As her Sian Marie swimwear brand unveils the new Tropical Goddess collection, Sian Gabbidon tells why staying in Leeds near her down-to-earth family is all part of the plan.
Sian Gabbidon is living the dream. She’s selling it too, modelling her paradise-inspired, pool-party-perfect, daring new swimwear collection on her Instagram for her 135,000 followers.
It’s just 10 weeks since the 26-year-old Leeds entrepreneur won The Apprentice, chosen by Lord Sugar to be his new business partner after a gruelling trial of televised tasks.
The achievement, which came with a £250,000 investment, has yet to sink in. “It’s crazy and I still can’t believe that I’ve won it, to be honest,” she says.
The price of success, however, is more graft, and this is just the beginning.
Sian said: “It’s a really strange time. Everybody says, I bet you’re so happy that you’ve won, but this is really – right now – the hard work.”
The Sian Marie range launched today is the first since winning the BBC One reality game show. Called Tropical Goddess, it’s colourful and decidedly striking, featuring Sian’s signature prints and reversible, multi-way designs. “I wanted to kick off with a bit of a bang,” she says.
Despite the craziness, in some ways, surprisingly little has changed. Home is still Alwoodley, with her boyfriend of eight years, Clint Gordon, a property entrepreneur. “We live in the same apartment,” she said. “But we have moved into the new office, so that’s been quite a big step for us because we’ve got a lot more room to play with and we’ve got staff on board.”
The new office is in Leeds city centre, and Sian sees no reason to move to London. “I want to be in Leeds because that’s where my heart is, but also it makes sense to be here,” she says.
“We don’t need to be anywhere else. It’s all online, and if I need to be in London, I can jump on the train.”
Staying in Leeds also means she can stay close to her parents. Her mum, Mandi Shulver, is a home care nurse and her dad, Steven Gabbidon, is a factory manager at Unilever. They are separated but live close by and continue to be a constant support, as is Clint, all helping to keep life balanced and real.
“They make sure I spend time with them and don’t work every hour under the sun,” Sian said. “For me, it’s about continuing to be humble and to be a nice person. I’m very grounded and I’m really close to my parents and my boyfriend. We’re all just normal Leeds people. Very down to earth.
“It’s probably been crazier for them than me, because I signed up for it, whereas they had to support me along the journey.”
An only child, Sian grew up in Whinmoor and went to Corpus Christi School in Halton Moor, then Garforth Sixth Form where she studied textiles, art and English, before a degree in Fashion Design with Marketing and Production, graduating from Huddersfield in 2014. She established Sian Marie the following year. “I’ve always been creative, even from a young age,” she says. “My parents bought me a sewing machine and it just went from there. I used to take apart old clothes and make them back up.
“They are the ones who have always said, ‘Do what you want to do and get the most out of life.’”
Sian is mixed race and has recently spoken of the racism she encountered at Corpus Christi. She says now: “It was a great school, but in terms of prejudice, I was probably one of the minority of races there, so I did encounter the odd little bit of negativity and negative comments and a little bit of racism. But I always just moved on from that and it never affected me. If anything, it just drove me more to go on and succeed in life.”
Lord Sugar’s guidance is now proving invaluable.. “He’s very much hands on,” Sian said. “He’s been great at advising on what I need to focus on – things like, be instinctive, it needs to stand out, it needs something to make it its own, because there is a lot of competition in the market.”
Marketing swimwear can be a tricky business and some might argue that Sian Marie swimwear is aimed only at the young and the beautiful – women like Sian herself and campaign model, Love Island’s Hayley Hughes. Sian is unapologetic. “I want to stay true to my brand,” she said. “My girls are young girls who want to go on holiday and look great and wear bikinis.”
But she recognises there is room for greater inclusivity and hopes the website will reflect that soon. “Especially with swimwear, it’s key that the viewer gets to see the styles on different shapes and sizes so they can see how they would look on them. Moving forward, that will be a big focus for us. We want to empower all females. We don’t want to be singled out as only for slim girls.”
Although the original plan was to keep the brand online, Sian is now in talks with bricks-and-mortar stores, so expect to see Sian Marie on the high street in the future. “We’ve got orders for the collection already from retailers,” she said.
Meanwhile, there are more deals to be done. Sian said: “No matter how successful I am, there will always be something I want to achieve.”
Sian Marie swimwear is available at SianMarie.com.