Canadian-based swimwear brand Left on Friday squashed any notion that comfortable can’t be cute. With an extensive background in product development, founders Shannon Savage and Laura Low Ah Kee saw a gap in the swimwear industry and took things into their own hands. The two women acted on their shared love for the beach and active lifestyles to concoct the perfect recipe for the swimsuit you have always wanted (but could never find).
Each suit boasts a classic yet contemporary silhouette and every style comes in an extensive array of colors (like popsicle and aperol) that are ideal for mixing and matching. And as if that’s not enough, each suit is made of the brand’s signature Smoothing Dream Fabric which delivers a buttery compression that is unquestionably flattering.
Left on Friday is the ultimate uniform for every summer barbecue, sun basking, hot-tubbing, lawn-game tournament, dinner-date filled day to come. SI Swimsuit has worked with LOF for a few years now and sought out Savage and Low Ah Kee to learn more about the female founded brand.
More from SwimLife
Can you tell us a bit about your backgrounds?
Laura Low Ah Kee: “Being active, sports and the beach life have always been a part of my life, from my childhood to university and now into my career. Born and raised in Vancouver, I grew up playing pretty much every sport, literally (soccer, volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, tennis, skiing, water skiing, etc.), and spent my summers at the beach. Hawaii was my happy place and we vacationed there often.
I graduated from Queens University with a bachelor’s in Life Science (premed) and bachelor’s of physical health and education. I joined lululemon in 2004, which immediately felt like a natural fit for me as it combined sports and fashion. I actually started working in-store, specializing in visual merchandising. I then became the assistant to the head of product during the time lululemon was going public. It was during this time that I received an invaluable education in product creation and retail. I later moved into merchandising, where I spent the majority of my lululemon career. During my last three years at the company, I headed up the speed-to-market team, which captured missed style and sales trends.
Today, I live in Venice, Calif., in a bungalow near the beach with my husband. I feel fortunate to be able to live the active beach life 11 months out of the year. Tennis is my current sport of choice. We also travel as much as possible, with Italy and Japan being two of our faves, as well as (of course) going back to Vancouver when we can.
Shannon Savage: “I grew up in a small town in Canada’s British Columbia interior, and I spent summers in the local outdoor pool. Eventually, I became a lifeguard and swim instructor to pay my way through school, a job that absolutely influenced my love of being active, both in and out of the water.
After graduating from university in Vancouver with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Design/Fashion Design and Technology, I joined the team at lululemon in 2005, which was before women’s active apparel and athleisure was even a thing! During my time at lululemon, I started their women’s run line, innovating their product line for the next 11 years, as well as growing the team significantly. At the time that I left lululemon, I was vice president of product, and I really attribute my time there to my current love of creating products, my obsession with fit and design, as well as celebrating travel and an active lifestyle.
Today, I live in Victoria, B.C., by the beach with my husband and two young boys, and still take every opportunity I can get to spend time outdoors and explore new places.”
What sparked your interest in moving away from designing athletic wear at lululemon and towards swimsuits?
SS: “Swimwear has always been a true love for both of us. We both grew up in the water, spent every vacation in the water, and chased our surf dreams around the globe. Somewhere in our futures it was inevitable that we would be involved in swimwear. However, our careers at lululemon were phenomenal, and it was actually a tough decision to move away from the career paths we had been pursuing, because we were at the tops of our games. That said, we always knew there was a gap in the market for beautiful, comfortable, active swimwear, and we had all the skills to transform the swim industry. Eventually we just couldn’t ignore the signs anymore.”
LL: “We were living ‘the beach active life’ and discovered we didn't have the right swimsuits. Coming from lululemon, we knew how to create them to fit our lifestyles. So, when we eventually decided to create Left On Friday, we took the skills and experience we’d gathered from our earlier years at lululemon and applied that towards swim. We conceptualized Left On Friday when we realized we could be living our best lives, traveling and staying active, while wearing swimwear that actually solved for our lifestyles, our body types, etc.
