Bukawaswim is the lovechild of the founder Rana’s love affair with the world of fashion that began its life during the tough times of pandemic. Today its founder Rana is successfully running this business that not only satisfies her passion for the blue oceans and pools but also committment to the environment that she loves so much. We had the chance to speak to her. Why don’t you join us?
What initially sparked your interest in swimwear design, and how did you decide to create designs that cater to both men and women?
I always struggled to choose a career path and never really knew what I was going to end up doing. During the pandemic, I was having a conversation with my mother and the idea of a swimwear BukawaSwim business came up and it instantly felt right. I knew I had finally found my place and the thing that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I grew up surrounded by the sea, pool and sun. I am constantly splashing in the water and have hoarded many swimsuits over the years so I know a lot about what I like and don’t like. With BukawaSwim, I decided to create a brand that was gender neutral because I have never felt like clothes have a gender. Fashion is art and art is expressive so why wouldn’t I want people to experiment and express their style through our products?! I want to make sure that anyone and everyone feels comfortable with BukawaSwim and create a brand that operates from a place of zero judgement – as long as our customers are comfortable and happy with our products then so are we!
Sustainability is a key focus for your brand. Could you share a specific example of how you incorporate eco-friendly materials or production methods into your swimwear designs?
I grew up with a very eco-conscious mother and I’ve always loved the ocean and know that the only way we will keep it around is to protect it. When starting BukawaSwim, I wanted to create a brand that also embodied these ideas. Nowadays with fast fashion and plastic packaging, it was imperative that we took a different approach to show people that we can have nice, high-quality items without destroying our planet!
Something I am extremely proud of is that we have a no new plastic policy, meaning we only use regenerated materials. We are eco-friendly through and through from our plantable business cards, to paper hangers and eco-friendly packaging. Something else that is key for BukawaSwim is eliminating pollutants during production. Finding a manufacturer with eco-friendly production methods was extremely important as we work to make the entire process as sustainable as possible. Our factory is all solar powered and around 90 seconds of sunlight powers a machine for 2.5 hours, producing one swimsuit. In the sunnier months, the power is given back to the grid and on cloudier days, the power stored in the grid is brought back and used to create more swimwear.
Inclusivity is an essential aspect of your brand ethos. Can you share a story of how your swimwear has positively impacted someone who may have felt excluded by traditional swimwear options?
As well as being gender neutral, I also want to make sure that all body types are accounted for. I know summer can be daunting for some, so I want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and included. I hate seeing brands that charge more for bigger sizes – this feels incredibly unfair so we make sure that we keep pricing the same no matter what.
We have plenty of different styles for different comfort levels including varying coverage. Also, when it came to deciding swimwear styles and coverage, I asked a lot of my friends and family and outsiders what kind of style they enjoy wearing. I wanted to have a variety of designs for people as we all have different bodies and as we say, every body is a bikini body!!!
We’d love to hear about a unique design feature you’ve incorporated into your swimwear that addresses specific challenges faced by individuals with different body types.
I chose to create a long sleeve swimsuit that in the beginning my friends and family didn’t believe would sell. However, after our launch, this swimsuit has become our most popular design! Initially I made it for surfers or people who enjoy water sports to protect your body, but the feedback from our customers is that they love the fact that it’s long sleeved as it offers more coverage from UV rays. Also, the genderless swimwear has also been great for customers who prefer more coverage or engage in water sports, they can pair a swimsuit with one of our shorts and have an all matching set!
How do you go about sourcing and selecting fabrics and materials that align with your brand’s sustainability goals while still maintaining a high level of quality and functionality in your swimwear?
All of our swimwear is made from either ECONYL® or REPREVE (recycled ocean waste and recycled plastic bottle fabric). This also means that our swimwear can be reused indefinitely to create new products! What I love about ECONYL® and REPREVE is that the fabric is high quality and has a great feel and is still comfortable and flexible for the customer.
