AKOIA ETHICAL CROCHET APPAREL
interview by Caroline Louise Hamar
Humba is the original name of the EastIndonesian island “Sumba” where the Indian Ocean laps at a west coast of untouched, sandy beaches lined with palm trees. But it is also the name of the new collection by Akoia swim; a Bali-based beach label.
Analogue photography was used to shoot their latest campaign. It depicts the island living. The collection uses warm and earth-toned palette. 10% of all proceeds are donated to Sumba Foundation thus they are trying to help preserve the community as well.
Akola Swim garments are hand-crocheted by women artisans in Bali. This allows women to earn money within their community and stay close to care for their children. Each piece is 100% plastic free, packaging included. They are made from 100% organic natural cotton, with natural dyes from locally grown plants. And each delivery shipment is sent only twice a week to reduce carbon emission.
Akola Swim is a project of passion. The objective is to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind garments that capture the spirit of Bali, but also, to empower local women and help preserve the paradise that is their home. For a small island, Bali’s waste pollution is massive.
I was lucky enough to speak to designer Reo Palmer all about these passions and hear more about their mission with this brand.
1: So, who is Akoia Swim? Tell me all about it, how and why did it start?
Akola Swim, is a beach label which emerged from the island of Bali, it started 6 years ago. My three best friends and I just wanted to make some pocket money at school by selling our creations. We never thought three years later it would turn into an actual business!
2: Bali and women seem to be two big passions in the brand, Can you tell me more about your mission with them?
I think Akoia is a beautiful example of women empowerment as all of our pieces are handmade exclusively by women with attention to detail and special skills. We only want to work with women so we can empower them. Especially in the villages of Bali where there is not much for these women. This goes for Bali as well; we want to empower the crafts of Bali. This island is rich in so much hand craftsmanship from crochet to wood carving to canang making. So keeping these traditions alive in the communities sustains a lot of culture for Bali. It means a lot to us personally, as so many commercial and industrial methods have taken over; pushing away natural hand crafting. So, keeping Bali true to itself is my goal as Bali is my home.
3: How did you get the brand to where it is today?
Akoia grew very organically. I guess when I started to really Express the creative side and make it more of an art and travel showcase it could be known for something bigger than just a brand. I also think moving into the sustainable direction naturally attracts so many people. People are inspired by our sustainable and ethical practices and want to support this. I was also blessed with my best friend, Inka, who is a beautiful model with a lot of influence in the world and she helped grow the brand with her vision and voice.
4. Your creative process is so unique, can you tell me all about making these garments?
It is the intimate relationship we have with hand crafting. A lot of the designs are vintage inspired, even a few from my mother’s old wardrobe, but that is just creative inspiration. It comes down to the art of hand crocheting each piece all so differently so no piece will ever be the same. it can take up to five days to make a dress and the process involves so much love and dedication into each piece; manifesting into a creative masterpiece.
5. What are your creative inspirations when designing?
Like I said, I have taken a few cuts from my Mother’s wardrobe; 70s – 90’s style. A lot of inspiration is just the beach lifestyle and thinking what I could wear to the beach. Or just spotting different bikinis at the beach and trying design inspiration from Laetita Casta’s beach style in all the old Vogue magazines too.
6. Why is sustainability such an important part of your brand? And why should it be more important in the fashion industry?
Sustainability is the only way forward. The reality is that the fashion industry is destructive for our ecosystem. There are no excuses. We now have all the alternatives out there to create sustainably; from organic sustainable materials, natural dyes, plastic alternative and so much more. The only reason the fast fashion industry don’t want to make the extra effort is because they just care about profit. They don’t really care about the creative process or making that little extra effort to find sustainable ways. Sustainability is just adding value to your pieces while caring for the earth. Which means that they put more care into their creative processes.
7. What lessons did you learn along the way as you built this brand?
Staying true to myself and my creative vision. I tried to make Akola more ‘marketable’ at one point, following real mainstream trends. But it just did not feel or go right. And not giving up, of course. You must believe and trust in yourself. I wanted to just give up so many times. I thought I was just not good enough.
8. What are your plans for Akoia Swim for the future?
Of course growing the brand organically; trying to spread the message of Akoia all of the world and collaborating with other creatives world wide. I am also in the process of making my own natural dye house to do my own piece-by-piece plant dying. It will make Akola more personal from me to the customer. It’s very exciting. I will be also opening this dye house up to all fashion labels. It will enable them to step into sustainable methods and work with natural dyes.