Growing up, Gladis Kiambiy struggled with her weight and as she often travelled the continent, found it increasingly difficult to find the right type of swimwear. Swimwear was often catered for women that had slimmer frames or looked a certain way depicting that beauty only came in one size and form. Breaking the stereotype and feeling frustrated with the lack of diversity, Gladis decided enough was enough and started creating her own designs, birthing ‘Culture of Swimwear.’
We discuss diversity and inclusion in the swimwear industry, balancing a 9-to-5 with a growing brand, and much more.
Can you tell me about your brand and why you decided to start culture swimwear?
My weight had often fluctuated over the years and between 2013-2015, I was traveling to Florida lot. Whilst there, I visited the beach often but the one outfit that I was lacking was swimwear. I found that all the local retailers were creating the same type of swimsuit, which were either bold, or in one colour, or catered more to slimmer women. I found this highly frustrating and at that point I said, “I’m designing my own swimsuit”.
Initially, when the idea of Culture Swimwear was conceptualised, there wasn’t much diversity and inclusion for women of all sizes. However, I believe the improvement within the swimwear industry is amazing. There are now brands which offer different types of swimwear to meet all needs. One of the main changes I would like to see is more diversity swimwear for men, children and maternity swimwear.
You balance a 9-to-5 with a growing business. What are your tips on working full time and balancing a business?
It can be very challenging; there are times that I enjoy the challenge and there are times that don’t necessarily. I have to remind myself that prior to Culture Swimwear, I held down 2-3 jobs and in my University days, I still continued to work 3 jobs and ended up with a 1st class degree. My tip is to remain focused. I will be honest, the pressure will get to you, however as long as you stay focused, nothing can defeat you.
Can you tell us about your designs and the inspiration behind them?
I get inspiration for my designs when I come across swimwear brands and think of ways in which I can improve on it. For example, if I see a swimsuit that’s plain, I think of ways to add colours and improve the design. Mainly African prints and culture are an inspiration behind my designs.
Who would you like to see in your swimwear brand? Are there any women in the media that you would love to see rocking the swimwear?
I am hoping for my swimwear to expand to men and children. Therefore, I would like to see my products on the likes of Stormzy, Lethal B, Jamelia, Stefflon don, Ms banks, and not just here in the UK, but also in the US, Congo, Ghana and many more.
Tell us a little bit about life of an entrepreneur…
It’s all about balancing, learning from your mistakes and taking in your mistakes.
Where do you see the brand in the next 5 years?
Hopefully in next 5 years I will be more established in the US and Africa and would love to explore the idea of creating swimwear for other cultures.
What was the biggest highlight for the business last year?
To be honest: everything – from gathering the final pieces, the photoshoot, meeting the models, receiving support from my friends and family and receiving shout outs on my Instagram, even from the people I don’t know. That was priceless.