My Story series
Australian Designer Kim Van Loo, started West Indies Wear her island beach vacation clothing collection when she was sailing around the Caribbean in her late 20's. Sailing as a kid really instilled a sense of adventure and a love of the sea.... 20 years later she sailed across the Atlantic and found herself in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean heat took some getting used to, and at first she lived in her bikini's on the boat, but she had to go ashore sometimes. She longed for cool cotton clothes that she could cover up with, but still keep cool. In the end, she designed her own brand of island wear in the perfect cool cotton fabrics.....
Here is the story of how we got started....
Sailing as a kid really instilled a sense of adventure and a love of the sea. I remember one particular sail across the Whitsunday Passage when the wind was quite strong, the sea was up and my Dad let a 12 year old me helm the whole way! I felt the same pure exhilaration that I then felt on my own boat many years later... Here I am with my sister Cristi & our family pooch Cindy
Travel was already in my blood... My Oma & Opa fled post-WWII Holland by boat, with their home flat packed and 2 little boys in tow, the eldest was my Dad at just 5 years old. Calling Australia their new home, they rebuilt their little Dutch house on a corner plot in Wollongong and had another baby, a little girl. This is my first passport photo, when my Dad took me to the stunning Pacific island of Fiji to visit my aunty Jane on their sailing boat 😊
I was 21 and had just graduated when I was off to Sydney for an all expenses paid trip to attend the 1992 Australian Fashion Awards... It sure was amazing to see my garments float down the catwalk!! ❤️
When the travel bug bites, it bites HARD!! After graduating from fashion school I began working full time and making patterns on my bedroom floor at night to save up for my first overseas trip as a "grown up" 😝
My first design job outside of #Australia was in Alexandria, Egypt and I was lucky enough to pick up very basic Arabic and visit so many amazing sights, including the Valley of the Kings, Masada Mountain in Israel, and Turkey. Here I am the Egyptian Pyramids... Thankfully my fashion sense has improved!!
In 1997, I was already planning a trip to Africa when I was asked to do one season as Designer for Billabong, South Africa... I stayed for 4 years and was fortunate to travel the world to attend conferences, trade shows and visit factories. Here I am in China, when I was there to develop a new summer collection in 1999
In 2001, Justin and I left South Africa on our 34ft sailing boat, Miroba... Here I am the helm, somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean
It took us 55 days at sea and 3 island stops to cross the Atlantic and we were engaged by the time we arrived in the Caribbean!! This was one of the most challenging yet rewarding adventures of my life...
Finally on the "other side", we dropped anchor off the spectacular island of Tobago and started planning our #caribbean journey... I was finally in the tropical heaven that I had been dreaming of for 2 years!!!
When we first arrived in the Caribbean, the heat was overwhelming and I lived in my bikini. I longed for cool fabrics to wear and found nothing but polyester and nylon! Well, I guess I better make my own #caribbean wardrobe....
While we were sailing I was creating beaded jewelry in all the colors of the Caribbean Sea. I used crystals, glass beads, and LARIMAR, which is the gem stone of the Caribbean and only found in Dominican Republic...
After a few years of #caribbean life, my very good friend and old colleague at Billabong, South Africa said to me "when are you going to stop fiddling around with jewelry, and start your own clothing line?" and it was my "Aha! Moment" So, I bought an old hand operated sewing machine from another #yachtie and started sewing samples right there on the boat.
And so, we fell in LOVE with the Caribbean lige and decided to settle on the gorgeous, Dutch/French island of St. Maarten. This photo is taken whilst sipping a rum punch at Sunset Beach Bar, Maho Beach...
And then we were 3... Maya was born in Australia in December 2003 and we moved back onboard Sahara when she was only 4 months old. This little #boatbaby changed our worlds forever!!
I did a trip to India right at the very beginning and found most amazing fabrics in pure cottons that were so perfect for the heat of the islands. I designed our first ever collection on a dodgy overnight train in Northern India back to Delhi... I couldn't sleep, I was just buzzing with the excitement of the potential! By the time we got to Delhi I had everything drawn up, handed it over to the production guys, and flew back to the Caribbean to wait for the samples.
I began selling my designs from anchor... Hoping from island to island, pulling up in the dinghy to showcase my sarongs and #purecotton tank tops in light and breezy colors!
Living the dream is only a dream come true if you share it with the people that you love... Justin, Maya and I always loved when family would make the journey around the world to visit us!!
My baby sister, Amy, was inspired by the super yachts during a visit to St Maarten... And, so, we were both on the same side of the World!!
I was spoilt for inspiration... Surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world! Turquoise waters, bright green palm leaves and sandy beach treasures would become the classic details of #westindieswear garments
In 2006, I visited the USVI's to meet our wonderful rep, Lulu and our ever growing network of virgin island customers
And so West Indies Wear was born... I used our "rice and beans" money to buy a laptop and started designing prints & color ways for the islands. When the first lot of samples were ready, we were on the island of Grenada... I contacted a friend of mine who is Grenadian and asked if she could please put me in touch with some of her family members, in the hope that they might receive the sample package since we obviously had no address!! Once we had samples, we hiked all over the island trying to take photos
Ho Ho Ho!! Merry Christmas! Santa brought us boxes and boxes of #westindieswear garments from the factory in India... While the business was growing, we sorted, re-packaged, invoiced and shipped right from our little island home in St Maarten!
Each individual sarong was hand packaged with LOVE... Here is 3 years old #islandgirl Maya, our director of sarong bags!!
The first ever trade show we attended was the Caribbean Gift & Craft Show at St. Kitts Marriott in 2006. Can't believe this over 10 years ago!
Our first visit to #surfexpo in Orlando, FL was in 2008... We had an amazing response to our bright #caribbean colors and light, #purecotton fabrics
With Maya already 6 and another one on the way, it was time to leave the Caribbean and move our family #downunder. With the manufacturing and distribution of #westindies under control, I felt like was finally able to design from just about anywhere in the world!! While we missed our island family, Australia and its stunning coastline has proved to be inspiration behind so many of our now fav garments
This gorgeous freckle face came along not long after we moved home to Australia, in June 2011... And so, we were a family of 4
An accident of the GREATEST kind... Jordy joined the family in March 2013
Our first photoshoot with the incredibly talented @shawnjackson_rtb was back in 2014, when my sister @amy_islandgirl moved to the stunning Bay Islands in Honduras... 3 years later, Maggie and Shawn continue to amaze us with their photography
I visited the beautiful Caribbean island of Haiti on a buyer's trip just a month before it was hit by a catastrophic magnitude 7 earthquake in 2010. I had been so touched by the island and so shaken by their loss!! In 2014, #westindies began sponsoring this beautiful young #islandgirl to help her finish school... A privilege that only 2% of Haitians ever get the chance! Edine will have the oppurtunity to graduate in 5 more years and she dreams of becoming a nurse! #onelove Haiti
Our #purecotton pineapple beach shirts being hand washed and hung to dry in the cool breeze after careful production in India... With love from us xo
I have had SO much fun walking down memory lane but tomorrow is a new month, friends!! Thanks so much to all of you for "Tuning In" and I hope you will join me tomorrow when I reveal our May series
We are officially flipping our calendars over to May, friends!! And with so many #westindieswear retailers in stunning locations, and we are so excited to share them with you... Call it, vacation inspo
Hope you enjoyed our My Story Series ......#onelove #islandsmiles
Click here to check out Kim's latest collection.