Splash Magazine: You started biKa Swimwear in 2011. How has your line evolved in the past two years?
AmbiKa Sanjana: My journey with biKa Swimwear has been such an enriching experience! We launched in Miami back in 2011 at Salon Allure in South Beach with the Apsara Collection. We got a fantastic response and really got a chance to showcase my unique style of fusing both my cultures into my designs. We since then have been blessed with the opportunity to participate in several events internationally.
We have done LA Fashion Week, Miami Swim Week, several trade shows (Surf Expo, Swim Show, MAGIC), fashion shows, charity events and much more. biKa Swimwear launched our second collection the Rajputani Collection in LA at 1010 Wilshire with an exclusive rooftop poolside event, and we got rave reviews! In the new collection, I have played more with silhouettes and color, catering to multiple body types. This collection was inspired by the royals of Rajasthan and has been received very well by the buyers and clients. We are selling in retail stores internationally today (Los Angeles, Miami, West Palm Beach, Mumbai). Launching in my hometown Mumbai last year really was a huge accomplishment for me and dear to my heart. We have also been affiliated with several pageants, our most recent was the Miss India Universe 2012 pageant where biKa Swimwear was the official Swimwear Sponsor. We also have partnered with Birthright NGO in India, where a portion of our sales goes directly to the charity. Another exciting avenue for us has been designing poolside staff uniform bikinis for various hotels in Miami, and we are now focusing on retailing with hotel and resort chains. This journey has been incredible and I feel so honored to be able to share with the world the rich cultural influences from my country India and the positive response has been a motivation.
SM: What are some of your personal and creative influences when it comes to designing swimwear? Do you have a philosophy when it comes to your designs?
AS: My heritage and culture is definitely my primary inspiration. My years growing up in Mumbai, India were colored with a rich understanding of textiles, handicrafts and unique style of embroidery and embellishment. I loved dressing up in our cultural garments and wearing them to functions and festivals! After moving to the United States in 1999, I yearned to showcase these bright and beautiful garments in my own way. Living by the beach my entire life and being a total beach bum inculcated a desire to create swimwear that was my own unique style. I wanted to fuse my two favorite influences into one, and thus, biKa Swimwear was born. My philosophy really is simple...I design pieces that I myself would love to wear! I love color and bling and thus a lot of my designs incorporate both aspects. I also am heavily influenced by Bollywood. The mystery and charm of the movies back home comes through in some of my designs. My designs express who I am and both my worlds.
SM: You are very active in your community volunteer work. What are some of the organizations you support and donate your time to and why?
AS: I have been very active in my community volunteer work for some time now. Growing up in Mumbai was pivotal in this because we were exposed to people in severe poverty and dire living conditions. Living in America and being fortunate to have so many blessings from my wonderful family has made me very sensitive to those who are less fortunate. My heart goes out especially to children and people who are hungry and homeless. I have been actively volunteering with the Bell Shelter Salvation Army, and The Cheesecake Factory sponsors a Thanksgiving Dinner there every year that I have been helping at for years. I also spend a lot of time volunteering at the LA Family Housing facility in North Hollywood. My company biKa Swimwear is also affiliated with Birthright NGO. For me the satisfaction of being there for those less fortunate is indescribable. Sometimes people don't realize living in glamorous city like Hollywood that there are so many hungry, homeless & needy families out there. Whether its feeding the homeless, mentoring children or simply giving to the man on the side of the freeway...we touch lives! It is so appreciated. It keeps me grounded and always appreciative of every single thing in my life.
SM: What does 2013 hold in store for you and your swimwear line? Any upcoming events?
AS: 2013 is going to be an epic year (13 is my lucky number)! We are launching my new collection this summer at Miami Swim Week. My goal is to also launch in five new locations by summer. We are off to a good start, as we will be opening at Miss Monkey Boutique in Goa, India. We tied up with a feature film, Exposure, in which biKa Swimwear will be featured heavily, it is scheduled for a March release. We have had several celebrities such as Maria Menounos, Kristin Bauer, and Emmanuelle Vaugier recently procure biKa swimwear pieces, and we are shooting several editorials and summer issues for some big publications. I also want to make it to New York Fashion Week - so, please do stay tuned!
Photos: Instagram - @bikaswimwear