After Corina Biton quit her job at Neiman Marcus, she was looking forward to one thing: running on the beach. But after 10 months of spending her free time in the sun, Biton noticed her long-sleeved shirts hadn’t protected her from sun spots.
Biton went to stores and outdoor retail shows to look for clothing that would protect her outdoors. But she couldn’t find anything she wanted to wear. So she decided to create her own brand to solve the problem: BloqUV.
And after 10 years, her company is on track for $3.5 million in 2019 sales, up from $2.8 million in 2018. She plans to launch a children’s line later this year and hopes to be in 15,000 stores worldwide by 2019.
“I went out and bought a bunch of UV stuff and it was just frumpy; you know, ruffled shirts, polyester. I bought a pair of shorts that gave me the biggest rash,” said Biton, who previously worked in public relations. “It was just terrible.”
“We really thought about everything that bothered us about other brands. Like for me, when I was running, I hated that my butt would be jiggling up and down. So we put compression shorties on all our garments,” Biton said of her and her team’s designs.
Biton started selling her clothing in dermatologist’s offices and private school pop-up boutiques. Her line is now in 1,000 stores across the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. BloqUV offers women and men’s clothing for swimming, surfing, running, golfing, tennis and biking, priced $60 to $100. Customers can choose from up to 30 colors.
The market has plenty of competitors, including major brands Columbia, Hurley and Patagonia, and boutique brands Coolibar and Cabana Life. BloqUV markets its products through trade shows; the clothes retail mostly through country clubs, hotels, dermatologist offices and boutiques. Biton also sells online. She recently moved production from Taiwan to Mexico and El Salvador because of steep tariffs.
Biton had to offer something new to break into the global sun care market, which is projected to be worth $24.9 billion by the end of 2024, according to Transparency Market Research. She decided she would take a different approach to designing UV protective clothing.
Instead of dipping clothing into UV chemicals like some other companies, BloqUV provides protection in the tight weave of its Spandex and nylon fabric. As a result, Biton says the clothing lasts forever — or “as long as the garment doesn’t have holes.” (Chemical protection can evaporate after about 40 washings.)
Every BloqUV garment has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor of at least 50, Biton said. She tests every item wet, dry, by batch and by color and keeps the results in case a customer challenges her.
But does UV protective clothing actually work?
Frank Perna, a psychologist with the National Cancer Institute who has expertise in skin cancer prevention, said that it can. The NCI recommends a comprehensive approach to skin protection that includes clothing and sunscreen.
The only completely effective prevention method is sun avoidance. But, said Perna, clothing with a UPF rating of 50 can block about 98 percent of UV rays from ever reaching the skin.
Genesis Dermatology in Jupiter has been purchasing clothing from BloqUV since the company’s launch in 2009. Dana Prowell, the office manager, said everything the office sells has to be “tried and proven” by the office’s dermatologists. Some of them wear wear the BloqUV clothing for their own protection.
Robert Weed, the current owner of Strictly Tennis of South Miami, said that having access to BloqUV locally has boosted his business. He added the line on the recommendation of his female customers.
“I’m a small store and I move a lot of product, and I don’t keep a lot on hand all the time,” Weed said. “Since they’re local, I can order something and have it in two days. So if someone wants a crazy color, I get it in two days from them, which I think is really important.”
Founder and president: Corina Biton
Based: North Miami
Revenue: Trending for $3.5 million
Milestone: 1,000 stores