Pronounced "bai-ah". Meaning: one who has the capacity to change the world for the better.
I’m Amber, designer and founder of Baiia.
I first developed an affinity with swimwear at the age of 4. I can remember the beautiful sunny day, crystal clear waters outside and the sound of palm leaves swaying in the wind were rustling against our roof - just your average day in Munda, Solomon Islands.
I remember my mum bringing me my favourite bathers; a cream one piece, dotted with bright pink flowers. It belonged to my older sister Jasmine, and like all annoying little sisters I wanted everything she had. Finally the day had come where Jasmine had outgrown it, and the hand-me-down was something I could finally call my own!
These bathers were more than just something to swim in, they were my permission to independently explore the world as I knew it. Whenever I put them on I felt as if I had just joined the ‘big girls club’ - where roaming endlessly along the beach, and venturing into tropical patches of rainforest behind our house - was completely allowed. These adventures didn’t just spark my adoration with the natural world, they gave me a unique confidence that has stayed with me throughout the course of my life - these were adventures that never would have happened if it wasn’t for that old, cream & floral swimsuit.
Fast forward just over a decade and I was fresh into my fashion studies. While this was an incredibly valuable experience, I felt I was falling into the trap of pumping out pieces that were designed with the aim of ‘looking good’ over ‘feeling good’. When I realised what I was doing was no longer aligned with who I was or what I valued, I let it go.
Creating a paper dress for an assignment, 2011.
Two overseas trips and a business and marketing degree later, I became even more disheartened by the lack of genuine care in which my chosen professions had conducted business practices, usually by neglecting the needs of what in my opinion is any business’ most important stakeholder; the environment in which it operates.
I was moved to action, writing about the importance of genuine CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) in the fashion industry and highlighting brands who were doing an awesome job at it on my blog at the time. Throughout this process I realised I didn’t really enjoy writing. My heart was in design, even more specifically, fashion design - and it had been since the day I realised how empowered my little cream swimsuit could make me feel.
The whole swimwear epiphany started in late 2016. I’m sure most women have a similar experience, I was standing in a dressing room, about to try on this cute high waisted bikini set I had my eyes on for a while. Squeezing in one leg after the other, I can remember straightening up to face the mirror. To this day I’m still unsure as to what I exactly felt when I finally saw my own reflection, but what I did know is that I felt a million miles away from that young girl in The Solomons, running around and completely embodied in her bathers.
Recalling it now - it felt gross and restrictive - with fabric cutting into me in all the wrong places. I stood there thinking there must have been something inherently wrong with me, with my body. And even though I can easily look at the women in my life and see nothing but beauty in their unique and varying physiques - in that moment I couldn’t find that same love for myself.
I knew that if I was feeling like this, then other women were too. I felt this incredible sense of passion and drive to create something that would help eliminate those feelings for women. ‘Those feelings’ being feelings of shame and insecurity - that sense that there is something wrong with them and their body. My fashion studies helped me understand that ‘those feelings’ I experienced had nothing to do with me or my body - I just had to find a better swimsuit.
So I decided the best way to find a better swimsuit was to design it myself. I found designing again really exciting, but before I was swept up in the process I promised myself that I would never contribute to the disrespect and degradation of the planet and people involved in the making of these garments - something that is unfortunately all too common in commercial fashion production.
I’ve found that ideas strike at unusual hours, and the idea of Baiia was no exception. The name came to me early one morning, and with almost divine timing, my university had just sent out an email asking previous students to apply for a grant competition should they have a social good business idea. I read the email, I entered the competition - and I won!
Baiia - an idea, a series of fortuitous events, a lot of intention and a long time in the making - all coming together at exactly the right moment. Since then I’ve continued to dream and refine my designs to celebrate and accentuate the female figure. My creative philosophy is to empower women through design and create something that they’ll cherish for years to come with minimal impact on the environment.
In early 2018 I made the decision to finally bring something to life that I had wanted to share with the world, but like any designer was hesitant to see how it would be welcomed. That was the birth of our signature reversible & multi-functional wrapsuits, and I can excitedly say has since won me DHL’s Emerging Australian Designer of the Year, but even more importantly has changed the way so many women feel about their bodies (life goal, accomplished!).
There really is nothing else that brings me more joy than knowing I can offer something to women that makes them feel incredible. Of course, I have my challenges (both business and personal) and there are so many things I can’t wait to improve on and share with my Baiia women. But what’s important is knowing that women of all body shapes & ages, from all over the world are celebrating themselves in our designs - which only makes me even more excited and focused on my businesses and my own personal mission:
To create unique and feminine swimwear that empowers all women and honours sustainable practice.
Thank you for riding this wave with both me and our baiia team, but most importantly, thank you for believing that together we have the capacity to change the world for the better.