Here's your chance to find out more about what has driven Sensi Graves to set up her own surf bikini line and what exactly it takes to run one.
Did you grow up by the beach, Sensi?
Actually, I did not! I grew up in the Redwoods in Northern California. I have three brothers and we grew up on a giant piece of property 20 minutes out a dirt road. We were always outdoors and competition among us was fierce. This drive to outpace the boys is expressed in my vision for Sensi Graves Bikinis, where we inspire women to get out there and get after it.
Being away from the beach, how did you get into kiteboarding?
Despite not growing up on a beach, I’ve always loved swimwear and in college moved to a beach town. I started kiteboarding in college. My dad introduced me to the sport and I quickly fell in love. I’ve always been into sports and growing up I played basketball, ran track, wakeboarded, snowboarded, played volleyball and more. In college, I also started surfing, in fact one of the reasons I went to University in a coastal town was so that I could become a surfer babe!
"The drive to outpace the boys is expressed in my vision for Sensi Graves Bikinis, where we inspire women to get out there and get after it."
Natasha Oakley (@abikiniaday) wearing Sensi Graves Bikinis.
When did you start thinking of setting up your own bikini label?
I launched Sensi Graves Bikinis in 2012 while I was coaching kiteboarding in North Carolina. A bikini was my uniform and my recreational outfit. I quickly became fed up with what the market had to offer. At the time, there wasn't anything that was designed or marketed for active women. There were a few older, frumpier brands but nothing that identified with what I was; a young, fashion-conscious athlete that wanted to look flirty and fabulous but also be able to rely on my wardrobe for when I was doing all of the fun sports that I loved (namely kiteboarding and surfing at that time). Therefore I decided to make it myself!
Had it always been a dream to create your own swimwear brand?
No, but I’d always dreamed of doing something entrepreneurial. In Junior High I wanted to start a community newsletter, The Leggett Letter. I oversaw my fledgling paper for only a few months but the spark was lit. I've always been very independent and like to see things through. After my mother died, a whole lot of responsibility landed on my shoulders which I think also prepared me for the ups and downs that come with entrepreneurship.
Behind the scenes at Sensi Graves' first swim trade show in 2012.
"I’m usually always watching the wind and if it starts getting good, will bolt from my office to the beach to go catch a session."
What does your typical working day look like?
The one thing about being an entrepreneur is that you wear many hats. My work differs depending on the time of year and can be focused on design, sales, budgeting and more! That being said, I try to start my day with a workout, then a few focused hours on projects before diving into emails. Finally I’m usually always watching the wind and if it starts getting good, will bolt from my office to the beach to go catch a session.
How long will it take to design a whole new collection?
Great question! Collection designing is a process. Whether it be sourcing materials, gathering trend and print data, prototyping new styles or having fit sessions, a lot of time goes into making the best possible suits for active women. I typically allow for about four months to design a cohesive collection.
The sew house in Portland, USA.
Do you put all your new designs to the test in the water?
Our team of ambassadors help immensely! Product feedback is key in ensuring proper fit and function, therefore we ask everyone to lend their opinion. We have athletes from all different disciplines from beach volleyball to yoga to kiteboarding test and wear our suits.
Do you keep some of your collections as a keepsake to yourself?
I still can’t seem to let go of the very first suits I ever made, so yes. ;)
"We’d like to develop a closed-loop product system where old bikinis are sent back for repurposing."
What would you like to achieve in the near future?
Elevate female watersports athletes, particularly kiteboarders. Not enough female riders get proper support from brands and I’d love to support them in their dreams. We’d also like to develop a closed-loop product system where old bikinis are sent back for repurposing.
Not just beautiful bikinis, but beautiful tan lines too.
(Don't forget to put the suncream on!)