Hidden Lemur had the opportunity to interview the founder of BOLD Swim, Tiffany Asamoah. BOLD Swim is an LA-based sustainable swimwear company that focuses on both sustainability and inclusion. In this interview, Asamoah explains her journey to create BOLD Swim, what makes it sustainable and why we should all choose sustainable swimwear.
For the full interview, you can watch the video here on our Instagram page.
Chatting with Tiffany Asamoah, BOLD Swim Founder
Alicia Briggs, Hidden Lemur Writer: Tiffany is the founder of BOLD Swim, which is an amazing, sustainable swimwear company. Could you tell us a little bit about how you came up with the concept behind BOLD Swim and the creation of it?
Tiffany Asamoah, BOLD Swim Founder: So I love to travel, who doesn't? Especially now that we've been on lockdown for so long. I've always loved traveling and I find myself happiest by the water.
So it started when we were on vacation, funny enough, where I was looking for a swimsuit to be comfortable, to feel sexy and just enjoy vacation in. But it took forever to find the right size – I'm about 5’7, athletic but curvy build. It’s hard to find any size past large and all plus sizes are not created equal. A size 16 could be my size but for a very round shape.
I had such a hard time finding something that was good quality materials, not cheap, not too skimpy. So I found one with a local designer that I knew well, loved and I love her products. But when I saw myself in it, I just felt so uncomfortable; I'm adjusting the suit the whole time. So then I was like, you know what, why don't I make my own?
From there, BOLD Swim came about. Four years later, we're here, but I’ve been grateful for my learning experience and all the people that have helped me along.
AB: Did you come from a design background or did you just learn as you went?
TA: I learned as I went and I’m creative. My background is in team leadership, sales, and project management. So I just kind of created it like a project. I’m always interested in fashion – what woman isn't? I’m a self-taught photographer.
I just learned and went to sourcing seminars in New York and I was able to go to Paris for another swim one and do some sourcing. I know a little bit of French but I was able to take that knowledge and turn it into what BOLD Swim is today.
Also, just wanting representation, right? Like women that are Black, not just mixed, in representation, but truly black females that the body shape is there and just having us being associated with those luxury brands as well.
AB: Absolutely. I feel like most swimwear brands, especially high-end swimwear brands, are designed for one very specific body type. If you don't fit into that, what are you going to wear?
TA: Exactly! These hips are not going anywhere.
AB: I love the name BOLD Swim. Can you tell us a little bit about where that came from?
TA: Just not knowing anything about fashion, having to figure out where to source material, the whole manufacturing process, just everything. I think I've always been bold, even in my photography business. I've also been drawn to these strong, unique adjectives.
So those things really resonate with me – just being bold, being unique and taking a chance. I left a career in corporate, moved my family across the country from Texas to California and started over. These are things that take a lot of ingenuity and I guess determination.
AB: And lots of courage. That's a lot of life changes that you're constantly taking and for something that you believe in, which is amazing.
TA: It’s swimwear – you have to. It's one of those things, like nobody wants to get in a bikini, but at the end of the day, we all find ourselves in a bikini. Why take all this time looking for a bikini and then cover up? I really want people to feel confident no matter where they are.
As women, we go through different stages in our lives. So it's not just for Black and Brown women. It's not just for you, it has always been about diversity, inclusion, but it’s wherever stage you are. I have a few LGBTQ+ customers so even in this next collection, we're thinking about it differently to make sure that everybody is truly represented as much as possible if we can.
AB: I love how different that is than most swimwear companies, even just the sizing. Not many swimwear companies are doing that or appealing to anyone besides one type of person – usually a White, straight-size woman. To have companies like you coming in and making things that are not only inclusive, but stylish, sexy, fun and something you'd want to wear – that's amazing to see the change and that you're part of that.
TA: You have to! I think that every woman has times where they lose weight, they gain weight, they change shape, they go through motherhood – all these things. They want to be conservative when they're with their family or they want to have a girls trip in Vegas. All of these things that we see in our normal lifestyle are what I wanted to have in the brand.
AB: Did you know it had to be a sustainable company when it first started and how did you navigate that?
TA: Yeah. So going back to my first time in New York, where I was able to go to a sourcing conference, I didn't even know what I was going to do. I just wanted to be a part of the conversation to at least figure out how I'm going to get step one done – where's the fabric?
My background is in business. I had the opportunity to sit in a lot of the learning sessions and kind of understand where the fashion industry was, what these manufacturers were presenting and selling at these trade shows. Then some unique things caught my interest from a tech perspective.
This is going back four years ago, when sustainability really wasn't in the forefront as it is now. When I started going through this conversation, it was like why not? Why come in as a new designer and recreate the problems that everyone is trying to solve? How could you not be sustainable? How could you not use the latest technology that was available to you?
If I was going to already set myself apart in diversity and inclusion in sizing, how could I not use this fabric? Plus, when I got it in my hands – it's so soft. When people try on a BOLD swimsuit, they're like, “Oh my God, this feels incredibly different.” That's the feeling I want to carry on.
AB: Can you give us a rundown on what are the main materials you use and why they're sustainable?
TA: The fabric I use in 90% of the collection is Amni Soul Eco. This fabric is certified and biodegradable within five years. It’s a closed-loop production cycle – it reuses the water in the production of the fabric. It's made for durability, versatility, and then it acts as biomass when it ends up in a landfill.
