Fashion
JM | Sep 10, 2021

Brittany Johnson on the swimsuit brand that almost never was

Juanique Tennant

Juanique Tennant / Our Today

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Owner of Miakalani Swim, Brittany Johnson

Brittany Johnson is the talented Jamaican entrepreneur behind the widely successful Miakalani Swim line of swimwear.

Though a creative for as long as she can remember, having honed her craft while pursuing a major in Visual Arts at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts, the ability to sew, a skill on which her business today heavily relies, is one that for many of her younger years, escaped her.

“I didn’t even know how to string up the needle,” the 31-year-old told Our Today in an interview.

Having pursued Food and Nutrition during her time at St Andrew High School for Girls, learning to sew was one skill the then 21-year-old Brittany had never quite mastered.

The Anne Monokini by Miakalani Swim. (Photo: Instagram @Miakalaniswim)

So how exactly does one move from being incapable of sewing to personifying the Jamaican proverb, “tun yuh han mek fashion,” you ask?

Well, the answer may just surprise you. All hail YouTube University.

“My mother had an old sewing machine but I had no idea how to use it,” said Brittany. “So my little sister had to show me how to string it up and then it was just a lot of trial and error from there and watching YouTube videos and teaching myself.”

A testament to the statement, “you can do anything once you put your mind to it,” the Kingston native explained that the creation of her swimwear line is one she chalked up to “lots of trial and error.”

The Astra Monokini by Miakalani Swim (Photo: Brittany Johnson)

“I’d just sew with the machine, mess up something, fiddle with the machine and figure out what works and what doesn’t work, ” stated Brittany.

As it relates to where the motivation to start her own business came from, Brittany noted, “The first piece I made was a dress, this was back in Blackberry messenger days so you’d put up the picture and everybody would get a notification that you’ve changed your picture.

“So I made a dress and I had my friend model it and I put the picture in my display, and I got a lot of rave reviews from my friends asking me to make one for them and stuff like that and that’s when I decided that I was going to keep going.”

The Nina Cover-up and Nikita Bikini by Miakalani Swim. (Photo: Instagram @Miakalaniswim)

While a dress was the first clothing item she ever made, the designer shared that she had a clear preference for swimwear.

“We live on an island; most times, we are at the beach, river or the pool, so I thought it was pretty fitting,” said Brittany.

A born creative, the swimwear line-owner explained that the idea for her pieces was generally inspired by a host of things.

“It could be a colour or a plant that I like, or it could be the fabric itself, like I’d get a specific fabric and say this would look nice in this style as opposed to another fabric looking better in another style, ” shared Brittany.

The Jazzy Bikini by Miakalani Swim. (Photo: Instagram @Miakalani)

An advocate for inclusivity, the Miakalani Swim owner expressed that her brand’s target audience was very wide-reaching.

She stated: “When I first started, my target audience was younger women in their 20s. But now my audience goes up to people in the 60s and 70s.

“I know not every style will be able to cater to every body type, but what I know is that say you are a more mature woman but you see a style that you like on my website, I could alter that style to your liking to fit your body type so that you feel comfortable. Because, you know, a 50-year-old is not going to wear the same thing an 18-year-old would.”

On the matter of where she would like her business to go within the next five years, Brittany noted that she had big dreams of expanding.

The Billie Monokini by Miakalani Swim. (Photo: Instagram @Miakalaniswim)

“I would like it to be a standalone business, meaning I’d like it to run itself, so I would still come up with the designs and be the creative person but I’d like to have more staff to assist with making more of the pieces in bulk,” said Brittany.

She added that she would also like to make her pieces available in stores locally and internationally as well as expand the brand offerings to include swimwear and resort wear for men, a mommy-and-me line and pieces outside of garments such as sunglasses, bags and other things of the like.

Miakalani Swim is available for purchase online at www.miakalaniswim.com, which ships worldwide, or, if you happen to be in the Kingston and St Andrew area, you can visit the brand’s showroom located at Pulse in New Kingston or visit shop Sobelio at Sovereign North.

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