We might be having a limited summer due to COVID-19, but that’s no excuse not keep it cute when we get the chance to pull out that bathing suit. Luckily, Arrow + Phoenix Swimwear founder and self-proclaimed beach bum Kayla Bell has created a sustainable swimwear brand that offers comfortable, supportive and luxuriously sexy swimwear made from recycled materials which take 70% less energy to manufacture.
Since it’s conception, the Black-woman-owned swimwear line has been seen on major influences across the music and entertainment industry from rapper Megan Thee Stallion and dancer group Lazer Gyals to influencer, actress and mogul Vanessa Simmons. Arrow + Phoenix has collaborated with major brands in partnership with, but not limited to, The Honey Pot, HUM Nutrition, Sweetgreen and Tiesta Tea. HelloBeautiful had the opportunity to speak with founder Kayla Bell about the history behind the name, her experience with shopping for bikinis with her larger breast size and the importance of body positivity.
At just seven years old, Kayla Bell expressed an interest in fashion and had a keen eye for design. What she didn’t know was this passion for fashion would catapult her into a career of fashion and styling that would soon change her life in ways that she would never imagine.
During her preteen to early teenage years, Bell discovered that her 38DDD cup size was hard to be accommodated by traditional swimsuit brands – thus, Arrow + Phoenix was born with bold colors, 90s influence and comfortable silhouettes for real women. “When I was in high school, I always had the hardest time finding swimwear tops because I’m petite but top heavy and finding swimwear that was cute but also supportive was nonexistent. After my final summer of being frustrated, I decided to start making my own and felt that I couldn’t be the only woman having this problem so I decided to build a brand,” Bell told HelloBeautiful.
The 25-year-old continued to speak on the birth of Arrow + Phoenix, “I started building the brand at sixteen years old and though I didn’t know how to build a brand, I knew what I wanted other people to see when they heard Arrow + Phoenix so I decided to build what I wanted to see. I still keep that mindset to this day. When it comes to content, styles, colors, etc. I think about what I’d want to see and wear as a consumer.”
On the name of the brand, Bell revealed that she never moves forward with an idea publicly until there’s a name to a face. “I wanted to empower women and build a philanthropic platform through swimwear so I knew the name had to represent that. The more an arrow is pulled backwards, the further it propels forward and when it comes to the Phoenix bird, it never dies, it simply rises from its own ashes,” the designer revealed to HelloBeautiful. Hence the name, Arrow + Phoenix.
While some women are #SummerBodyGoals already, some may not be as comfortable in their bodies as they would like to be. Luckily, Kayla Bell has created Arrow + Phoenix with body positivity in the forefront of her mission. “I’ve always been big on body positivity because there’s no such thing as a ‘bikini body. Someone’s size shouldn’t determine whether or not they should wear a bikini,” said the beach babe herself. “I personally have loved bikinis my whole life. Growing up in New Orleans, summers were hot and I always looked forward to picking my bikinis for the summer as a kid so to now have a brand that is built around bikinis that other women love is humbling and such a blessing.”
The environmentally friendly swimwear brand has partnered with hotels across the country, featured in Sports Illustrated’s iconic Swimsuit edition and built a capsule collection with former Cosmopolitan Magazine editor Diandra Barnwell. For Kayla, using recycled materials is everything to her production process because not only is it a way to give back and educate, but it also allows her brand to use its platform to do more for the community.
“What good is a bikini if we have no beach to wear it to? Sustainability, in multiple forms, is embedded in the ethics of our brand. My family was heavily affected by Hurricane Katrina so I always knew I wanted to build a brand that gave back,” Bell explained to HelloBeautiful. Within the next few years, Bell is hopeful about the expansion of her brand and being sold in more stores worldwide.
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