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AHA! Moment for Local Moms

Photo – Left to right: FASTEN Co-founder Alexis Castellano of Holmdel sits in the sand beside Co-founder Jill Slater of Marlboro with their daughters, who are wearing the one-piece swimsuits redesigned by these two moms.

TWO LOCAL MOMS RECONFIGURE THE ONE PIECE SWIMSUIT FOR CHILDREN

Story Susan Murphy

Thanks to Holmdel mom Alexis Castellano and Marlboro mom Jill Slater, this summer may be your best ever if you have an infant, toddler, or young daughter! Why? These moms have redesigned the one-piece swimsuit, which they call “FASTEN,” and have made it easier than ever to make diaper changes, do those fast “gotta-go-now” potty runs, and keep the suits of young girls free from bathroom germs. They have already been written up by over 20 Mom Bloggers across the country! Cool Mom Picks recently said the product was “The Smarter One-Piece.” Castellano explained how this idea came about.

“A few summers ago Jill and I were sitting by the pool when we had our ‘AHA!’ moment. At the time my older daughter was 2 ½ and my younger daughter 11 months old. Jill’s son was 2 and she was pregnant with her baby girl. We realized what a pain it was to pull down a wet one-piece bathing suit when our children really had to go or needed a diaper change. And, it was even more difficult to get the wet suit back on! We also found it utterly gross that when older girls were in the bathroom their wet bathing suits were sitting on the dirty floor around their ankles and were absorbing a ton of germs!”

Slater added, “Alexis and I met at a mommy and me class when our oldest kids were only a few months old. We bonded over first-time mom worries and triumphs. We weren’t regularly discussing new product ideas, but when this idea came up as a moment between friends sharing a struggle, we knew we had something.”

When they first came up with the idea, it was geared toward both potty training toddlers and babies. “I knew what a struggle it was to pull down that swimsuit on my toddler while panicking that she would have an accident in the bathroom after all the progress we made with potty training. But we also knew what a struggle it would be to change a baby’s diaper, especially a squirming wet baby!” said Castellano. She continued, “Jill and I both didn’t love the idea of bikinis or tankinis for little girls and babies. We wanted more coverage from the sun, and I always found that tankinis didn’t fit properly due to saggy bottoms. Jill would come to find this too as her daughter got older. When we launched our first collection, we went up to size 5. However, we had so many people reach out to us asking for bigger sizes. We released a small amount of size 6s, 8s, and 10s in our second collection and they all but sold out!”

“Currently, our suits all have the same basic design. The only difference is that the older girls have additional snaps for extra security, since older girls become more active, and they also have a hidden back magnet to hook the bottom flap during potty breaks. However, our third collection that will be released this spring will have snaps on the baby sizes as well. We thought it would be nice to have a little added security for water-logged diapers!” On the FASTEN website, items besides the swimsuits are available. Visit www.fastenswim.com.

“With the help of my mom we designed the accessory items on the website. For our first collection, we picked stock fabrics that we loved. For our second collection, we mixed stock fabrics and custom designs,” said Castellano. Castellano said both she and Jill knew they were on to something that wasn’t being produced in the market, but they weren’t sure how to actually make it. “I was an event planner and Jill was a nurse. We had no experience in fashion or designing clothes. Luckily, my mother, who lives locally, used to be a fashion designer. We spent hours in her basement cutting open old bathing suits, playing around with different fasteners, and trying to figure out the best way to make this idea of ours work. At one point, we actually used magnetic tape from Home Depot! When we finally had a prototype we were happy with, my mom created a pattern and made our first sample.” “Currently, we are patent-pending. Meanwhile, we met with a few different local manufacturers (all of whom signed an NDA), and ended up working with a wonderful factory who was willing to take on something different,” said Castellano. FASTEN swimsuits are currently manufactured in the United States.

Through the website, however, Castellano and Slater received an order from a woman in Japan, and then an email about how she loved the concept and didn’t know of anything like it in Japan. “She said she was starting an online retail store for children and was interested in importing, selling, and even distributing our products in Japan. We started with having her sell the products to see how they would be received and if it went well then agreed to talk about distribution. We have always been careful about not biting off more than we can chew,” said Castellano. She and Jill have already been contacted by distributors and stores in Australia, South Africa, Taiwan, and Singapore. Castellano noted that the company was formed in October 2014 – and went from concept to production in one year. They launched their website in October 2015, just in time for Cruise season. “We released a second collection in March 2016, but truly our first summer with the product on the market. We are gearing up to release our third collection mid-March! This will be our second summer with the product on the market,” said Castellano. The feedback received has been amazing.

Slater shared, “We love hearing that our customer service sets us above and beyond other companies. We know we have a great product but we love that our customers appreciate their purchasing experience with us too. We also have received comments that our suits have made the difference in the lives of kids with special needs. We set out to make our lives and our own daughters’ lives easier, but knowing we are helping girls with all levels of needs is amazing.” Slater addressed the question of plans for additional products and styles. “We are constantly designing new products and styles. We love seeing our ideas go from drawings to print to fabrics to the final products. We love the input we get from our kids about what is ‘cool.’ Designing new fabrics is one of our favorite parts of this business.” Castellano said they have one major long-term goal for FASTEN that is more like a mission. “We want to revolutionize the one-piece bathing suit. We want to see all one-pieces made this way! Why make them any other way? And not just for kids! We get asked all the time to make them for adult women. We would love to eventually license our design to larger swimsuit manufacturers, so they can use our innovative FASTEN® technology in their own swimsuit designs.

We also love the idea that our daughters could run our company one day!”

Castellano’s two girls are now eight and six years old; Slater’s son is now seven-and-a-half and her daughter is five. Castellano shared, “In fact, Jill’s daughter was born on my younger daughter’s birthday, so we call them FASTEN sisters!” This is truly a FASTENating story of how two moms took the challenge of wet bathing suits, diaper changes, and potty runs and turned it into a phenomenal idea that has made life easier for moms everywhere! SM06: Left to right: FASTEN Co-founder Alexis Castellano of Holmdel sits in the sand beside Co-founder Jill Slater of Marlboro with their daughters, who are wearing the one-piece swimsuits redesigned by these two moms.

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