The story begins in 1996, the year I decided to end my international modeling career.
We had taken a decision to return to South Africa from Europe, where we had been living for 12 years. I wanted to work in fashion, and since modeling leaves you with a taste for independence, I was particularly interested in business opportunities.
We soon noticed there was a un-sanctioned South African issue of Sports Illustrated being published by Touchline Media, a subsidiary of Media24 and we were struck by the fact that, unlike the US Sports Illustrated, the South African version did not publish a Swimsuit Issue, the iconic supplement conceived by Sports Illustrated editor Andre Laguerre in the 1960s to boost circulation figures during the slower winter months. And in 1997 we launched the inaugural issue of SA Sports Illustrated in partnership with Touchline Media.
Advertisers embraced the idea, helped by the fact that the SA Swimsuit Issue was immediately and sensationally successful.
In 2001, we joined forces with Associated Media and the Cosmopolitan Lingerie issue, which was rebranded in 2014 as SA Lingerie so that it could be “bagged” with both Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire magazines. The ongoing success of this supplement went hand in hand with an annual SA Lingerie show, which has grown into something of an institution – also referred to by the fashion industry as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show of SA.
Within a handful of years, SASI had become a genuine force in the international fashion world, with a reputation for launching the careers of megastar models like Bar Rafaeli, Genevieve Morton ,and Ana Hickman.
By 2008, the Issue had grown to 172 pages, dwarfing its host publication. With the hype around the SI launch party and TV documentary at a peak, we could justifiably claim we had created “the largest multi-media publishing event in Africa”.
Then came 2012 and Media24’s sudden cancellation of its license to print Sports Illustrated.
TimeWarner offered Netsport an opportunity to continue producing their swimsuit version of SI under a new license but we decided to go it alone and create our own Swimsuit Issue. We rebranded SASI as World Swimsuit and changed things a bit, making the Issue a bit classier, a bit more in line with your top end architectural magazines, in terms of design and quality. This coincided with the launch of the global World Swimsuit Youtube channel (to date over 19 000 000 views and 68 000 subscribers ) and the World Swimsuit website, currently generating between 50 000 – 70 000 page views per month.
Netsport was supported in this by their new media partner, Cape Town- based publisher Highbury Safika Media, which sends the annual World Swimsuit issue out with its SA Rugby and SA Cricket Magazines.
HSM shares our belief that, as media platforms multiply, the quality of your printed magazine is more important than ever. The money might be elsewhere, but the magazine is still at the center, the heart and soul if you like.
Impressively, the transition from SASI to World Swimsuit caused no turbulence and I think the thing that attracts models to World Swimsuit, as with SI, is the fact that the model’s name features on every page. Usually, they’re anonymous, just faces and bodies representing a brand.
The exposure is particularly coveted by models the industry refers to (somewhat disparagingly) as “pocket rockets”—exquisitely beautiful women deemed too short to make it in fashion. These prejudices do not apply at Netsport, which has featured dozens of petite models in its supplements. Having established their personal brands this way, many of them have found the fashion industry suddenly singing a different tune.
The photographers we work with are also a big part of the draw, as models and influencers want to work with the best fashion photographers and vice versa, and we work with some of the most respected names in the business.
Relationships build a reputation, and reputation is the key to everything in our industry.
Editor and Creative Director of World Swimsuit