I remember the very day Naomi and I spoke on Facebook chat about her and Lyndie Irons’ “new swimwear line ACACIA.” Being a bikini lover myself, I was especially excited for Naomi, and also inspired by her initiative and entrepreneurialism. Little did either of us know that Naomi and Lyndie’s project would not only become one of the most successful swimwear brands in the US, but also one of the front liners in the current Brazilian bikini movement, which encourages women to embrace their booty with Brazilian cut bottoms.
Devin, being long time friends with Naomi from their days growing up together in Maui, and myself, knowing the girls from Maui, we’re lucky to be one of the few to see the first samples; they were basic solid colors, yet we fell in love with the designs and cuts of the suits. The collections have come a long way since then, being worn by celebrities like Rihanna, and picked up by major stores all over the US: the name ACACIA is on every bikini lover’s lips. Here we get an inside view from Naomi herself:
How old were you when you created your first bikini?
I think I was probably around the age of 16 when I learned to sew my own bikinis.
Can you pinpoint the exact moment and where you were, when you decided that you were going to design bikinis?
I had just finished sewing my first bikini. I remember trying to buy a bikini as a teenager and always found beautiful suits but the bums were always awful and unflattering with too much extra fabric.
What kind of woman wears your designs?
Some might say that we tailor to a younger woman, but we keep in mind all ages when we design our suits and resort wear from our cuts, styles to our prints and color pallets. Our collection gives choices, for example, our colorful tropical prints to a more sophisticated nude.
What is the most exciting thing about your job?
Besides traveling and meeting people with different lifestyles, the creative process is exciting, as well as influencing women’s lives. It motivates me and encourages me to keep on exploring designs.
Do you have a favorite bikini from your youth?
I modeled for Hanna Anderson when I was maybe eight years old. I got to rock a little fruit print two piece bikini that they let me keep. They always come to Hawaii, I think still to this day, to recruit little island models.
Is there one particular goal that you have set for yourselves as swimwear designers?
I work hard and want to always feel inspired. That is my goal.
Do you have a favorite bikini from your line?
Currently, “Living in Manhattan Top” and “Sandy’s Bottom.”
Do you have a favorite beach?
Ho’okipa and Pine Trees since those are our home breaks. A new favorite is where we shot our last campaign on Tetiaroa. The beaches and turquoise water were absolute perfection. Balangan Beach is also a favorite when we are in Bali.
The US is embracing the Brazilian style bottom now more than ever, some might say ACACIA was one of the main influencers of this movement, would you agree?
I think growing up in Hawaii influenced us big time on wanting to revamp the Brazilian cut. I do think we pushed to bring the cheekier cuts back. This was actually one of our greatest obstacles. Everyone kept telling us that our smaller cuts would never sell, but we stayed true to what we believed in and it is so nice to see it come back into fashion.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs like yourself that want to start their own brand?
It is hard work, so LOVE what you do and stay true to yourself.(Picture: Naomi and Lyndie on location for their 2015 collection photo shoot)
What do you think has been the key factor in your swimwear being a success?
As I said, staying true to our vision, even when we were told our swim bottoms were too small, we knew what we wanted, what looks good, and what we wanted ACACIA to be. We built our brand and we built our story.
What has proved to be your biggest obstacle thus far and how did you deal with it at the time?
I mentioned one above related to our cheekier cuts. We actually zero’d out at one point, and I worked my booty off to build us back up. Another would be accepting that running a business isn’t always fun and games, and learning how to deal with issues as they arise. I used to stress myself out over the smallest things. And I would never take time off. I would even work through my weekends but after working so hard on Acacia for the past years, I have realized for my well-being, health and sanity it is so important to learn when to turn work off.
Describe your typical day.
Wake up at 6:30 a.m. make tea and answer some e-mails, since living in Hawaii is a challenge when the rest of the world has been up for hours. I then have breakfast, and office lunch break, then at 4, take my dog Bronx to the beach for a run where we both can exercise, then head home to feed Bronx at 6. 3 mornings a week, I wake up to exercise at 6 a.m. while Bronxy gets to stay in bed before heading to work.
Do you think having a degree in fashion is vital for a designer?
Not necessarily, but depends on the person and the family they were raised in, lifestyle, etc. Even though I went to FIDM, I was raised in a design household, where aesthetics was a core principle.
What do you think is a solution for the pollution of the oceans and seas around the world?
Global warming has affected the rise of our oceans and beach deterioration. So on a global scale there is much to do. But there are many things one can do on an individual basis- no plastic bags, recycle, organic gardening, stop fish farming, sustainable fishing (no big nets etc.), local\ beach clean ups, just to mention a few. I am proud to say that our retail stores and grocery stores on both Maui and Kauai are plastic bag free.