Powerhouse sisters, Kirsty Parnel and Naomi Collings, who are behind the iconic Australian-made swimwear label, first came up with the concept of Kamara five years ago after Naomi received a shock Melanoma diagnosis that left both sisters reeling. Their goal? To create gorgeous, sun-conscious swimwear for a country that has some of the highest skin cancer rates in the world.
“We wanted to create a range that would provide customers with worry-free, beautiful time in the sun,” explains Naomi, who leads the label as the current Director.
“We use bold prints, unique designs and rich protective fabrics to deliver ethical swimwear through the most luxurious sun protection available, and it is made right here in Australia.”
With a strong focus on sustainability and manufacturing onshore, Kamara has since grown into one of the nation’s most sought-after specialty beach brands. Their cultural designs and collaborations with First Nations artists are influenced by their own connection to Country, and have been featured in Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival, Brisbane Fashion Month, Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival and the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, alongside multiple internationally renowned publications.
Their latest line JOY comes with an increased commitment to protecting the planet, with the brand introducing Econyl into selective swimwear pieces – a nylon rescued from cleaned waste found in fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic that would otherwise go to landfill.
“We don’t pump out multiple collections all year round carelessly contributing waste, manipulating buyers into excessive purchasing, and eventually adding to the cycle of oversupply and discounting mass amounts of stock,” continues Naomi.
“We rarely reproduce in a print, making our pieces limited edition, and our buyers appreciate that exclusivity and our responsible methods used to create high quality products that will be loved for many years to come.”
The photoshoot for Kamara’s latest collection took place in our very own backyard, putting the region’s pristine locations – such as The Ville and Magnetic Island – on the national stage, which Naomi hopes will spark tourism and investment opportunities.
“North Queensland celebrates an outdoors lifestyle, we wanted to honour the laid-back beach vibe and showcase the region that inspired Kamara’s beginnings,” says Naomi.
“Townsville has some beautiful places that represent Kamara’s culture perfectly and we also wanted to shine a spotlight on our region for our large Victorian and New South Wales audiences.
“We would be super happy if our shoot inspired travel to North Queensland through sharing some of our favourite local places that were made for our Kamara pieces.”
In 2020, Kamara was recognised as a globally in-demand product, securing an ongoing partnership to sell through the popular online brand, The Iconic. But success is more than sales to Naomi, who is hoping to inspire businesses to think about how they can operate more sustainably.
“Business success can look different depending on who you’re talking to. It’s not always equal to profits, and it’s especially not equal to profits when operators are inconsiderate, manipulating customers or destroying the planet and our resources,” she continues.
“Our joy comes from doing the right thing, boosting others up and making a difference. It comes from our work with other First Nations and female-owned businesses and using materials and practices that are less harmful to the planet.
“It’s about protecting our customers’ skin and spreading important skin health awareness through everything we do.”
Since launching, the brand has donated a portion of each sale to the Melanoma Institute of Australia as well as multiple Indigenous foundations. Going forward, Naomi says they will continue to look for ways to further contribute sustainably to the fashion industry, fulfill their responsibility to heal Country and expand their brand internationally.
“The next phase for Kamara is about capitalising on our U.S and Europe interest, progressing our influencer and collaboration partnerships, progressing our First Nations collaborations, and looking for more opportunities to work with and support our chosen charity organisations,” says Naomi.
“The future is exciting for the label. We will continue to create gorgeous swimwear and share the sun protection message with women around the world.
“While our headquarters here in Townsville is away from the bustling epicentre of Australian fashion, we are only a short flight away.”