Swimwear designer Keva Johnson is a woman that loves to express herself through her designs and since she has always loved fashion, it came as no surprise that she was even voted best dressed in high school, then going on to study apparel design in college.
“Fashion has always been my passion, even though it sounds cliché. I am down to earth and I love to have fun, and I love to design…that is my happy place!”
Another happy place is where she came from. She considers herself Jamaican. In fact, her whole family is from Kingston, Jamaica except her grandmother who is from Mandeville; and despite the fact that Keva was born in New York she is thoroughly Jamaican at heart. “I love the island as a whole…it is so beautiful. We have some of the most beautiful beaches and waterfalls. Mayfield Falls and Hellshire Beach are two of my favorite spots. I also love the music of course, and the food at Hellshire! My Jamaican background does influence my designs in a lot of ways; in some of the colors and details that I use.”
Her fashion taste runs the gamut of design details, cut, and color. Anything different is clearly attractive to her. She shops anywhere for herself, but loves Tj Maxx and Marshalls. She considers those stores to be her little “hidden gems!” But readers need to know that she once wanted to design for Barbie. “That was my dream,” she said.
“I kind of fell into swimwear; I would watch the shows during NY Fashion Week. I loved Gideon Oberson of Gottex, Rosa Cha and Roberto Cavalli. One season, Cavalli had a series of black and white swimsuits at the end of his show! I loved it…they were so different and edgy! I thought, wow, high-end swimwear on the runway! And that’s what attracted me to swimwear design.”
Launching Keva J in 2008 and moving to New York City was the result of not being able to find a cute swimsuit to wear for a cruise with her friends. “Everything looked the same. So I made a couple of designs and did a photo shoot. Back then this was when MySpace was popular. I put some pictures up on my page and the response was crazy! People actually liked these designs and I took it a step further and moved to NYC, and as they would say, the rest is history!”
We asked Keva what important lessons she learned in building this brand and she expressed that staying true to who you are as a brand and a designer is first and foremost. Learning to invest in oneself is critical.
“Nobody believes in you as much as YOU do! Also, networking is a huge element. It’s so important to get yourself out there and in front of the right people. Never stop building,” she explained.
Her latest collection is called Birds of Paradise. It is bright and fun and this collection has more bikinis than one-piece suits. Bikinis tend to sell a lot, so she wanted to redefine the two-piece. She also has some great cutouts in the collection. She took some of her older styles that were popular and revamped them. Finding some feather looking fabric that she fell in love with, allowed her to enhance the collection around that print.
Keva J swimsuits are geared to sell to the “average” woman today. Initially her cutouts were edgy and intricate, but she realized that in order to include a broader audience her designs had to be refined and redefined. Her advice to women when selecting a swimsuit is to: “Definitely know your body. A lot of times, as women, we see a suit on a celebrity and automatically we think we are going to look like them in it. It’s important to know what looks best on your body and what doesn’t. What are the attributes you would like to highlight? Perhaps you have great legs, so you may want to go for a higher cut swimsuit to elongate them.” Wise advice to her loyal following from someone who knows of what she speaks.
Keva J swimsuits can be found in retailers nationwide and online as well. They also sell via their website – www.kevabykevaj.com.