Holly Dean McDaniel, Creative Director and Founder of Waihetian with her with 18 month old daughter Freddie. Image supplied.
Holly Dean McDaniel is the Founder and Creative Director of ethical swimwear label Waihetian which launched online in November 2020. As a new mother, Holly couldn’t find the swimwear she wanted to wear so set about creating her own label which was three years in the making. It’s inspired by her Waiheke Island upbringing and lifestyle, and reflects her sustainable and ethical values. Waithetian’s debut collection of swimwear is designed on Waiheke and handmade in Bali from Italian fabrics including sustainable fabric ECONYL which is made from recycled fishing nets. Each piece of Waithetian swimwear is handmade in small runs and designed to be worn for many seasons to come.
We caught up with Holly to find out more about her brand, what inspires her and what you would never catch her wearing!
Tell us about your latest collection?
Our debut collection “Palm Beach”, is a slice of Waiheke paradise you can take with you anywhere.
Hailing from Waiheke Island, comes our debut collection of thoughtful, considerate and flatteringly designed swimwear, made ethically with both you and nature in mind. A nod to our Brazilian friends, it’s designed to celebrate wāhine curves, made with luxury ribbed and colourful Italian fabrics woven with recycled post-consumer waste collected out of the world’s oceans. Cleaning up our oceans one kini at a time. I can’t work out if that’s sounds cheesy or damn cool. When I started sampling it was a huge schooling into the world of fashion, when you start asking questions you don’t always like the answer, it’s no easy feat to just get it right the first time. Which is why my debut collection has taken 3 years from a sketch to launching online in November last year. This is a collection of love and respect, to give you a swimsuit that will make you feel amazing in, and for me not at any cost to my principles.
The campaign brought to life my retro vacation vision, celebrating the designs of each piece in the collection, both separates and one pieces in a carefree out of the office, may never return, endless summer dream.
What made you become a designer?
I’ve always had a keen eye for style and a heart for fashion, but the pivoting point was after the birth of my son Jagger. I struggled to find a swimsuit that was flattering and made me feel confident along with being ethically produced. I was 12 days overdue and in the last few days my itchy puku finally popped stretch marks around my belly button. Being my first born, I was not prepared for what my body was going to go through and the changes to my late twenties figure to a thirty year old first time māmā. And although it’s a beautiful thing to go through, and one I’m so grateful for, our own confidence doesn’t just magically resurface. After feeling underwhelmed with the options I came across I just sketched out what is now our Signature Bows suit, high cut and cheeky bum to celebrate the curves, coverage in niggle areas like back ribs, and feminine adjustable bow tie straps to control support. And that’s where it all started. I reached out to a dear friend who works as a garment technician for a well-known kiwi brand, to help me turn my sketch into a technical spec sheet to start sampling and off I went, to build my own brand.
What inspires you?
Mother nature, Living on the Island, European holidays, vintage shops, and endless day dreaming.
Swimwear from Waihetian’s debut collection.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
I’m an avid pre-loved goods buyer, which hasn’t always been the case. When I had my first well-paid job in my early 20’s I used to spend every paycheck on restaurants, wine and high street fashion, going through cheaply made clothes extremely unconsciously without a worry. Sorry Planet Earth! But we evolve, learn, and mature. I now buy a lot less frequently, 90% second-hand from clothing to homewares, and usually buy with something I’ve been searching for, rather than an occasion or retail therapy. I’m not sure how to describe my style, my home is warmly filled with mid-century furnishings, plants, books, self-made pottery and art. My personal style is very casual, jeans usually with an over-sized shirt or a loose fitting maxi dress. I love a cute shoe and some gold earrings.
What is your all-time favourite purchase?
My dreamy 1970’s full-length leather and fur coat with a waist tie, brought from Iguana vintage clothing store in LA, my Chanel sunnies I trawled the internet for, for over 12 months and finally found one day on Vestiaire Collective, and my engagement and wedding band which my now hubby and I ethically sourced all the diamonds from estate and vintage jewellery at Webbs Auction (highly recommend for a night of wine, cheese and bidding) and had remodelled designing two new pieces with every little detail of my dreams, in collaboration with Charmaine from Grae.
What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
A swimsuit you feel absolutely banging in, a pair of sunnies you cherish for years, and a full-length well-made coat for winter.
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
My style rule is “Comfortable”. I get so grumpy when I feel restricted somehow, bad heels on shoes – my worst nightmare, undies riding up my bum also pretty bad, and nothing too tight on a hot day. If you’re comfortable you can always glam up, lipstick, earrings, heeled mule, and your favourite handbag. I could say this is because I have two kids I’m running around after, but it’s not the truth, track pants, a french tucked baggy tee with earrings or a loose maxi dress and no bra is my ideal situation. And this past year, just living in my French linen Deiji studios kimono and not leaving the house, has been an absolute luxury.
Swimwear from Waihetian’s debut collection.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Before launching my brand Waihetian, I had over 15 years in an award-winning career working in ad agencies and consulting with clients, but the highlight is recently sitting back after launching Waihetian and feeling proud, proud of my vision that has been considerate and detailed, proud of accomplishing launching a brand by being hands on with everything from designing my first collection to forecasting and business planning to building a website to styling shoots. Proud of resolving hurdles to be ethical in practice, and feeling completely authentic and fulfilled. If this is what it feels like today, I can’t wait to continue to grow my brand.
What can’t you live without?
Cuddles with my children. Instantly filled up with pure heart-filled joy, no matter what the day has brought, sunblock, and my new Chanel sunnies.
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
Stilettos and a tight mini skirt? Though never say never. I love, love, love a good dress up party!