Like the majority of students attending college, Dani Atkins wasn’t totally sure what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. She entered into a promising career aiding mental health patients but was unsure if it how she wanted to spend her life. A routine vacation to Hawaii was where she had her lightbulb moment. Thus, Kulani Kinis was born.
Channeling inspiration from the Australian lifestyle of her youth, Dani, along with her partner Alex, founded a brand of affordable and vibrant swimwear, with the aesthetics influenced by Dani’s love of the sun in her hair and the sand beneath her feet. Dani’s career change was certainly for good reason, as Kulani Kinis’ pieces are now sold in Australian and American retailers and have expanded to sell jewelry and activewear. Not just a brand, Kulani Kinis encourages buyers to embrace change and find their own individual definitions of success.
Below, the designer dishes advice on finding the right path and everything you need for spring break.
How did you know you needed to change your career path?
I had a lot of pressure to find something I wanted to do before I left for college. It was pretty young to find what you want to do for the rest of your life. I loved what I was doing at the time. I grew up with a brother with an intellectual disability, so I went into the psychology path. Then I realized I wasn’t looking forward to going to work. I do an annual vacation to Hawaii and that’s the only time I felt really settled. I wanted to keep that feeling where I felt my best. I paid a lot of money for not very much, since swimsuits are tiny, so I thought surely I could do something like this. It started off as a side hustle and then I launched an online store and took it full-time.
What would you say to those who are still waiting for that realization of their path?
Find something you can tolerate and what you want to experience. Don’t become consumed with the idea you think you need or what you’re trying to find. It will come to you when you’re ready and the timing is right. Take each experience as it comes and see what you can gain from it. Be more present and see where life will lead you. Don’t be dissuaded from doing something, even if you think you don’t have the skills.
Where do you get inspiration from when you’re designing?
I love color, so anything that’s vibrant and that reminds me of an island escape. Swimwear is that type of clothing where you can have fun. It doesn’t have to be too serious or how you usually represent yourself.
What are your favorite swimsuit trends of the moment?
The high-neck top because it’s functional and it won’t undo. Also, the one-pieces. When I’m not at the beach, I wear mine as a bodysuit with skirts.
What do you think differentiates your brand from others?
The swimwear market is super saturated, but being an Australian brand, we have some of the best beaches in the world. We have that natural lifestyle since the beach is our backyard. Compared to other brands, we try to keep it under $60. Some of our prints are also very unique.
Do you think there’s a swimsuit style that’s universally flattering?
The one-piece or the triangle. The triangle because you can adjust the straps over the shoulder. You just need to find the right coverage that’s best for you.
What advice do you have for those who might not be fully confident in swimwear?
You have to pick something you feel completely comfortable in, especially a cut that highlights your assets. The one-piece provides more coverage. But most importantly, you have to find that confidence within yourself.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far with your brand?
We were picked up by a retailer in California and also, Forever 21. This is something I get to do every day, which I’m very grateful for.
What are your spring break essentials?
Sunscreen, an amazing swimsuit, a good book and good company. Also, papaya oil. You can put it on your lips or use it to treat a sunburn.
What would you advise for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Make sure you have that passion and find that point of difference, whether it be your cuts, prints, or price point. Create a mood board, talk with manufacturers and take that first step. Find something that’ll separate you from the rest of the market.