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Arrow + Phoenix Swimwear is Much More than Swimwear, It’s a Lifestyle.

The brand shows off the sexier side of sustainability.

Arrow + Phoenix Swimwear was born when founder Kayla Bell frustratingly discovered that it was nearly impossible to find swimsuits that accommodated larger breast sizes and didn’t sacrifice style for comfort. This inspired Bell to create a brand that offers swimsuits for every body. Each swimsuit is made from recycled water bottles and yarns, minimizing waste and prioritizing our planet. A+P has since expanded this ethos into skincare, activewear and home goods. From chic and minimalistic swimsuits, to shower oils and jewelry dishes, Bell has managed to cultivate a lifestyle for the woman on the go who is unapologetically herself. We caught up with Bell to learn just how she got the brand to where it is today.

Kayla Bell from Arrow + Phoenix

Kayla Bell from Arrow + Phoenix

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

My background is as complex and straightforward as they come: I’ve always known my purpose but never knew what my journey would be to achieve it. I was born and raised in New Orleans until my family was displaced to Jacksonville due to Hurricane Katrina; we ultimately landed in Houston. Long before August 2005, I always knew I wanted to be a fashion designer and would have a creative career. I’d sketch in a mini sketchbook my grandmother gifted me and had come up with a concept for a brand called Classic Couture at the age of 7 so it’s always been written in the stars. The unique path I’ve been blessed to be on hasn’t been the easiest but it’s been mine and I’ve loved every twist and turn that has come my way. Everything A+P is has been built off of a culmination of my experiences in the many places I’ve lived, the coastal views I’ve been inspired by and the people I’ve met along the way. After high school, I spent time living in Los Angeles up until the pandemic and my time on the west coast influenced not only most of the brand’s color palette but also my perseverance. The girl I was at 16 when I first started this particular journey I know would be so proud of the 20-something-year-old woman I am now. I’m proud of where I’ve been, excited for where I’m headed and have learned to be present and bask in every moment.

How did being born and raised in New Orleans shape who you are today?

New Orleans is a city rich in culture and full of resilient people. The vibrancy and soul of the city is something I always effortlessly intertwine into the brand from swimwear style names to silhouettes inspired by fashion I saw growing up. When owning a business or working in fashion, especially the past few years, everything is so unpredictable. There are endless ebbs and flows that require you to be resilient and to roll with the punches while keeping the faith that all of your hard work will pay off. New Orleans has absolutely given me the tools to do that. My hometown is a jewel and is truly the strongest city with the toughest people. I’m proud of my roots.

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What inspired you to create Arrow + Phoenix?

In high school, it was absolutely impossible to find swimwear tops to fit my 5’3” frame that boasted a 38DDD bra cup size at the time. Back then, essentially every store sold swimwear only as full sets and while I could find bottoms to fit, tops were not easy. The tops I found that were cute didn’t fit and the tops that fit me and gave me the support I needed were hideous. I remember being so discouraged and annoyed that I went to three stores, bought three tops, and then cut and sewed them into one top that I loved. From there, high school girls from my school and other schools in the district would ask me to make them swimwear tops because they also had the same issue. I was so inspired that I knew I wanted to not only build a swimwear brand, but also build one that allows as much customization as possible to fit EVERY BODY comfortably.

Katrina Scott was photographed by Yu Tsai in Tampa, Fla. Swimsuit by Arrow + Phoenix Swim. Top by Matte Collection. Necklaces by Aureum Collective and 8 Other Reasons.

Katrina Scott was photographed by Yu Tsai in Tampa, Fla. Swimsuit by Arrow + Phoenix Swim. Top by Matte Collection. Necklaces by Aureum Collective and 8 Other Reasons.

What does the brand name mean?

While working in retail, anxiously awaiting to really get A+P going, I saw a quote about arrows. I have this thing where I don’t move on an idea fully until I have a name and A+P was nameless at the time. The further an arrow is pulled backwards, the more momentum it has to hit its desired target with precision and intention with the fullest of forces behind it. The arrow in our name speaks to overcoming any obstacle that comes your way and knowing that tough times don’t last but resilient people do. The Phoenix portion of our name represents the mythological bird who rises from its own ashes. It’s never defeated but continues to be reborn. With our pieces sustainably made to order from recycled water bottles, we want to always upcycle and give new life to our garments.

