Tech Tuesday: With Freestyle Swimwear, D-I Swimmer Aspires to Improve Female Swimsuits

Behind the scenes 2
Photo Courtesy: Freestyle Swimwear

With Freestyle Swimwear, D1 Swimmer Aspires to Better Female Swimsuits

Audrey Tirrell spent most of her life in a swimsuit. That was enough time to know all the ways in which they didn’t serve her.

A competitive swimmer since age seven, first at Nation’s Capital Swim Club and then at Fordham University, Tirrell grew exhausted by her training swimsuits. They did the job but little else, functional but rarely flattering, sparking little excitement. When Tirrell shared that opinion with peers in the pool, she found many who felt the same way.

Tirrell saw the problem as an opportunity. It led her to found Freestyle Swimwear as an undergraduate, and she hopes the company can unlock new possibilities for female training suits.

Freestyle Swimwear; Photo Courtesy: Dima Bazak

Instead of suits that meet the bare minimum for their purpose, Tirrell hopes Freestyle’s products can help women express themselves and feel good about the time they spend in the water.

“I want this brand not just to be a brand, not just about the fashion,” she said. “I want it to be a platform to empower athletes and bring women together to feel beautiful and have this whole other level of what the swimsuit is about.”

A native of Gaithersburg, Maryland, Tirrell started her career at the University of New Hampshire before transferring to Fordham, where she served as a senior co-captain in 2022-23. With swimming paused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she was looking for something to fill her time and turned an interest in making things and a passion for fashion into learning to sew.

It wasn’t long before she cast a critical look at what she wore in the pool. The cookie-cutter approach to shape, fit and patterns could be stultifying, to her eye. When she discussed it with teammates, she heard similar laments. “Not just me and my teammates, everyone was like, oh my god, it’s the same print, the same color, the same straps, over and over,” Tirrell said.

The feedback piece isn’t notional. When Tirrell embarked on Freestyle, she sent thousands of surveys to coaches, teammates and friends of friends. She felt confident in her assessment that traditional swimwear didn’t serve women in many ways, but she wanted to hear others’ experiences to find ways to differentiate her brand. (The survey remains on Freestyle’s site, part of constant process of “Building The Best Training Suit for You,” by a brand she thinks of as “co-creative and innovative.”)

Tirrell’s information fueled a lengthy development process. Swimwear production uses specialized materials that can be difficult to source and work with; it requires expert stitching to meet the aquadynamic demands. Tirrell said it took two years to get a final sample, through repeated testing and adjustments of what she estimates was 40 or 50 versions.

The result is Freestyle Swimwear’s five-piece Contrast Collection – three one-piece training suits and two two-pieces. They’re built on a black and pink color palette with pops of neon. What stands out most is the strapping across the back, a constant across all five patterns. (Freestyle also sells a pair of lounge tank tops.)

Tirrell hopes her swimming experience offers insight others may miss, about how a suit moves in action and how it holds up, across a session or over many months.


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Tirrell started testing suits while balancing life as a Division I athlete, getting her degree in business administration and captaining the Rams. It took an understanding environment in the Bronx when, for example, she would regularly hop out of practices to change suits if things went wrong with a prototype.

“I think after COVID, I was just consumed by this idea of starting a brand,” she said. “I still cared about my performance, but I learned how to separate the two at practice.”

Given how important the swimming community was to the design, Tirrell has leveraged the same connections to spread the word about the finished product. She’s confident her suits fit the needs of female swimmers better than what else is on the market and, if swimmers take the chance to go beyond the small handful of big brands that dominate the space, they’ll find that too.

“I’m confident that these suits feel better,” she said. “I’ve been getting amazing feedback from my customers. … I know it’s hard to take the risk and start spending your money on a brand new product, but it is something that once someone can put it on and feel it for themselves, they will understand the difference in it.”

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