I met Rani while we were both living in the tiny island paradise of St John in the US Virgin Islands. Of the many people I’ve met on St John, Rani is definitely one of the most badass. I’ll never forget the first time I met her, going into her shop to try out one of her hand-crafted teeny bikinis. I tried some bottoms on and looked in horror at the amount of untanned cheek that was exposed. I thought, “I could never wear this in public.”

I walked out to show my girlfriends who had taken me on this adventure, and proceeded to have an awesome “girl power” moment. Rani told me to be proud of my body, my friends told me I looked great and ten minutes and 4 pieces later we were out the door. From that day forward I noticed that Rani was a powerhouse of love, light and creativity. I’ve kept Rani’s super comfortable bikini bottoms with me traveling the world and I’ve kept her many empowering ideas close to heart.

My friends and I all in matching Ranifly Bikinis while working as an all girl crew!

I recently decided to interview Rani for my Women Making Waves series. Check it out along with photos of Rani’s original handmade bikinis!

1. Where are you from?

I am from a tiny island in Washington state called Treasure Island but have lived mostly in the Caribbean for the last 20 years with a few years on a boat traveling around Indonesia, Thailand & Singapore. I have always lived on a boat or on an island.

2. Where do you live now?

I just moved to Hawaii a little over a year ago. I needed grocery stores and film festivals after years at the ends of the earth. The middle of the pacific ocean is still pretty out there, but has all of the amenities and I can go to the fabric store any day of the week.

3. Where and when did you first learn about working on boats? 

I started working on boats the minute I landed in St Croix. I had done some extreme rails (in the really cold water) sailing as a child in the Pacific Northwest but that did not deter me. I was lucky enough to have a great captain who explained how everything worked succinctly and gracefully. He handed over the lines and the wheel on my first day, along with his great love of sailing. I was hooked.

4. What are some of the best parts of working on a sailboat? 

Being on the water everyday, the freedom, the wind, there is absolutely nothing I don’t love about it.  I also love crew camaraderie.

5. What are some of the struggles?

For me the struggle was always between having a creative space and commitment to boating. It was either move forward to become a captain or pursue my artistic and creative self. Everyday I miss being on the water, but I also missed intense creativity when I was sailing all the time. I did have a sewing machine on the boat in Indonesia, but for projects to work you need space, commitment and focus.

6. What inspired you to create Ranifly Bikinis? 

I was working on boats in bikinis everyday in the Virgin Islands and it was very hard to find suits that were comfortable to wear all day that held up to being very active. Also, I was wearing very different sizes on top and bottom and needed suits that wouldn’t hurt my neck – and that would stay on my body. Once I started making my own suits it was obvious I was on to something. Not only were my designs comfortable but they were supportive and durable. Plus, they looked great! Eventually I ended up simplifying my suits into all reversible lines which is stylish, but also gives the suits a lot of physical integrity.

7. How do you come up with new concepts for designs

Designing is the fun part. A lot of times I do it in my sleep. There are few different parts: One is pairing fabrics and prints. The other is designing the actual structure of the piece. My design process is a little different because I factor in functionality. Sometimes new designs are stumbled upon by accident while trying to solve a problem for a specific body type or activity.  I design tops to be adjustable for comfort and longevity. I try to see what is out there but also not follow trends. I figure if someone else is doing it why should I? Also, I prefer the styles to be timeless instead of trendy. Trendy is really the last stage before tacky. I would rather be a form & function trendsetter and build suits that don’t just look great but perform well.

8. What’s your business motto? 

I have a few but I think that the suits I make are “Real Suits for Real Women.” In a sea of luxury lifestyle trends Ranifly is the a very active-adventure based swimwear line. We are the women pulling up the anchors and sails, we are in the lineup, we are kiting and scuba diving, we are exploring and also running after our kids. My favorite motto is “Ranifly Bikinis – Made for the best days of your life,” because you can’t really have a bad time in a Ranifly Bikini!

9. I see you traveling all the time, how do you balance work and travel in your life? 

In all reality I work to travel. When I was 16 I told my parents that I wanted to go to Brazil for carnival. They told me I could go if I earned the money for the trip. Thats how my first clothing endeavor was launched. I started silkscreening t-shirts and selling them to anybody i could. Its been that way ever since.

Traveling is my passion and the thing that makes me feel most alive. I love an adventure into the unknown and I like to do it alone to really feel the tingle and independence. It is a similar freedom to sailing offshore, you never know what is going to happen. As far as the balancing act, I’m not sure I pull it off so well. I would probably be more successful in business if I didn’t travel, but for me travel is life and so in turn, that is success.

10. Where do you see Ranifly Bikinis in five years

I am gearing to grow into a successful online business serving a niche customer base. I had a store in the Virgin Islands and although the business model was very successful, I hated it. It was so hard to be creating suits and sewing but also be doing the million other things that come with running a store. I was unhappy and my head was spinning day and night, it was quite the opposite of sailing. I decided that if I could create a more successful e-commerce business serving people who want quality and custom swimwear I would be happier. It was a leap and very hard starting over, but I have learned so much and am really looking forward.

11. What causes matter most to you? 

Conservation and the environment. As an Indigenous woman I feel our struggle is firmly entwined with the land & waters as living entities. I would like to see a cessation to our reliance on fossil fuels, a transfer to renewable energy and biodegradable “plastics” made from corn, hemp or fungus.

12. If you could offer some advice for women getting started in the sailing industry, or starting their own businesses, what would you tell them? 

Follow your passion, the things that set your soul on fire.

Empowered women empower women. Rani is someone who lives this. Since our interview she has made some progress in moving toward her ultimate goal of making bikinis from natural materials. Recently she met some people who print ecologically friendly recycled lycra. As she states in her blog post, “not only is the new eco-fab sustainable, made from a mix of post consumer plastics including fishing nets and water bottles otherwise destined for the landfill, it is processed ecologically as well, with high standards for wastewater and emissions. The cherry on top is that this new fabric has won awards for its long life and durability.”

This is such exciting news. For a small company like hers to be taking big steps toward reducing its environmental impact is incredible. I hope to see more of this in the future!

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Check out Rani’s website to learn more about her project and to buy one of her super amazing swimsuits! If you’d like to follow Rani’s journey please check her out on the social medias:

Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

Check out these kickass interviews from Women Making Waves: 

Freediving with Sharks: Liz Parkinson

She Quit Silicon Valley to Captain Boats in Hawaii: Katie Kretzinger

Trusting Your Instincts Onboard: Kaz Adams