This fabrics ability gives me so many more options. Most people that have followed me for a long time know that I started with activewear but when I moved to California, the lifestyle was different. Why try to do two brand products at one time? Why don't we just really focus on getting good at swimwear, which is my passion, making the fabrics sustainable and making it so that you can use it as underwear or activewear.
I thought about designing it a little bit differently so it has a full use of the fabric. The fabric is extra soft, it's antimicrobial, and it dries fast so the color doesn't fade, not even in the wash. I've intentionally washed it incorrectly to see the durability and I'm pretty happy with it.
AB: Why should travelers especially prioritize sustainable swimwear?
TA: Because every fabric sheds when you’re in the water but with Amni Soul Eco, it’s less prone to that shedding. Those little microfibers that come off your swimwear affect the coral and sea life and add to the pollution in the water. I chose (sustainable fabric) because of that.
Also, because you can wear it more than once. Depending on how long your vacation is, you're going to be washing clothes and you're using water and resources. So the ability to wear your swimsuit, not just in the pool or in the ocean, but to wear it as an outfit before you wash it adds to the longevity of the use, reducing the amount of water and energy that you're using.
Those are some things to think about when you're buying a swimsuit, or garment. Are you a person that checks your bags or that travels light and tries to reduce? The fewer outfits in your suitcase can reduce the load on the planet.
AB: One thing I've noticed about sustainable swimwear is that a lot of companies use very minimalist styles and no color. Many use more fabric – they’re athletic shapes instead of sexy bikinis. But you use fun prints and fun colors. Was that hard to do with sustainable materials?
TA: I think that in my designs, aesthetic is my process. I absolutely love color. So the ability to find these colors that are bold and saturated, and that you can use in multiple things, really serves me and serves the brand. It was hard at first but once I zeroed into the Amni Soul fabric, there were so many color options available.
With sustainability, what we've seen has always been this minimalist design. I feel like you can still have sustainability and be bold, be vibrant and be creative. So that's why the colors.
I do believe in a minimalist lifestyle. I've always loved recycling things. I think with my design process, I always think about where else I can use it. If it's not worn more than twice, I don't design it. It doesn't come to fruition. I may want it really bad and we may think that it would be a good seller but I just can't justify it because I still want the brand's message to carry over everything.
AB: I was just reading about returns and how most of the time, the things that you return, don't ever go back on the shelves. They just go to waste. I think that's something that so many people don't realize, especially because a lot of people shop online now.
TA: Thankfully, we do not have a lot of returns. Thank you my BOLD customers. Thank you, my partners. We made sure we tried to get the sizing right. When we do have returns it’s preference, like it just didn't look good and that’s going to happen.
For the most part, we do not have a lot of returns because the people who buy them are sustainable customers who are conscious of that. They understand the back and forth, that it can't just be reused. If that liner in the bottom is gone it’s essentially waste, I can't do anything with it. I would have to destroy it in order to use the fabric on it. Those things matter.
I think our customers are very conscious of that and they understand the investment. That's why our prices are north of most of these brands because it is an investment but it’s going to last; it’s not going to be for this season. We use a lot of solids and we have the entire rainbow at this point so you can figure out what color you want and still have some on-trend pieces that will forever be timeless and elegant.
AB: I think that's one thing a lot of people forget when they look at sustainable brands is that the prices might be a little higher than what they're used to but these items should last a lot longer.
TA: And we're paying our team. There’s a reason.
AB: Exactly. You should actually question why other things are so cheap.
TA: That's the thing – trying to be able to get off that fast fashion wheel of being so cheap. I think brands don't (be sustainable) because it’s expensive, right? We're getting more technically sound fabric, it takes a little bit of knowledge and expertise to be able to make this fabric, use this fabric and market it.
Also, the quantities that we produce are not mass produced for the world. These are limited run productions and we pay our team. My team members in Brazil – I don't negotiate for these prices. If that's the price that makes them comfortable to do business with BOLD Swim, then that's the price that we're going to pay.
AB: Are there any eco-friendly tips you have that would be great for travelers for how to be a little more sustainable, either in fashion or just in their life?
TA: I would say it's definitely a lifestyle. It's not just in one area of your life, it's a lifestyle that you have to be committed to and it’s not going to be easy. You don't have to be perfect but the point is until we leave this earth, you have to continue to learn. You have to take perspective and examples from those that do it better than you and learn their perspective and see how you can improve upon that.
I would say always keep learning. Think about things differently. Lean on others to do it better. You know, and just follow what you think is right. The world is set up in a way that plastic, unfortunately, finds itself into our life but try to avoid it and just try one day at a time.
AB: What do you feel like is up next for the future of sustainable swimwear? Do you feel like it's going to get easier to work with sustainable swimwear?
TA: I think it'll be easier. I've actually met a couple of companies in downtown Los Angeles that I'm going to work with. So we're improving our own transparency like sometimes we get the Amni Soul from different places. So now we are reducing the amount of places that we have suppliers in.
I think the future for BOLD will just be so much more than swimwear, resort wear and activewear. We have so many lines that we're developing for 2022. A lot of our customers are involved in the process.
AB: Can people shop internationally for BOLD Swim?
TA: Yeah, we are international. Our very first customer was from Germany when I had like five swimsuits. We've had a lot of support from the international community.