Mhairi talks to Carole Ribbocon St Barts resident and founder of Bonibarth Concierge Services about Kikki-G.
Q. You have been coming to St Barts for a long time and now you live between London and St Barts. You used to be a lawyer. Its quite a change to swimwear. Tell us about your new venture. Why swimwear?
Mhairi: I have been coming to St Barts for 15 years and am very lucky to spend lots of time here. I have always loved beach life and beach fashion. But for the past few years I have struggled to find good swimwear. The swimwear that I liked didn’t work for me. I wanted swimwear which was stylish and elevated. But also cut so that it would flatter me. There were 2 options, swimwear which was stylish which I would have worn when I was 25. The other option was swimwear which was supposed to be for my age group which was full coverage and frumpy. I didn’t want thick straps but I did want subtle support. In St Barts there are so many fabulous forty something women but I don’t think the very stylish swimwear brands are thinking about these women.
Q. When did you start working on this project and when can we buy your swimwear?
Mhairi: I have been working on this project since 2019. In 2018 the company I worked for closed and I began to think about what I could do next. Actually, for the first time in my life I started to think about what I really wanted to do. Before I had always done the sensible and responsible job. It was liberating for the first time in my life to think differently. It’s the St Bart’s effect I think!
It’s been crazy busy since 2019. I spent 6 months studying at the Institut Francais de la Mode in Paris. I have spent a lot of time working on the cut and the fit. Its so important. I want to make swimwear which makes the wearer feel good and is comfortable.
I have also spent a lot of time researching and sourcing fabrics. I am really proud to use a bio-based fabric from Brugnoli in Italy. All swimwear fabric is traditionally made from oil derived plastics. The bio-based fabric is made from oil from the caster bean plant. In addition to be a great environmental solution it looks and feels really beautiful. When you are a startup you can be much more dynamic than established brands. Some of the pieces are accessorised with a vegan leather made from cactus in Mexico. It looks and feels really beautiful. It’s been a labour of love.
The first collection will be available by the end of June from my website www.Kikki-G.com. In the meantime, you can follow our progress by subscribing to our newsletter. For St Barts lovers we have lots of inside information and we also love to hear from our customers about what they want from swimwear.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration?
Mhairi: My main inspiration is St Barts. Its such a special place. I love the feeling of freedom here. People are so unguarded and friendly. And of course its super chic. I love the imagery of St Barts in the 70’s. You had to be pretty intrepid in the 70’s to get here. I want to capture that feeling of adventure. But it has to look effortless. I have spent the last 2 years living in Paris. I love that Parisian nonchalance. The Parisian women are so chic. We lived in a beautiful apartment next to Rue St Honore. The people watching there is amazing. I love how French women really know what they like and what they want.
I love that French aesthetic. But I like it to be modern and interesting. Now I live next to Portobello Road in London. I love moving around. New places are so inspiring. But nothing compares to the feeling of landing in St Barts.
Q. How would you describe the aesthetic of the swimwear?
Mhairi: I would describe the swimwear as timeless chic for cool modern women. We don’t particularly follow trends. I am much more interested in shapes which flatter and which are comfortable. There’s a dash of South American glamour in there also. I love the upscaled luxury of some of the Brasilian brands but I like to make it more wearable and more effortless. I love using oversized tortoiseshell.
Q. Where do you manufacture?
Mhairi: I am now based in London where my 3 children go to school. I am working with a small production facility in the north of England. Its owned by 3 women who have been making swimwear and lingerie for 20 years. They are amazing to work with and such good fun. For me, that’s the bottom line. Its fantastic fun. I love the process of designing and then working with them on refining the cut and the fit. As I don’t work with a large manufacturer, I have the flexibility to do small productions runs. Some of the pieces we will make to order. I really don’t want to overproduce.
Q. Where did the name come from?
Mhairi: Its named after my 2 daughters Caoimhe (pronounced Kiva) and Eugenie who is always called Gigi. I love that they love wearing my swimwear. They have been so encouraging and are great fit models. They especially love my line of KG’s.
Q. What are KG’s?
Mhairi: This is a special line of swimwear which can also be worn as underwear. When I lived in St Barts I would wear a bikini under my clothes every day. I was usually working but I knew at some point in the day I would go the beach even for a quick swim. I love that feeling of always being beach ready. It’s like carrying St Barts around in your heart. I also love to travel light and with KG’s I don’t need to pack underwear and swimwear.
The fabric is super light swimwear fabric. They are double lined for good coverage but not bulky at all. The colours are quite different from the rest of the lines. They are based on the colours of the Mokes in St Barts, really cute and fun.
Q. How do you see the brand developing?
Mhairi: The most important thing to me is to make swimwear which women love and which they keep for years. Its all about the beach and enjoying those moments of beach life, feeling good and looking amazing.