437 Swimwear founders, Hyla Nayeri and Adrien Bettio, are the definition of friendship goals. You can find them together basically 24/7, whether it's at an early morning gym-sesh or an afternoon client meeting in L.A., New York, or their hometown of Toronto.
Hyla and Adrien first met in the exclusive Queen's Commerce business program but these girls are far from your average business students. Instead of chasing firms and interviews after graduation, Hyla and Adrien chased their dreams by turning their side business into a full-fledged empire.
Hyla and Adrien started 437 Swimwear after taking European exchanges in their third year of school. It was beachside eating burgers in bikinis that the girls decided to start up their own business, a swimsuit business; one that would soon take Instagram - and the world - by storm.
Q: Tells us a little bit about yourselves and how you started 437 Swimwear.
Adrien: Hyla and I met in first year university. We were in the same section so we met at the beginning of the school year. We became friends by the end of the year and got closer and closer over our four years. In third year, we both spent semesters in Europe - Hyla was in Rome and I was in Toulouse, France - so we would meet up and travel all the time. We were so accustomed to the beach and taking vacations every weekend that we decided we wanted to do something that would allow us to work on our computers. From there, we came up with the idea for swimwear. When we were trying to name the business, we were living together and our house number was 437. It was just such a good fit.
Hyla: We put together our interests in fashion and entrepreneurial commerce interests. We loved the fashion idea behind bathing suits - in that it could be unique and also so simple. When we came back from Europe, we had no idea where this idea would take us. We were very optimistic and positive but when we had our first sale - that's when it got real for us. We went crazy. Like, 'What?! Somebody wants to spend money on something that we're doing?!'
That whole fourth year of university, we spent so much time on 437 Swimwear. After class, during class. First semester, we treated it as more of a side project but in second semester...we knew it was going to be full-time for us after we graduated. We made sure we were doing well in our classes, but the business became our priority. Once we graduated, we decided we needed to go to China to meet with vendors and suppliers. We started manufacturing the staple collection there, went to Bali for a month, shot the content, and rebranded the entire website. We came back to Toronto and it's been non-stop for us ever since.
Q: Starting a business right out of university is definitely not the normal career path. Did you get any backlash from your parents or peers?
Adrien: Honestly, I think both of our parents were really supportive. We actually probably received more skepticism from our peers. Coming from Queen's Commerce, a lot of our peers were going into conventional business; investment banking, accounting, marketing - really traditional roles. What we were doing was pretty outside the status quo so it was definitely weird to some of them. Some people thought it was a joke.
Hyla: Some people said, "Oh well, when it doesn't work out it'll look really good on your resumé!"
Adrien: I think it was probably strange to people that we weren't doing any sort of recruiting. We literally didn't go to one job interview, but for us - focusing on 437 was ideal. We were having so much fun.
Hyla: I can't think of anything else I'd want to do. Our parents were really supportive, especially when they see the facts and numbers and know our business is real.
Q: What's the hardest part of the business thus far?
Hyla: The mistakes that we've made are probably from lack of experience. This is our first time in an entrepreneurial role, starting our own business.
Adrien: In the beginning, we were a little naive and too trusting of vendors and timelines.
Hyla: When you're working with this big company that's manufactured with a bunch of brands and they say they're going to be done by X-date, you believe them. You take people at their word. We planned investments and a bunch of other business decisions around that date to fit a certain timeline. When that doesn't work out -
Adrien: Everything gets shifted back.
Hyla: Of course we've made mistakes, but were constantly learning from them.
Adrien (laughing): The more devastating the mistake, the more we learn. The more money we've cost us, the more we've learned
Q: What did you hope to accomplish by starting 437 Swimwear?
Hyla: The whole confidence aspect for us. At the end of the day, we wanted to make a difference. We didn't want to just sell pieces of fabric. We wanted to make sure girls didn't feel like they had to go on a diet before a trip. Our suits are made to make a girl's curves look more enhanced and make her feel confident. There's something so special in natural beauty and natural bodies. We want to represent different body types and sizes. The goal of our business is that everyone can feel confident and comfortable in our suits.
