Twin brothers Mike and Alex Faherty have been surfing since they were eight years old, but for as long as they can remember, their love of the waves came with one major drawback: a seemingly endless search for the perfect bathing suit.
In 2012, the New Jersey Shore natives decided to take a big risk and start a clothing line based on their passion for surfing and beach culture. Mike quit his job as a fashion designer at Ralph Lauren, while Alex left a job at private equity firm Cerberus. Picking Faherty Brand's first product was easy: a bathing suit they actually wanted to wear themselves.
"The main reason we started this company was because we wanted to create the perfect board short," Alex says. "We wanted a technical board short that we could surf in and also wear all the time."
The problem with all the bathing suits sold in surf shops, according to the brothers, was twofold: ill-fitting cuts and unattractive patterns.
"You'd end up buying the least ugly one you could find because they'd all have crazy prints or be for super young kids," Alex says. "Or we'd buy the surf brands and the inseam was too long."
Faherty Brand differentiates itself by designing custom-printed bathing suits with a shorter inseam than most brands and by using fabric made from recycled plastic bottles--about 15 per pair. The inspiration to focus on sustainable clothing came from Patagonia, which makes garments made from recycled materials. For their signature swimwear, the Fahertys spent more than a year developing and perfecting the fabric.
"What we did differently was we added a little bit of cotton to it," Alex says. "We also use a special wash technique so it gets really soft."
During the summer of 2013, Faherty Brand debuted its first full line, including tees, hoodies, pants, and flannels. Interestingly, the Fahertys decided to launch the line via a cross-country trip in their "Beach Shack on Wheels"--a mobile store built with recycled barn wood--partnering with local boutique stores along the way.
So far, the unconventional strategy seems to be paying off. Faherty Brand is now sold in Barney's, Bloomingdale's, and Nordstrom, plus roughly 60 U.S. boutiques and a small store in Los Angeles-based Fred Segal. The company also sells its clothes on its website, and last spring opened its first brick-and-mortar store, in New York's trendy SoHo neighborhood.
After generating $850,000 in their first year, the Fahertys estimate revenue will grow to $3 million in their second. Plans for 2015 include expanding beyond apparel and swimwear into accessories such as blankets, and opening a second store in the U.S. The brand also will be launching in Europe early next year via men's fashion website Mr. Porter.
Despite their early success though, the Fahertys aren't declaring victory just yet.
"There are low barriers to entry in the industry and it’s efficient to build an online site to launch a clothing company," Alex says. "Then the issue becomes how to scale. That's the hard part."