MICHELLE and DANIELLE are a mother-daughter duo who together co-founded HK-based swimwear brand, Anja Swim. And it’s fair to say they’re making a splash in HK with their handmade bikinis and swimsuits!
About the founders
Michelle is originally from Vietnam and was raised in New Zealand until she moved to Hong Kong in her 20s, after getting a job working as a translator for Vietnamese refugees at the United Nations. Her daughter Danielle was born in New Zealand and grew up in Hong Kong her entire life, until she headed to Los Angeles for university.
When Danielle returned to HK in March 2020 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pair decided to try handmaking bikinis on their own – it was an idea they’d been thinking about for a while, without having the time to actually work on.
Utilising Michelle’s prior experience with making swimwear – she not only worked for one of NZ’s most successful swimwear brands of the day, Expozay International, but she also started a small shop selling handmade swimwear after moving to HK – the pair set out to create their own designs.
Danielle also had some crafting experience from when she was a child, courtesy of her mum: Michelle would teach her creative skills like sewing dolls’ clothes, knitting scarves and crocheting blankets.
About the brand
The project initially began as a fun hobby for them to spend more quality time together after being separated when Danielle was at university. But then they spied a gap in the market. “Around this time, we began to realise how expensive swimwear sets are, and we wanted to provide a more affordable alternative for friends in Hong Kong,” says Danielle. “Everything from sourcing the fabrics, crafting the designs of the bikini, creating the patterns, packaging the orders, and running the website and social media accounts is completely handled by us!”
The initial design and production process took some time, as they had to ensure the shape and fit of their pieces matched their vision. “After experimenting with many different designs, we finalised our three main bikini styles, the ISLA, NILE and MIRA sets.”
Michelle and Danielle tell us more about Anja Swim’s collection of bikinis and swimsuits, and some of their HK favourites.
#1 On what sets Anja apart
The most noteworthy aspect is that everything is handmade at home by us! We hope to differentiate from other fast fashion swimwear brands by reducing waste caused by overproducing pieces. For the most part, each piece is made on order, which allows us to implement the custom element of our brand. We allow our customers to mix and match styles as well as colours. For example, if someone wants a specific colour pairing, such as a pink bikini with red straps, we are more than excited to make that unique piece for them! While this takes time and effort, we aim to keep our prices affordable. We feel that too many “trending” swim brands are selling pieces for ridiculously high prices; we would like to promote ethical production of clothing in an affordable way.
#2 On the brand’s best-sellers
Our most popular style is definitely the NILE set, particularly in white. The versatile top can be styled many ways and has caught the attention of many customers. (It was also the first set we perfected after our launch!) Also popular is the blue ISLA set bikini with white coloured straps. Early on, a friend asked whether it was possible to change the strap colour; we hadn’t initially thought of this, but we soon realised the vast number of new colour combinations it would allow.
#3 On what’s new and notable
We recently announced that we’re adding three new fabric patterns, a new one-piece style swimsuit and mesh sarongs to our collection, and we’re looking forward to dropping these new products on our website and social media!
#4 Favourite HK swimming spots
Definitely Tai Long Wan! It has the most beautiful beaches and water in Hong Kong. Overseas, our favourite would be Mount Maunganui, our hometown in New Zealand. This area is known for avid surfers and swimmers with a very fun beach atmosphere.
#5 Favourite break from work
We have a pet poodle named Ollie who holds our heart. We love taking him out on walks, hikes and meals out in the city! In addition to caring for Ollie, we enjoy being creative and learning new skills. We recently went to a ceramic creating and painting class as a fun little activity for a new experience and to learn a new skill. We love being creative and that drives a lot of not only our work with Anja Swim, but also our free time
See the Anja Swim bikinis and swimwear collections at @anjaswim and anjaswim.com; shipping is available throughout hk and now worldwide too!
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2022 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.