Diana Kim | Ana Banana

For some, the more expensive the piece, the better it looks: the tag determines the piece’s desirability. I think choosing something to wear is all about how you look and feel in it. We often find and give meaning to what we wear; in other words, it becomes, if it isn’t so immediately, about so much more than what you are wearing now — what we wear connect us with times and places that add up to make who we are.

That is what I wanted people to feel when they wear something I designed. I already had a background in menswear but in order to do that, I realized, I had to make something that I would personally want to wear. My happiest moments were when I was out at the beach or a pool having fun, spending time with my family and friends, so I decided to move on from designing menswear to women’s swimwear - to designing that means something to me.

At the early stages of setting up for business, my experience at my old job came in handy. There, as a menswear designer, I had a chance to familiarize myself with different aspects of the fashion industry. I started as a CAD designer [CAD = Computer Aided Design] then gradually expanded my field to merchandising and production. When I decided to move on to swimwear, it was good to know that the fundamentals behind design-to-production were not so dissimilar. I was starting from square one but I felt that I had a sense of direction.

"A key to survival in an industry constantly in flux: control and manage challenges on your own pace. Panic is not conducive to running a business."

I took classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I found inspiration everywhere, from bits of nature in the city, to surreal dreams I often have. I visited shops and looked online to look into a lot of vintage silhouettes to find classic contour lines. Then, step by step, I built Ana Banana.

I am still working on my business skills through programs like NYC Business Solutions and SBDC (Small Business Development Center) courses from Baruch College. It is so great to have so many options out there that can help you launch your business. It’s absolutely amazing that they are also completely free.

For now, the money I saved from my old job is enough to keep Ana Banana running. But when — when and not if — I start receiving larger orders from department stores, I will have to look for other sources of investment. Programs around the city, my education, inspirational people all around me, and, most importantly, I myself, will help me get through that barrier when it presents itself.

The fashion industry is exciting because you get to meet amazing people and everything runs at maximum speed and energy. You never get used to or overly comfortable with things because trends change rapidly. A key to survival in an industry constantly in flux: control and manage challenges on your own pace. Panic is not conducive to running a business.

I am proud to see myself grow as an entrepreneur and a girl boss. The feeling of vulnerability and challenges of starting a new business only made me stronger. After the paper work, the business details, the phone calls, and emails are taken care of, it is still refreshing to find that inspiration to do better is there wherever my eyes wander.

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