A true tropical eye-candy, She is From the Jungle Swimwear from Brazil adorned us with bold and colourful, jungle-patterned swimwear on our riviera-on-repeat vacation days this summer. Although we have just nostalgically waved goodbye to the endless salty-hair-and-sandy-skin beach endeavours, golden sunsets and mid-day playtime at the closest marina, we now peek into the behind-the-scenes of the socially conscious beachwear label. We caught up with the founder, Domitila Barros, who talks us through the ABC of the label, proudly empowering body positivity and supporting marginalised communities in Brazil.
Words: Hanna-Amanda Pant
What made you start out with your own socially conscious label, She is From the Jungle Swimwear?
As a Brazilian/German woman, I have experienced both cultures and social-economic parallels, which has influenced my belief that consumers can empower disadvantaged communities. With a Masters degree in Political and Social Science and having worked in sports for the past three years, I was inspired to follow more of my passions and explore the creative side of business. Creating an eco-friendly swim line allowed me to embrace and express femininity, and also gave me a chance to provide opportunities for other women.
Tell us about design philosophy: what inspires you the most when coming up with new designs for your swimwear?
I am inspired by the women who surround me; they come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities and I greatly appreciate their transparency and acceptance of themselves. We all have imperfections and different ways of embracing ourselves with all our flaws. And I believe that is what makes life, and us, humans, interesting and beautiful. My hope and philosophy is to design bikinis that make every woman feel comfortable and confident. I want my designs, like the women who wear them, to be diverse. For example, some beachwear can be worn in two different ways, or can be reversed to expose a different colour, or can easily transition from a bikini to a crop-top.
"I believe that partnering with eco-conscious companies and magazines, like this one, is a good start to create awareness regarding supporting local craftsmanship."
Who have you partnered with when creating the jewellery that accompanies the swimwear looks?
We work with local artisans and farmers from the state of Tocantins in Northern Brazil, who hand-craft the jewellery. The main material we use is called Golden Grass. It is a rare plant that has the appearance of spun gold and continues to shine after it is harvested. It is strong, durable and flexible enough to be woven into accessories. I love the idea of using sustainable and natural materials.
You also state that you support another good cause, women's economic empowerment in Brazil. How does that work?
We have partnered with the street-child project, CAMM (Centro de Atendimento a Meninos e Meninas) which has existed for over 35 Years in a Slum called 'Linha do Tiro' in Brazil. Through CAMM, we hired women who crochet our bikinis from home and use this money to pay for nursing school or daylight care for their kids, for example. We also donate 10% of our profits directly to CAMM.
What are some of the main concerns Brazilian makers face and how we can support the local craftsmanship and make it even more visible?
One thing that I've learned is that representation can cut someone's voice or build very specific, sort of monochrome, parallels. I would prefer to hand over this question to the Brazilian makers, but from my perspective, one important concern is the visibility of ethically sourced goods in the international market. I think more and more people are gravitating toward sustainable and hand-made items. I believe that partnering with eco-conscious companies and magazines, like this one, is a good start to create awareness regarding supporting local craftsmanship.
"The more we promote diversity, the more it will be accepted."
Why do you think running a social enterprise, e.g. incorporating a good cause into your operating policy as a business, matters in today's marketplace?
I think it matters in todays marketplace because it is up to society and consumers to help shape the fate of our future. It’s important to provide consumers with socially and environmentally conscious choices. I think, as a business owner, there is a type of power and responsibility to lead the way in which people can buy goods that they can believe in, and feel good when supporting them. For us, it is very important not only to provide sustainable incomes for the producer communities, but also to build a place where to work with local artisans from Brazil helping the local economy.
I love that your bikini caters for all shapes and sizes. What do you think about the stigma that only size 0 women are displayed in lingerie advertising campaigns? How can we encourage change and bring more shapes and sizes to the fore, and prove that everyone should enjoy fashion?
It’s a shame and disservice to women that majority of advertising campaigns use 'size 0' models. It’s not only unhealthy, but it’s also a misrepresentation of women as a whole. Part of the beauty of human beings is the diversity! That’s why it is important to have models of all sizes and backgrounds in our photos. For example, on our online shop, we have introduced women of different body shapes and shades. The more we promote diversity, the more it will be accepted.
"I wanted to use material and patterns that reflected the tropical environment and vivid jungle colours, while also incorporating practical, multi-faceted designs."
How does Brazil's culture and climate inspire you when you create?
Growing up in the Brazilian jungle and islands, I have been always captivated by the dancing of the coconut trees, the rhythm and flow of the clouds and the ocean waves, and the different curves ands shapes of the women. I wanted to use material and patterns that reflected the tropical environment and vivid jungle colours, while also incorporating practical, multi-faceted designs. That's why I've come up with beachwear that can be used for swim, yoga, a work-out session, or even a night-out dancing under the stars.
As this is a critical issue for many women, what are some of your personal tips that make you feel more confident in swimwear?
It is still a journey for me to feel totally confident in swimwear! There is so much pressure from society and now social media for 'perfection', whatever that means. I personally believe in affirmations or mantras. These are positive statements that can help you overcome negative thoughts. Like 'I love and accept myself and my body'. There are studies that have shown amazing results using uplifting self-talk by re-programming your brain and your subconscious. And not to mention that I just love to be outside, to swim, to do yoga in a comfy, colourful cropped top and walk barefoot. I like the idea of women embracing their bodies, femininity and flaws.