Bikini Empire: Ethically Creating Endless Summers
The epitome of true Canadian business ownership? Bikini Empire, owned by twin sisters Kelsey and Monica Rush. The self-proclaimed “water babies” started their own retro-chic swimwear company in 2014.
They didn’t know it at the time, but Kelsey and Monica grew up with the entrepreneurial spirit. They didn’t host lemonade stands to cover gaps in their allowance; instead, they converted their grandfather’s old tractor into a produce and baked goods stand so they could sell fresh foods to boaters at the marina. During college, the sisters stayed up late making jewelry and clothing to sell on campus. Monica went on to become a graphic designer in adulthood, and Kelsey a content writer. The two traveled the world together, surfing and swimming along the way, but never liked the bikinis available to them. They thought they could create something better–something cute, functional, and ethically produced.
Like the sisters mention on their blog, there are already thousands of bikinis on the market; at stores like H&M, savvy shoppers can grab a bikini for just $30. But Bikini Empire operates a bit differently. The company sources their super-soft fabric from a solar-powered facility in Italy. Bikini Empire swimwear is made exclusively out of a family-owned factory in Vancouver, where workers are paid up to 600% more than the average sweatshop worker. Even their zippers and elastic are sourced from Canada. As Kelsey and Monica put it, they “think globally by acting locally.”
But don’t let their commitment fool you: the owners of Bikini Empire have their fun. Kelsey and Monica say their favorite part is the product testing—AKA spending a day at the beach. They pull inspiration from international architecture, modern art, and retro surf culture to create fun (yet comfortable) swimwear. Bikini Empire hosts photo shoots right on the beach of the Dominican Republic, where Monica now lives. Though running a business can be tough, the sisters love their Bikini Empire adventures.
A lot of great stuff is in the works at Bikini Empire. Their summer 2016 collection is already on sale, but this year they release their first fall line: Resort 2016, made for jet-setters and winter vacationers. Kelsey and Monica plan on rallying Canadian artists to create bright prints for future collections. You’ll also catch them this year at the Vancouver Know Show from July 20th to the 22nd.
Bikini Empire’s soft, durable swimwear may have a bigger price tag than other brands, but by buying a Bikini Empire bikini, you’re supporting true Canadian entrepreneurship. You’re also receiving a swimsuit that can withstand endless summer days of swimming and surfing—and the twins have made sure of that.
Photos and videos by Bikini Empire.