What makes Arrow + Phoenix more than just a swimwear brand? What is the A+P lifestyle about?

Though we started off with just bikinis, our brand has since expanded into activewear, sustainable home goods and clean skincare, plus we have a few other additions coming this fall. We want to show that sustainability isn’t only attainable but is also sexy! The A+P lifestyle is about having choices that allow anyone to feel their sexiest and most confident while also being intentional about carbon footprint and the impact their spending power has on the earth. Our lifestyle is all about conscious confidence and comfort that doesn’t require you to sacrifice sex appeal.

I’m so proud that A+P is designed especially for the woman on the go who is stylishly minimalistic, confident and conscious of her purchases. Whether she’s swimming in the clear ocean waters of the Maldives, laughing with friends poolside or enjoying a solo birthday trip to the illustrious Amangiri, the A+P woman is all smiles because she is comfortable, confident and feels sexy in her own skin.

How do you personally work on feeling confident in your own skin? Do you have any tips?

My personal journey with my own confidence has been one full of ups and downs due to having PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). There are moments where I feel my sexiest on good days and there are moments where I want to hide when I’m in the midst of a flare up. However, since the pandemic, I’ve learned to really love all parts of me on good and bad days. Being confident in my skin isn’t linear but I’m my most confident when I’m with my friends and loved ones, laughing hysterically, or when I’m at the gym! The gym has really helped boost my confidence because I’m so active and love a challenge so when I hit a goal, no one can tell me sh-t. On my not-so-good days, instead of sulking or hiding in oversized sweats due to a health flare up, I put on Drake or Kaytranada and dance it out. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I’ve learned to at least give it a try. My biggest tip for anyone struggling with their confidence is to do what you love as often as possible. Limiting your time on social media, spending time outside in the sun and surrounding yourself with people who love you and encourage you to be yourself while embracing all parts of you is a real game changer.

Can you tell me about A+P’s sustainability efforts including the recycling program and work with The Coral Restoration Foundation?

In full transparency, we have to update this because COVID-19 shifted our recycling program to ensure everyone remained safe and healthy. That being said, our company is proudly sustainable in a multitude of ways. Not only is our swimwear made from recycled water bottles and yarn, but also our pieces are made to order to eliminate stockpiling items and adding to waste. All of our packaging materials are completely recycled and some of it now is also compostable. At the same time, our bikinis fashionably transition into crop tops, bra tops, bodysuits and panties in the cooler months, which allows customers to repurpose their pieces year round. Our work with The Coral Restoration Foundation has been based on donations as partial proceeds from our T-shirt sales are donated to this foundation as well as a few others now. Philanthropy is a big part of our brand ethic and I’m excited to do more as we had so many things planned before the pandemic that are now starting to pick back up. When it comes to sustainability, we must care about the Earth and the humans who live here so this fall we’re launching a few community refrigerators to help those who are hungry and in need. They’ll be paired with garbage cans and recycling bins to not only ensure that food is accessible but also that the waste is properly discarded and doesn’t end up in drains or the beach.

What is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned throughout your career so far?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to keep going and have patience. Things don’t happen overnight, regardless as to how it looks to the outside world. Run your race for you. Your purpose is yours and yours alone so live in it fully. Patience and intention will get you anywhere you want to go and everywhere you’re supposed to be,when you’re supposed to be there. My journey as a designer and entrepreneur hasn’t been easy but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. When first building A+P, I was so young and fearless as I was simply a teenager looking to create something that embraced my figure and manufacturers and buyers didn’t take me seriously and would often try to discourage me. But when our bikinis made it into Sports Illustrated for the first time in 2019, every single “no” wasn’t in vain. Reading customer reviews always makes me tear up. In the end, A+P’s mission is so much bigger than sexy bikinis and hearing from satisfied customers makes it all worthwhile.

Where do you see Arrow + Phoenix going in the next five years?

I’d love to see our bikinis and activewear in specialty stores like Kith, The Webster, and Diane’s Beachwear, specialized boutiques in hotel resorts all over the world, and in mom-and-pop-owned swimwear stores. I absolutely want to do an A+P fashion show for Paris Fashion Week within the next few years as well. Aside from that, I really want us to be able to award scholarships to those looking to go to school for anything focused on fashion, sustainability and agriculture. I want Arrow + Phoenix’s name and brand to be synonymous with the sexier side of sustainability as well as being a pillar in the community known for paying all of our efforts forward.