You are more than just a swimwear designer as you offer jewellery, bags, clothes and lifestyle items too. Were they an extension of the brand or you always wanted to create a brand that covered all aspects of beach life?
BukawaSwim was inspired by a way of life and that naturally extended into lifestyle products. For now, it’s jewellery, bags and picnic items and in the future we would love to expand into sunglasses, hats and more. It’s a lifestyle!
What steps do you take to ensure that your swimwear production process minimizes waste and reduces its environmental impact?
As mentioned before, we work with a solar-powered factory which reduces carbon emissions in the manufacturing process. With our fabrics, we have the ability to create swimwear that can constantly be reused and recycled and will have a forever life. One of our golden rules is NO NEW PLASTIC which reduces our overall environmental impact and allows us to keep producing swimwear guilt-free!
What have been the biggest challenges so far running your business and how have to faced and tackled them?
Starting a business during the pandemic was definitely one of the more challenging roles I could’ve taken on as we dealt with closed factories, no postal services and overall the world being on pause. However, this allowed us to put more care, research and time into the details so that eventually we were able to produce higher quality items! Another big challenge we faced was learning who to trust and realising that this is the real world and not everyone is good. While there are many amazing companies that we have created great relationships with there are always a few bad apples. As with any new business, we have learned to be a lot more aware and not to dwell on the things that went wrong but to learn from the mistakes to better ourselves and the company.
Could you describe a time when you received feedback from your customers that led to a significant design modification or new innovation in your swimwear?
After releasing our long sleeved swimsuit, we had some feedback from customers that they would prefer to have a full closed back as opposed to the open back and that it can be difficult to get in and out of when wet. So I decided that it is very important that the next launch we will carry other long sleeve styles, some have a tie at the top and others have a zip in the front so it can be adjusted for everyone’s comfort level.
As an advocate for sustainability and inclusivity, do you engage in any community initiatives or partnerships that promote these values beyond your swimwear designs?
When launching BukawaSwim, I wanted to make sure that any company we worked with also shared the same values as us. We have worked with companies like Ocean Bottle who do tremendous work to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans. We have also collaborated with a French non-profit Clean & Proud that works in Malawi. They collect waste from the streets of Malawi and heat seal the plastic to create a new sheet of plastic and then combine that with fabrics from their local market to make bags. We have made reusable swimwear bags for the wet swimsuits to not leak through the other stuff in a customers bag. It also works as a little beach bag to keep your valuables inside! We hope to continue finding and working with other eco-conscious brands.
Any tips or suggestions for any new designers who would like to follow your footsteps?
My suggestion would be to have an idea that will help make you stand out. Nowadays it is common to see the same things and copies of copies. You will want to make something that is different and be prepared to work hard. In the beginning it will be slow but eventually you will get the attention you deserve. I would also suggest to keep a solid vision and have an ultimate goal you can work towards, even if the goal changes, just make sure you are also moving forward. Never stop networking and be patient. Good things come to those who wait!
Any style guide to those who would love to use your creations?
As long as you feel good then you look good no matter what. Wear what you want with confidence and no one can tell you anything otherwise. Mix and match if you want and when in doubt match similar patterns!
Any favourite pieces from your latest collection?
It is so hard to choose as I love everything from our first collection!
I would say my favourite piece is the Ste Maxime bikini in the pattern Sirène. This pattern holds a special place in my heart as it is the tiles from my parents’ hotel in the South of France and it is the pool I grew up swimming in my whole life. The blue reflections in the sun are so beautiful and I haven’t seen anything like it!
Regarding beachwear, I must say our iconic Nani Jumpsuit (especially in Bukawa blue) is the item I wear the most and just feel the best in! Other than the fact that it is named after me, it is also so easy to wear and there are plenty of different ways to style it.
Thank you for showing interest in BukawaSwim and for giving me a voice and a platform to go into depth about my business and what we have done to get to where we are. I can’t wait for you to join us on our journey and I hope that you love it as much as we loved creating everything!