Who makes our clothes? We are a small company proud to say we make all our products with love. In this blog post I share with you a little bit about how our products are made.
I start the designing process inspired by my day to day life. My everyday surf sessions under different climate conditions make me think of products I need and I would love to wear. For example, I’ve designed products like long sleeve one piece bikinis to cover as much skin as possible to stand the fierce Nicaraguan sun; surf leggings to protect my legs in long perfect sessions in Pavones (one of the longest waves in Costa Rica and when is on, you just want to stay out in the surf all day long); bikini tops that will look cute but will also hold my bust in place; and sexy bikini bottoms that will stay on and will make my curves look nicer.
A magical sunset and me in Playa Escondida, Costa Rica
Sharing in the water with women that have different approaches of style and body types, also inspire me to create the perfect products for them. My stylish longboarder friend and muse, who softly dances in the waves, wants suits that cover her body, but I know they also have to match with her feminine moves in the water. Our young team riders want to look sexy while they rip waves traveling around the world, so they inspire me to create small cute pieces that will flatter their silhouette. Emily Gussoni for example, said to me a couple of months ago after coming back from her travels participating in surf comps around Australia and Hawaii “I’m the only surfer out there that doesn’t have high legged bikini bottoms. All the girls are wearing them now!” So I created our new “High Leg Skinny bottoms”.
Left: Gaby trying to teach me how to longboard. Right: Some of my good friends in a surf trip in Nicaragua last month
Dkoko’s goal has widened to make our products multifunctional. I’m personally of the opinion I can’t design something for an activity I don’t practice. I wear Dkoko for yoga and training at the fitness studio, which allows me to feel how the products fit on my body. Also at studio, I observe other women and discuss with them what they like wearing.
Once I have a lot of ideas in my mind, I sit down and start sketching. I review the trends for the upcoming collection, explore new fabrics, and I choose the materials, colors and prints I need. I love mixing them with different textures. I’ve loved colorful stuff since I was a kid and this is a reason why Dkoko has always had so much color, I cannot help it.
I’m definitely influenced by my surroundings and nature has always been my major inspiration. I wish I could reflect those rays of light reflecting in the water; the leaves, flowers and sounds of the jungle; and the smells that get stuck in my head from every different place: that earthy scent when rain falls on dry soil, dry leaves, awakening flowers, breeze blowing over salt water...
Then it is time to make those ideas become a reality. Make each piece fit and feel the way I imagined.
We work on the pattern making process for the new styles with the help of my friend and Fashion Designer, Fiorella Venegas. I met Fio at university, and she has many years collaborating with her talent on the patterns for Dkoko. Fio has lots of experience with production and is an important part of our team, giving ideas to complement, improve, and make my designs come to life. This is when, what I call, the “bikini puzzle” starts.
Left: Fiorella Venegas working with patterns in a trip to our factory in Nicagua. Right: some of my lastest patterns and samples from last month
Once we have the first patterns ready, I present them, along with sketches and different references to the genius, Reynaldo. He’s our production manager in our small factory in Nicaragua. Reynaldo takes a look at everything and starts making samples. They’re sewed in different ways until we find the one that fits the best for its purpose, has good quality and is efficient for the team to sew.
The first samples are made in my size, until I’m happy with the fit. Then, we scale them down and up, make more samples in all sizes, and try them on as many girls as possible. I want our bikinis to fit perfectly in all women’s shapes and make them feel beautiful. This is a difficult task, so I blame myself for bothering my friends asking them to try dozens of samples and get their feedback in every collection. My friends help definitely contributes to the success of our perfect fit!
Once all the samples for all styles are approved, Reynaldo coordinates with the girls production, making sure each piece is sewed to the highest quality. We currently employ eight people in our factory in Nicaragua. All our employees receive work benefits that include health insurance, two days off per week, one month of vacations per year (yes, in Nicaragua they have that many days of vacations plus lots of other holidays!), and double salary in the month on December.
Left: Reynaldo checking a mess of patterns I just made. Right: Doña Rosa sewing some beauties.
We have had our factory for a year and a half now, and I personally spend several months per year working with them, making new designs. Having this factory has been quite a challenge for me. It is difficult to make business in a developing country that is not your own, and it is more difficult if you want to do it in a conscious way.
I try to teach our employees, especially the women, about their value to the company, the value of free thinking and being proactive. This might sound like a simple thing, but it is quite difficult when you deal with people that have been raised in a country with a big gap between classes, and have worked hard all their life for people that treat them like resource, where the only important thing is the amount of pieces they sew per day not matter what. I keep repeating to them I want them to make things with love, to tell me when they have a good idea and to let me know when I’m wrong.
Left: Antonia eating cake at a coffee break with a sign in our factory wall that says "What is made with love is made well". Right: Me trying samples for new designs.
You can read more about my experience at our factory in my previous blog posts like https://www.dkoko.com/blog/dkoko-surf-bikinis-are-made-with-love/ and https://www.dkoko.com/blog/central-american-surf-bikini-company-story/
Our business aims to keep growing, becoming an international company, that allows us to make a positive difference in other people’s lives, with the lowest impact to the environment.
In this moment we make all our beautiful packaging using fabric leftovers instead of plastic. We also reuse boxes for shipping wholesale orders as an effort to reduce waste.
This month I finished a material research that has lead me to find amazing recycled fabrics for our next collection. I also decided to use original prints from collaborating artists for our products. All this as part as my personal and business urge to keep improving.
At the end of this journey what makes me feel the happiest is seeing women looking beautiful and enjoying their favorite activities wearing those pieces we made with so much love for them.