Heidi Gosman, 49, co-founded the swimwear brand Heidi Klein with Penny Klein, 50, in 2004. Heidi lives in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, with husband Harry and children, Madeleine, 12, Tom, nine, and Joe, eight.
Penny and I met in 2000, when she joined the retail consultancy firm I worked for. That winter, I booked a holiday to the Maldives. Finding a bikini was a nightmare — High Street options for winter sun breaks were limited.
It added to the emotional stress of swimwear shopping. No matter how body-confident you are, there’s nothing worse than those poky changing rooms, with curtains that barely shut and lighting that shows all your lumps and bumps.
When I mentioned this to Penny, we realised there was a gap in the market for an all-year-round swim shop. Over the next six months, we wrote a business plan and raised £500,000 of investment. We quit our jobs and launched a boutique in Notting Hill in 2002. We had big, lockable changing rooms, fluffy bathrobes and a fitting service.
By working on the shop floor, we really got to know our customers. They would say things such as, ‘I’ve got a taller body, do you have a longer one-piece?’, or, ‘I’ve got big boobs, do you do this in a halterneck?’. This was our lightbulb moment. Creating an enjoyable experience wasn’t enough — we had to change the product, too.
We launched our Heidi Klein swimwear collection in 2004: a comfortable, well-fitting range, with hidden support, that went up to cups D-G. It flew off the shelves.
We’ve since created beach dresses, bags and accessories. We fit new products seven times to ensure the perfect shape. We have four boutiques and are sold in more than 150 shops in 39 countries. Our fans include Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Jennifer Aniston.
When lockdown was announced, we were terrified, as no one was travelling. But our sales have been equal to last year, thanks to the great British weather.
Penny and I are still as thick as thieves. We are godparents to each other’s kids and holiday together — someone has to test the designs!
Heidi Klein is also available at Barefoot Chic, a Bicester Village pop-up that is open until the end of the month (tbvsc.com).