Made in Michigan: Blunt Swimwear
By Jillian Manning | Aug. 4, 2018
Do you know where your swimsuit was made? If you check the label, you’re likely to find China, Vietnam, or Sri Lanka listed on the tag. You probably won’t see “Made in Michigan” or even “Made in America.”
Unless you’ve been shopping at Blunt Swimwear.
“Swimwear and active lifestyle brand choices in northern Michigan can be limited,” said Erika Cotner, owner and founder of Blunt. “I wanted to make an honest, affordable, and easy way to purchase swimwear locally, so people can trust our brand.”
Cotner is a Brighton, Michigan, native who spent weekends Up North as a kid. She says those summers helped her become the adventurous person she is today and led to her love of surfing, hiking, and beach volleyball. Her adventures took her to Colorado post graduation, with plans of becoming a professional snowboarder, at least until the waters of Traverse City called her back to her home state six years ago.
But Cotner couldn’t find the bathing suit that worked for her active lifestyle in TC. “That led me to buying bikinis online, which usually led to disappointment when they would show up from China — in a black, toxic-smelling bag — two months later,” she said. Sizing was an issue, as were returns and the overall quality of the products.
So Cotner, who has a background in marketing, decided to create her own brand, and Blunt Swimwear was born.
“The name ‘Blunt’ could have a few different interpretations,” Cotner said knowingly when asked about the meaning of the brand’s moniker. “But the inspiration came from being bold and being blunt as an attitude and way of life.”
When Blunt Swimwear officially launched in June, it debuted with a signature, black two-piece suit. The triangle top will look familiar to most swimsuit shoppers, though the bottoms have a bit more edge and a bit less fabric than the styles you’re used to seeing on a TC beach.
“The cheeky designs are trending everywhere else around the world right now, but we up here in northern Michigan are a little behind the times,” Cotner said.
Cotner sources her fabric from California, where she gets what she calls “the highest quality bikini fabric that is made in America. It is soft, fits perfectly, and is durable.” The bikini is designed by Cotner and manufactured in Michigan.
Quality over quantity has been her motto from the start. Although Cotner has plans to expand the line, she is prioritizing keeping her materials locally sourced and her prices low. Handcrafted products often mean bank-breaking prices, but a Blunt suit retails for a reasonable $44 ($22 for each top and each bottom), which is on par with most women’s swimwear lines.
“To be local and affordable is important to me,” said Cotner. “Finding a U.S. manufacturing company was extremely difficult and took a lot of time initially, but I stumbled upon a manufacturer right here in Michigan. The future of Blunt involves more styles and colors as long as I can continue to get them locally sourced.”
Her dedication appears to be paying off. The company is still in its fledgling stage at this point, but Cotner says reception to her design has been positive.
“So far the suits have been extremely well received,” she said. “I am fortunate, delighted, nervous, and surprised all rolled into one. My first sale was from Instagram the same day I put up some new pictures from our last Sleeping Bear dunes photo shoot. Social media is such a major platform for us and helped us get featured recently in Swimsuit International.”
Because the company is based online (www.Blunt-Swimwear.com), Cotner knew being web and social media savvy would be make or break her startup. But she doesn’t try to do everything alone.
“I fully believe in supporting the local economy, so I have a [local] team who helps me with my PR, website, photography, advertising, and more,” Cotner explained. “I try to do everything locally that involves spending money for the business. And I’ve gotten pretty lucky that I have some insanely gorgeous friends who have been extremely supportive in modeling so far!”
With a little over a month on the books at the time of publication, Cotner is optimistic about the future of Blunt Swimwear in the Northern Michigan community.
“I go through lots of swimsuits, and trust me, I know how hard it is to find a good bikini,” she said. “I truly believe with all the water we have, there is huge potential to compete in this kind of market.”