Was it hard to make the leap to start your own company?
LL - “Was it hard to leave lululemon? It wasn’t. I had an amazing journey, loved my most recent role, and could have easily stayed and experienced a wonderful career. I ultimately left so I could move to California and be with my now husband. However, I had a very entrepreneurial role at lululemon, which made me comfortable in chaos, which really helped when Shannon and I set out to create Left On Friday. We were both completely aligned with the level of risk and reward in terms of starting our own company, as well as stepping off the corporate ladder and into a new area of uncertainty.”
SS: “The biggest moment was saying. ‘Yes, let's do this.’ After that, it was invigorating to be in our fully entrepreneurial roles, wearing a million hats each day, rolling up our sleeves in all areas of the business, being scrappy and nimble and living the magic every day of pure creation. Of course, not all of it is glamorous—actually most of it isn’t—and it’s a ton of hard work, but the payoff of knowing it’s our brand and unique product, as well as seeing the positive impact it has on women through every suit purchase is very rewarding.”
What challenges did you face in breaking into the swimwear industry? Anything you hadn’t anticipated?
LL: “Luckily, we felt breaking into the industry wasn’t a challenge, as our niche is under-serviced and typically, when women discover our suits, the response is ‘This is the suit I’ve been looking for.’ That said, the pandemic has come with major challenges. From changing shopping behaviors to delayed supply chains to rapid inflation, we’ve worked extra hard to navigate in order to continue to bring our customer the best possible product and experience.”
With your mantra being “Poolsuit, Powersuit, Playsuit,” how did you manage to create swimsuits versatile enough for any and every activity? What makes the signature Soothing Dream Fabric unique?
LL: “When we approach the architecture of our suits, we first discuss all the active problems we can solve through the design, and then we discuss body types. Strategically, we want our suits to address both of these categories and ensure we aren’t leaving anyone out. We also make sure the look of each suit works for swimming, surfing and a chic pool party after. This is a must. The idea behind Poolsuit, Powersuit, Playsuit is that you can do it all in one suit, it works for everything no matter where you end up.”
SS: “Within each design, we’ve used our years of design experience to ensure our straps stay put, our seams don’t rub, our suits don’t dig, and our fit makes you feel like a superhero. Our signature fabric was specifically designed for compression (when wet or dry), for smoothing coverage with a thick, buttery luxury hand, and to be super durable and easily cared for. You truly don’t have to worry about anything when you are in these suits.”
How has LOF evolved over the years?
SS: “We are a feedback-centric company that is intensely connected to our customers, and their feedback has been the guide to our evolution. We listen, we incorporate, we test, we tweak, we deliver. And we revisit it again and again to constantly make it better. So we’ve grown our initial line based significantly around customer requests and insights; each style we’ve added has come from direct feedback we’ve received, and solves for a new problem. Some examples would include introducing tall lengths, larger size offerings and D-cup assortments. We’ve added tools to make the shopping experience more fun and simple, like our ‘What Size Am I Guide.’ for example.”
What do you think are the most important factors to consider when purchasing a swimsuit?
SS: “At the very core, we’d ask a customer, ‘What are you planning to get up to in your suit, and what is your body type?” This is the most important part of selecting any suit, especially a Left On Friday suit. Of course, then we love getting into some of the fun elements of suit selection, like selecting colors. One of our customers’ favorite things about Left On Friday is the fact that we have an extensive custom color palette across our whole collection that allows women to easily mix and match, essentially creating new suit options with every timeless piece they purchase.”
What’s the most rewarding part of working on this brand?
LL: “It’s been such an honor to be being directly connected to the impact of this brand every day, whether it’s seeing/reading responses from women as they discover our products, checking out the epic things they get up to while wearing our suits, or even knowing that our suits were the nudge they needed to just jump in. We knew we could change the swimwear market and it’s so moving to see women’s lives changing because of their experience in our product. We’re incredibly excited for what’s to come!”