Hi !!! I am Kim, the designer and owner of West Indies Wear. A lot of you already know me, but for all of our new island friends out there, I thought I would introduce myself.
My parents took me sailing as a kid, here I am steering the boat, gotta love those sunglasses!
A few years in a row, they took us kids out of school for 3 months over the winter months, and we drove for 3 days up to the northern coast of Australia, (from Wollongong NSW to Gladstone QLD) where they launched the boat and we sailed around the islands. Here we are with our dinghy and dog Cindy. A fellow sailor had made us these hats out of a palm frond "for a smile".
In my teenage years I was obsessed with sewing and fashion. I had a part-time job at a fruit shop, and all of the money I earnt, I spent on buying fabrics. Every spare moment was spent on making new clothes for myself. So many long hours of unpicking my mistakes and learning how to sew.
Fast forward a whole lot of years, when school finished I went off to Fashion College. My fashion school graduation collection made the finals of Australia's most prestitgious design awards in the student category. It was 1992 and my collection was on the runway at a star studded event, LIVE telecast from Sydney Town Hall around Australia..... for a student it was SO EXCITING. Here is the video....
Here was a newspaper article about me from that time.....
After graduation I worked in clothing companies in Australia for a couple of years whilst saving up to go traveling. Here I am doing extra patterns and grading on my bedroom floor to save up money for my travels.
Once I left home to go traveling I worked in all sorts of strange countries as a designer. Here I am working as a designer for a massive clothing manufacturer in Egypt. Click here to read a full article about my job in Egypt.
A few years later I traveled to South Africa where I was head designer for Billabong South Africa for 5 years, this photo was taken in our very busy Design room. Originally I had just wanted to go back-packing around Africa, but my best friend from fashion college convinced me that that was a little too daring and even dangerous! She was a designer for the new Billabong womens line that had only just launched, and she convinced me to go and work for Billabong South Africa for "just one season".... well I kinda got stuck.
It was during this job that I met my husband, Justin. An adventure loving surfer boy, and I ended up staying at Billabong South Africa for 9 seasons. Justin and I hatched a plan to save up and buy our own boat, and sail to the Caribbean. Here we were on the dock - Justin was leaving to go on a delivery with friends to learn how to sail and get some experience before we went off on our own boat.
Here we are 2 years later sailing to the Caribbean from South Africa on our own tiny little 34 foot yacht. It took us a total of 51 days at sea.... click here to hear about that adventure.
Fast forward another couple of years, we got married, had baby Maya, and ended up buying a bigger boat to house our bigger family. Here I am on launch day of our 2nd boat "Sahara" with baby Maya. She had only just turned 1.
I love this photo of toddler Maya in the dinghy.
I started West Indies Wear at around this same time. I didn't want to put my daughter in childcare for as long as possible, so I thought starting a clothing brand would mean I could spend more time at home with her. Here I am sewing samples on the boat.... we had no electricity, so I am using an old fashion hand operated sewing machine that I had bought of another yachtie.
Here is me in one of our early photo shoots for West Indies Wear, on the beach at Guana Bay, St.Maarten. This was our most favourite beach, as it was quiet and most week days we would be the only people on the beach.
When we first started WIW, we would sail between the islands, Justin would drop me off on the beach where the fancy resorts were and I would walk up to visit the buyers with all of my samples. After a couple of years we discovered that most of the buyers from the big resorts in the Caribbean were actually travelling to Surf Expo - a tradeshow in Orlando FL USA to do their buying..... and I realised that would save us a lot of time getting to see everyone at once, rather than sailing between the islands.
Here I am with my first banner I had made, for my first ever trade show.
Here is one of our early shipments..... we had moved off the boat, and into an apartment in St.Maarten, and we received the shipment into our lounge room. This was right before Christmas, so we were trying to quickly pack and ship all the orders out to our boutiques so that we could have the lounge room back in time for Christmas.
These days we are sold in over 200 boutiques all over the world. All up the East Coast of USA, Bahamas, throughout the Caribbean, Hawaii, Australia and even a few Pacific Islands.... I design my collections from my home studio in Coffs Harbour NSW, manufacture with a small 4th generation family factory in India, and warehouse in an incredible facility in Nashville TN. What an amazing journey it's been. Here is a photo of me in our trade show booth, January 2020, just before the world shut down with Covid.
One love island friends