Gone are the days that swimsuits should only be worn to a beach or the pool. Just because summer is simmering down doesn’t mean your swimsuit has to.
Grabbing inspiration from her lived experiences in the fashion capital New York City, the swimsuit central of Miami and her Jamaican roots designer Keva Johnson, sitting at the helm of Keva J Swimwear is making waves with her extraordinary swimsuit collections. Creating the perfect style for any women at any season. “When I first came out, I was super edgy. I love to be different in my path, but I’ve learned that not every woman is as edgy, but still want to be fashionable,” Johnson explained. “I had to switch it up a bit, but still stay true to who I am.”
Since launching in 2005, most recently, Keva J Swimwear has been seen on R&B’s sweetheart, Ciara and featured on Black Owned Everything, a website curated by Zerina Akers, the widely known stylist to ChloexHalle and Beyoncé. Johnson, herself, has been featured on BET’s Rip The Runway as well as the notable daytime talk show, The Real.
“I’m happy that people have really noticed me for my talent more than anything, and that’s what I’ve always wanted.” Johnson said. “I’ve always wanted my talents to stand out for people to recognize the brand for what it is especially for me being a Black woman.”
ESSENCE got a chance to speak with Johnson about her new Wild Tingz collection, the creative process for the brand, and how to stunt past swimsuit season.
Essence: Wild Tingz is the latest collection and it’s inspired by Jamaica. What was the creative process like for this debut?
Johnson: When I was thinking about this collection, I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to go with it. I knew I kind of wanted to do something tropical. Leopard prints and bright colors are in, so I knew I wanted to go that route, but I didn’t really have a main focus yet. When I was searching online and I found a print that had red, green and gold colors and automatically I thought Jamaica. This is going to be a collection based on the fashionable island girl. When I saw that print, everything just came to me. I wanted bold colors that spoke.
Essence: Most, if not all, of your prints are so vivid, detailed and just full of pizzaz. How do you know when you’ve found a Keva J print to match one of your sketches?
Johnson: It just jumps out at me, I take hours to look at so many prints and when I see the right print I get excited. All of a sudden my mind starts working and I’ll immediately start putting things together. When I get inspiration, I’ll have to sketch it quickly and start working on it.
Essence: You were featured on Black Owned Everything, which is curated by Zerina Akers. What was your reaction seeing your brand on Beyoncé’s website?
Johnson : I was completely shocked. [Akers] reached out to me and she was like, “I love your stuff. We’ve got to do it on B,” and I wrote her and was like, “Wait, do you mean B as Beyoncé? This as a joke,” I did not believe in it. She was like, “Yes, I love it. Here’s some of my favorites.” I was just so honored that she even reached out to me personally featured the brand on there. It was a humbling experience and I’m really thankful.
Essence: Who are three celebs or influencers you would love to see in Keva J?
Johnson: Cardi B definitely. Kollin Carter and their team are phenomenal. I would love to see Rihanna in my suits, and of course Beyoncé, I’m putting it out there.
Essence: One of the things I really love about Keva J is the inclusivity that is clear cut from the motto to your models. Could you touch on what inclusivity means to the brand?
Johnson: My whole team, my photographers, my hair and makeup team -they’re all Black. It wasn’t something that I sought out on purpose, but we just all mesh. They are just so creative. I can come to them a with an idea and they would execute in the best way. I love the fact that Black creatives can come together and create something amazing. With my customers, I do like to show a range of models, but I love to show our sisters since we come in all different shades. I want people to see that Keva J is for everybody and we’ve got a color that’ll pop on your skin.
Essence: To get even more from a Keva J swimsuit, how would you style one for an everyday look?
Johnson: I love high waist shorts and pair it with a crop top, that’s my go to. I would literally wear the Kingston Top, a high waist paper bag short, throw on some heels and go out.
For more information visit www.kevabykevaj.com.