Matsalleh Design makes swimming fun and fashionable for modest women
As the saying goes, some of the best things in life happen by accident. Dovile Kazokeviciute’s idea to launch a modest swimwear line was born when she saw a group of Muslim women at her apartment pool not wearing proper swimwear. Instead, they opted for tights and t-shirts to cover up.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t they wear fashionable bathing suits?’ After doing some research, I realized there weren’t many choices to start with. In 2017, there was hardly anyone selling modest swimsuits that looked good, not even the big brands,” says Kazokeviciute, a regular at the pool.
She came to Malaysia in 2014 for contract work as a model and fell in love with the country. “I’m from Lithuania and I had never really heard of Malaysia before. But when I came here I really liked it. I thought it was a very friendly place. People could speak English and communication was no problem.
After a while, she started to realize that Malaysia was not as great as other countries when it comes to modeling. “I lived a bit in China and Italy and I didn’t feel like modeling was ‘it’ in Malaysia. But, I really liked this country.
She weighed her decision on a modeling career, while the pool episode led her to chat with Muslim friends about starting a modest swimwear line. “They thought it was a brilliant idea. It took me a year to develop. I only had two models to start with because I wasn’t sure it would work,” she says.
Matsalleh Design’s swimwear collections are vibrant with patterns and colors and the brand aims to balance modesty with fun and fashion. Besides spending a lot of time on social media for inspiration, Kazokeviciute also turns to nature, in the form of leaves and flowers, to help her choose the right color combination for designs.
Every part of the costume is carefully constructed to solve the problems associated with modest swimwear. The swimsuit is long enough to provide extra coverage for the lower body and comes with ties to prevent the top from riding up in the water.
While Kazokeviciute was happy with her first two models, production was another hurdle. She searched for suppliers to work with, but was unable to find local manufacturers who met her standards for high-quality materials for her swimsuits.
As she was working on a tight budget, the risk of hiring substandard vendors was not a luxury she could afford. So, it outsourced the materials to manufacturers in China. “They are super efficient and have the latest technology, which guarantees good quality for my products.” The production of each collection is done in bulk because it is more profitable.
She’s been running the business for three years, and it wasn’t until early last year that Kazokeviciute hired someone to help her. Previously, it was a one-woman show; with her doing everything from developing designs and engaging with suppliers to building an online store and marketing the brand on social media. “I did it all on my own because this business was my baby and I didn’t want to let anyone meddle with it until it was really stable.”
Although Kazokeviciute tries to run an eco-friendly business, she understands that it’s hard to do in fashion. “No matter what you do, the fashion industry cannot be sustainable.” So how does Matsalleh Design minimize its impact on the environment? “For me, the sustainability of this company is in using very high quality materials so that the costumes can be worn over and over again for years to come,” she says.
Nylon and spandex fabrics are the most durable, which aligns with Kazokeviciute’s mission to make its products durable. While she can’t do much by choosing sustainable fabrics for swimwear, she does contribute to the environment with an initiative called Changing the World One Tree at a Time, whereby the brand allocates a percentage of sales efforts to plant as many trees as possible, as soon as possible. as he can.
Matsalleh Design currently operates entirely online, so they try to accommodate sizing by providing excellent customer service. “We help customers choose the size that suits them best. We also have a size exchange policy, so if you try [the suit] home and it doesn’t fit, you can exchange it for another one within two weeks.”
Recently, Matsalleh Design has included sporting goods in its range, such as a sports hijab. “After the pandemic, people started to care more about their health. I think sportswear will be the next big thing,” says Kazokeviciute.
For anyone wondering about the brand name, Matsalleh Design started as a joke between friends years before Kazokeviciute thought of starting this business. “When I came here, I didn’t understand much of the Malay language. But I always heard people refer to someone as mat salleh. So I googled the meaning. My friends told me that if I ever had a clothing line, I should call it Matsalleh Design. When I started my swimwear business, I knew exactly what I wanted to call it.
With Matsalleh Design, Kazokeviciute wants women to express themselves more by wearing something chic and stylish instead of boring dark and drab swimsuits. “Wearing colorful clothes really puts us in a good mood, especially if you’re going on a beach vacation.
This article was first published on January 10, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.