Q: How do you guys design your suits in a way that's flattering for all body types?
Adrien: When Hyla and I were designing the suits, we looked at our own bodies and thought, "What would make us more confident?" That really led the whole design process. In our staple collection, we have a variety of tops and bottoms to fit and flatter different bodies. Triangle-cut tops for girls with bigger busts, push-up styles to give small chested girls a bit of a boost. High-cut bottoms to cover that sensitive lower stomach, low-cut bottoms if you want to show off your abs. You can tailor different pieces to fit your body and what you want to showcase.
Hyla: We really wanted to make sure girls felt comfortable going to the beach, going to the pool, and ordering a burger. Adrien and I spent a month in Bali and all we did was eat burgers.
Adrien: Literally every single day.
Hyla: But we still felt sexy in 437 because of the cuts of the suits. We designed the bottoms to show a lot of leg so you look taller while still covering that lower stomach so you don't have to worry about how you look. Our ideal suit is something you can feel confident and sexy in.
Q: What does "I Love Me" symbolize for you guys?
Adrien: Hyla and I really believe in balance. Self-love to us isn't just working out and eating healthy, but understanding our work day and how much sleep we need. Even when we're really busy, we always make a huge effort to get enough sleep at night. Over time, our health is the most important thing so that's what we tried to emphasize.
Hyla: Ultimately #ILoveMe is 'I Know Me.' Maybe I'm okay watching This Is Us and working at the same time at 9 o'clock at night because that does work for me. But we need to have a proper lunch and get our workouts in before we work - that's just a part of knowing ourselves and how we operate. We need time to take care of ourselves. Time away from social media. Adrien and I talk about this a lot - for our business, we're always on social media. You need to take time to be offline unless you want to start dreaming about notifications and posts. We've really taken a step back from our personal accounts, because how can you keep up? At the end of the day, mental health is way more important than getting paid to post or free clothes.
Q: What do you guys love both about yourselves and each other?
Hyla: What do I love about myself? That's the hard one. I think I love that I'm really caring about my friendships. One of my friend's birthdays is tomorrow and I'm so excited. I already started talking about Adrien's birthday which is in August like, 'Where are we gonig to be? What are we going to do?!' I'm so caring and protective of my friends. I know that my friends and people around me benefit from my positive energy.
Q: And what do you love about Adrien?
Hyla: Absolutely everything - which is why I can spend literally 24/7 with her. We work together, we used to live together, and we're probably going to move back in together in May. We work out almost every single day together. We're in the same friend group - literally everything. She has a big heart, she's kind, and she's always happy to help me in areas where I'm not the strongest - whether at work or in our personal lives. And look at that smile! She's so humble. She just pays attention and I think that's important. She's been there since day one. I talk to her about my boy problems all the time. She's just that friend. I literally don't know what I'd do without her.
Adrien: Wow you're going to make me cry! Now I have to answer. I'm all emotional now. Ok, myself. I think my loyalty. I'm really close with my family and my friends; those are the most important people on my planet. My favourite thing about Hyla is honestly her big thinking, her optimism. She has so much energy and so much spirit. She brings her passion to literally everything we do, whether it's planning a Friday night out or anything to do with our business. She's always thinking about new collaborations, new ideas. She has such a creative mind and I'm always baffled by her.
Q: What's your favourite brunch place to take out of towners in Toronto?
Hyla and Adrien: School.
Q: Favourite place to scout models?
Hyla and Adrien: Instagram - all the time.
Q: Where can you find the best cocktail in the city?
Hyla and Adrien: We love Cactus Club. Cactus is just always a good time.
437 Swimwear was built with your body in mind. With different shapes, sizes, cuts and colours, every woman can find a suit on the site that makes them feel sexy, confident and comfortable - no matter how many burritos and bellinis you indulge in on vacation. Self-love is the most important love of all, so make sure you celebrate every inch of you, whether you're in a 437 bikini or a Peace Collective crewneck. Happy Valentine's Day!
Use Code: PCx437 for 20% off for the month of February on both 437 Swimwear + Peace Collective.
Photography by: @lexxyhenderson