Meet …Bantu Wax

Bantu founder Yodit Eklund talks surf culture and sustainable production.

I grew up all over Africa and now spend about 80 percent of my time traveling there for work. In 2009, I launched Bantu. I am a surfer and wanted to bring awareness to the continent’s under-the-radar beaches. There is more and more pollution because people don’t value the beaches in Africa. I thought if Bantu could expose people to the beaches, we could help preserve the environment.

We work with African designers to develop all our prints, which are based on wax cloth. Originally, wax cloth was brought over by Dutch traders; it stuck and has become a vital aspect of African culture today. We use the patterns of wax cloth and print them on technical fabric in Italy (the suits are all cut and sewn in Africa, though). Our craftswomen are trained to make seven styles of swimsuits, but we have so many prints that it ends up being a pretty big collection.

One of Bantu’s aims is to create jobs and help the local economy while also changing the outside view of the continent. We employ around 30 Africans in Ethiopia, South Africa and the Ivory Coast. And this spring we also started sponsoring a surf club in Sierra Leone called the Bureh Beach Surf Club.

Photographs courtesy of Oroma Elewa for Bantu.

To shop our entire Discovered assortment, including Bantu Wax swim, click here.

A Moment with…Araks Yeramyan
her lingerie has a cult following (she counts Sofia Coppola and Michelle Williams
among her fans), so it’s only natural that she’d branch out into swimwear. (you’ll
see that the retro-tinged styles she designed for us are reminiscent of her line’s
underpinnings.) here, we check in with the Armenian designer at her downtown
New York studio to talk shedding layers and warm-weather escapes…
How is your swimwear collaboration with J.Crew similar to designing

This is my second foray into swimwear. I dabbled briefly; it proved very successful
and had a great following. I’m excited to be launching again with J.Crew. When
designing swimwear, I can be bolder with color choice. It’s like lingerie
but for everyone to see!

You worked on our women’s design team in the ’90s. Tell us a little bit
about that experience…
I loved my time at J.Crew. It was my first job after graduating from Parsons and the
place where the idea for my collection was conceived. I was looking through a box of
multicolored trims and I started to build a vision of having beautiful cotton
underwear in many colors. Everyone there was extremely helpful in connecting me
with the right people to start my line.

We hear you’ve been a fan of J.Crew since you were young…
The clean, simple and classic aesthetic worked into my style well. I remember
everything I bought was cotton and had wide stripes. I still love a good stripe. I also
had this green denimlike jacket that was lined in grey. I was obsessed with it.

How did the collaboration with J.Crew come about?
J.Crew has always been on my list of brands to collaborate with. I thought many
times of emailing Jenna, so I was superexcited when they contacted me. I love the colors and
the quirky preppiness of J.Crew.

So, what makes for a great-fitting swimsuit?
Fit is one of the most important things for lingerie, especially for a bra. It also has to be
comfortable enough that you don’t think about it. I bring the same attention to fitting
swim as I do to fitting lingerie.

Your swimsuits make us want to get to the beach, so tell us, what’s your favorite
beach destination?

I love the small, quiet beaches of Bahia, Brazil. You can relax and there are a lot of
local vendors, so you can get something to eat or fresh coconut water anytime. At
night, you can go into Salvador. I love that you have both at the same time: small
beach town and city. And the people in Bahia are great.
The best swimming water goes to Grand Saline in St. Barths, though. The water is so
blue it’s surreal.

Photographs by Shawn Brackbill

Shop the Araks for J.Crew swimwear here.

© 2014 by J.Crew. All Images and materials are copyrighted by J.Crew unless otherwise noted.

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