Hana Ryan is doing some cool things over at Craft & Culture, and shares my passion for highlighting indie designers and local Seattleites. Here's her latest designer feature, Leah Lawrence's Drifting Arrows.
The Pacific Northwest may not typically be considered a swimwear capital but Seattle-based designer Leah Lawrence is about to put it on the map with her new line Drifting Arrows. In the debut collection, Leah presents four impeccably edited styles in a palette of oceanic matte colors. A life of travel and time spent near the ocean inspired the designer to create swimsuits that incorporate timeless elegance into a modern lifestyle.
Born in Africa and raised on Maui, Leah grew up in vibrant cultures and dramatic landscapes. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for the past 10 years, the designer wanted to create a line to reflect both her nomadic upbringing and Seattle sensibilities.
The theme of Drifting Arrows is “traveling without a set destination.” Leah envisioned a worldly but realistic woman. “I thought about the experience of going to the beach, swimming and then having a day of stuff to do after,” she said. “One of my primary considerations was creating suits that transition seamlessly into the outfit a woman will be wearing after the beach -- something that will be beautiful peeking out from under your clothing.”
How has Africa influenced you?
I think Africa has inspired me to travel to unexpected destinations and places that are less developed. I’m interested in areas that have more authenticity, a kind of a ruggedness and untouched quality.
Is Drifting Arrows your first design venture?
It is! I designed swimwear in school years ago but finished school feeling kind of disillusioned. After graduating I worked as a buyer at Blackbird Ballard, a men’s retailer in Seattle, and tried to get a real grasp on the industry and how to get from point A to point B in the fashion world. When I realized it was time for me to do something, swimwear was the obvious choice.
What do you think makes a great swimsuit?
I think a great swimsuit makes a woman feel super comfortable and sexy. That is the most important thing, honestly. You have to avoid a situation where the bathing suit is wearing the person and also create something that highlights the best assets of a woman’s body depending on what those are. Each woman is different.
Tell us about your materials.
I source all my materials from an Italian company that makes the highest quality lycra you can get. That is what they specialize in and their testing is really, really thorough. They also offer an amazing array of colors. I’m proud to import it myself.
What has surprised you most about this process?
I worked as a buyer for a long time so I was on the receiving end of peoples’ emails and phone calls. People were reaching out trying to get me to take a look at their line and I always knew what they were doing was hard. I wanted to be really empathetic to their situation and look at everything that they were trying to show me but you can’t get to everything. I thought I already knew that was how it was going to be. But when I actually started calling stores and trying to get my thing out there, it was hard. Ultimately I got tough skin, stopped caring and would email someone a 7th time. And sometimes after that 7th time, they were like, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t see your email. I’m so glad I saw it this time.’ So you have to persevere through that and not be so sensitive.
Where do you feel most at home?
I feel most at home in the upcountry of Maui with my family. The compound.
What are you most excited for in the future?
In terms of Drifting Arrows, I’m really excited about fleshing out the line and adding more styles, colors and prints -- really bringing my vision forward. I had to start as simple as possible with minimal styles, minimal colors, no prints. So I am excited to expand and at some point do eyewear, beach bags and give a whole story.
Interview by Hana Ryan of Craft & Culture. Photography by Mckinley Parker. Product model: Juliana @ LUSH. Editorial model: Anna H. @ TCM.