Feature: Female Entrepreneur, Sustainable Fashion - Diana Piekarski of Bambina Swim
In both my Modeling and Health Coaching careers, I strive to work with brands whose values align with my own. Bambina Swimwear is one of those brands. I first shot for the brand in the beginning of my career, and I reconnected with the designer, Diana Piekarski, again last year for the launch of her new collection!
What really stood out to me is that Diana has a passion for sustainable fashion, she operates this female run company with her mom, and she is able to balance a healthy lifestyle on top of it all! She does her research on materials and sourcing, designs, produces shoots, and she still finds the time to prioritize going for a run or making homemade juices... needless to stay, she is a huge inspiration. In light of Earth Day and bikini season right around the corner, I wanted to share my interview with Diana about her brand, lifestyle, and advice!
When did your dream of having this brand begin?
Diana: I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer since about 7th or 8th grade! When it comes to swimwear specifically, I always had an affinity for bathing suits for some reason. Every spring and summer once the weather started to get warmer I’d wake up and put on a swimsuit underneath my clothes. I think it somehow made me feel like I was always on vacation.
Where did you get the name Bambina?
Diana: My dad’s nicknames for me as a kid were “Little Bambino” and “Beach Bambs”. (We were always at the beach, lake, or swimming in the pool.) When thinking of names for my company, I thought bambina, the feminine version of bambino, meaning “baby” or “baby girl” in Italian was perfect! I love it because it has such a personal meaning.
How long has Bambina been in business?
Diana: We came out with our first collection in 2015, which was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. After trying to get things off the ground for a year or so after the initial launch, I ended up getting burnt out and lost motivation. Thankfully, after a pretty long hiatus (5 years!) a spark was re-ignited in me to keep going with the brand, and Bambina re-launched with a whole new vision in August of 2020!
Where did you go to school?
Diana: I went to a small fashion trade school in Boston called The School of Fashion Design, where I made some of my best memories and friends. After graduating there, I moved to New York to attend Parsons, although I only ended up going for one semester. I also did a month-long fashion program in Paris, and took some credit courses at FIT.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Diana: My Nana. She’s such a strong and amazing woman and I’ve looked up to her my whole life. Every day she has her martini at 4 PM. She used to tell me “one day we’re gonna see your name in lights.” She’s 96, I want to make her proud!
If you had to give yourself one piece of advice when you began this journey, what would it be?
Diana: It’s hard to narrow it down to one! I think the most important would be to not doubt yourself and keep pushing forward. There are so many seemingly scary things that you have to do and figure out on your own when first starting a business that no school, book, job, or other person can teach you. You just have to be willing to try anyways, put yourself out there, and not take no for an answer. When you’re down, you just have to get right back up and not let the industry intimidate you.
I love that your new collection is sustainable! Can you explain a little bit about the sustainability of the new suits and cover-ups?
Diana: Yes! Our new swimsuits are made with recycled fabric (nylon that’s made from abandoned fishing nets recovered from the ocean) and our cover-ups are made from deadstock (leftover fabric from designer cutting rooms that’s usually headed for a landfill). We try to source the most eco-friendly options when it comes down to every little aspect including packaging, labels, tags, office supplies, etc.
All of our garments are made in the USA and the sewing factory we work with is woman owned and operated. The workers are protected by NYC’s labor laws, and I visit the factory often so I’m able to meet the sewers and see the working conditions first hand.
Sustainability is a process and we aren’t perfect, but we are always learning and striving to be better in everything we do!
Why is sustainable fashion important to you?
Diana: I’ve always been mindful of how our behavior as humans affects the planet, but it wasn’t until I watched the documentary ‘The True Cost’, which exposes how exploitative and polluting the fashion industry is, that I was literally shaken to the point of changing the direction of my business. Fast fashion is so accessible and mainstream and people don’t realize the back story behind why their clothes are so cheap. I think there’s been a shift towards buying less, higher quality garments that will ultimately last longer, which is encouraging. I’m hopeful for the day when “sustainable fashion” isn’t a niche, it’s just the norm.
It is great to see a female run business! What’s it like having a business with your mom?
Diana: It’s great that we’re on this journey together and get to share more life experience. I also know that there is no other person that will unconditionally have my back. It’s sometimes challenging as the mother/daughter roles have to be stretched into business partner roles and the line often gets a little blurred. Accountability is also a challenge, but we’re working on it! All in all, we work well together and I feel really fortunate.
How do you balance being a busy entrepreneur while living a healthy lifestyle?
Diana: This one’s hard! There’s so much to do and I struggle with time management and often end up working until 9 or 10 PM. I try and make sure my fridge is always stocked with healthy foods in order to resist getting takeout! I also go for a run everyday to stay sane, even if it’s just a mile or two to get out of the house. Meditation and journaling are things I’m working on incorporating more of into my routine too.
For more information about Diana and Bambina, please check out her website - https://www.bambinaswim.com