Caylee and Andrea’s Essiebess offers a beautiful range of mix-and-match styles to suit every shape and size – with easy to wear coverage.
Story: Katrine Anker-Nilssen | Pictures: Courtney Warren Photography
Sisters Caylee Dixon and Andrea Bezuidenhout grew up in Westville. “We are both married with two kids, and we both somehow manage to hold down full time jobs – Caylee as a buyer for a large local retailer, and me in the investment and advice space – while running around after our children,” laughs Andrea. “When your plate is already full, why not add a start-up business to the mix?”
As a lot of new start-up businesses, the concept of the sisters’ swimwear business and brand took hold during lockdown when they were both somewhat disillusioned by corporate work life. “We wanted to create something that belonged purely to us, and that allowed us to be creative,” says Andrea.
“We had previously been purchasing similar swimwear from the USA, and when we looked into options locally we saw a gap in the market for more modest but still beautiful swimwear for women who aren’t super model stick-figures,” says Caylee. “We had both been down the road of experiencing changing bodies during and after pregnancy, and we wanted to celebrate women like us – who perhaps aren’t as confident as they once were in swimwear, and have very limited options available.”
The name Essiebess is their beloved late mothers nickname. “It’s a name that joins us together and we love it,” says Andrea. “Our swimwear is designed by us and manufactured here in Durban, and we quickly realised how specialised swimwear design and manufacture actually is. But we managed to jump through hoops and find a process that worked for us.” Involved in every step of the way, the sisters do all the sample fittings on themselves so they can get the fit exactly as they want it.
“It took over a year from registering our business to actually launching our products, with many changes along the way,” says Andrea. “We launched in November 2021 with a range that included a one-piece costume and three top and bottom combos. We love the idea of being able to mix and match across styles, sizes and colours.”
There are currently style options in six different colours. “We noticed that the current swimwear trends are incredibly high cut and revealing, whereas our costumes will usually be on the more generous side over the bottom and legs – with options for different tummy coverage in the tops,” says Caylee. “We aren’t trying to keep up with what’s trending, but would rather our ladies find some classic pieces that they absolutely love and keep coming back to.”
Based in Durban North, Essiebess mainly sell online but has recently also started selling at Spence and Mae in Hillcrest. “We absolutely love the idea of the ‘brand hub’ where small businesses like ours are able to have a physical presence without the overhead costs of a store. Our staff includes exactly two members for now, with us working after hours and in between juggling life. Late night and early morning packing orders have become our reality, and we are so grateful for it,” says Andrea.
“Putting ourselves into a market we knew very little about was terrifying and has certainly pushed us both out of our comfort zones, which has been incredibly rewarding,” says Caylee. “There have certainly been times we have doubted ourselves and our ability, but the amazing feedback we have received from ladies who have purchased and come back again has been beyond what we could have hoped for.”
With plans for launching additional styles later in the year, the sisters can’t wait to have a children’s range that will allow for mix and match with mom. “Our daughters are constantly asking when they can have a cozzie of their own,” says Andrea – adding that they don’t have any intentions of opening their own Essiebess shop, but would love to be stocked in more collaborative shops across KZN and beyond. “Also, given that our products are currently very seasonal, we would love to extend our range beyond swimwear. But we are taking baby steps for now, and learning as we go.”
The Essiebess Essence
Our mission is to celebrate you, the beautiful woman you are, at all stages of your life. We want to get you into swimwear that not only do you love to wear, but that you keep coming back to time and time again.
Our range is designed to cover bums a little bit more, to sit slightly lower around the leg and to keep the boobs tucked away when they need to be.
We’ve got you covered.