on the journey to and from your destination. There was nothing specifically built for this type of travel and lifestyle, so we knew there was a need here and went after it. We mixed this multi-purpose and technical ideology with a minimalist and classic aesthetic to create a new section of the market.
How would you describe the Onia lifestyle?
The Onia lifestyle is travel-centric with a minimalist approach. We create each item with a purpose and a point of distinction. We create our own proprietary fabrics and prints in-house, which keeps Onia unique in the marketplace.
Do you have a specific message you want to share with the world?
We really value mindfulness here at Onia. From the care and attention, we put into our products, to the way we run our business, thoughtfulness, care, and longevity are the foundation of everything we do. We have seen this lead to success and encourage everyone to think and try to live that way. It trickles down into our products themselves, as we make them for re-wear and to keep for many years.
What challenges did you experience in launching Onia?
Resort wear was truly a saturated market, which naturally made it look challenging, but we saw a void in the market for minimalistic, quality-driven travel beachwear essentials, which led us to create the pack-light, wear-more aspect, which is now part of our brand DNA. We’ve been encouraging our customers to view those same perspectives, which we have seen them respond very well to. You’ve launched several new categories this year, including technical gear and denim. What prompted this expansion?
Onia started as a swimwear, destination brand and has become more lifestyle-driven. People look towards our brand for what to wear all year round. Up until this last year, we’ve been following the tropical weather, but are now looking to focus our brands on all-weather apparel, which you will see come fall 2022. Items will range from flannel shirts to lightweight puffer jackets to cashmere travel sets.
Both activewear and denim are crowded categories. Why enter this space? What differentiates Onia from competitors?
Both categories embody the travel and technical components of Onia. The denim is more focused on breathable cotton that is perfect for the summer and we are planning on introducing breathable linen yarns into future developments as well. Our activewear is more tailored towards hybrid aspects and dual functionality, like going from a hike to the beach. With the evolution of how we travel, our customers are searching for products that they can pack light and wear more.
You’ve also collaborated with iconic brands, including Liberty London. How did you blend the two companies’ aesthetics and retain your identity?
Onia has a long history of working on design collaborations, our biggest being Liberty of London signature prints. This summer, we already launched many of our swimwear collaborations. It is easy to stay true to Onia’s identity by only partnering with brands of the same ethics and attention to detail as we have. We also are experts in creating high-quality, functional swim, so with this core, we are able to integrate more aesthetic collaborations right on top while maintaining the integrity of the brand and product.
Onia swimwear is known for its fit. Can you talk about the design process and craftsmanship behind your swimwear?
It all starts with the fabrics. We get fabrics from all over the world, and then we start plugging away with design. The fabric is everything. It dictates the fit and the feel of the season. We are also always thinking of ways to simplify products so they become functional and timeless. There is also a strong attention to detail which is true for each and every one of our products. Every single part of the design is taken seriously, from trim colors to technical design to print to production. We check in at our fabric mills in-person to ensure quality and come up with new ideas to try to see what else we can do. We also check in on our factories and look at quality, source trimmings, and buttons. We are always doing research and keeping ourselves up to date on trends and forecasts.
You are debuting a new campaign that brings together all of your categories, including the new expansions. How did you approach this creatively?
Honestly, the same mindset of quality, classic style, and technicality that we used to launch the brand is still very pertinent and relevant to these new categories. We were able to reuse the company’s core focus and function in the expansion and stay true to the way in which we started this company. Saying this, with new categories, there is also so much room to bring our creativity and personal understanding into the products. Denim, for example, feels super personal to us, as the idea arose from noticing a lack of summer denim within the market which led to the decision to expand into this genre in our own way. The Summer Pant jean is made of midweight, breathable cotton with a classic straight leg fit. This pant is meant to be worn anywhere, at the beach, at work, or even when lounging thanks to its extra soft fabric.
What are your most popular styles?
For men, The Charles and The Calder have always been bestsellers and have been our original silhouettes since the start. With the variety of prints, colors, and inseams, they fit every customer. Polos are also dominating right now- we started making more technical type linen, knit, and other more technical types of polos, which come out later this year. For women, our bikinis and one-pieces have always been super popular. The real stand-outs are the supportive underwire tops and classic scoop one-pieces, which are available on our website now. All of our fits come in a variety of different fabrics, prints, and colors, ensuring that there is something for everyone to love. We’ve also seen a huge spike in our pareos and technical gear.
What has been your pinch-me moment since starting the brand?
Our collaborations with incredible brands throughout the years that have continued up until now are the “pinch-me” moments. We have collaborations with Club Monaco, Theory, Mr. Porter, and a variety of other hotels we grew up staying in that are coming out soon, including The Standard Hotel and Gurney’s in Montauk.
This interview has been edited for clarity.