Kayla Bell was born and raised in New Orleans, and in her late teens moved to Houston, where the summers can reach sweltering temperatures and the place to be is by the beach or the pool. Going swimwear shopping at places like Charlotte Russe, Forever 21, H&M, and Macy’s was difficult due to Bell’s petite frame and triple D cup size. It felt impossible to find a top that fit her, and when she did, it seemed to have bland colors, look almost matronly, and usually didn’t have matching bottoms. Inevitably, places that sold the sizing Bell was looking for began to dwindle.
“At that point, I was working at Victoria’s Secret, which once upon a time had swimsuit tops. At first, I was able to get ones that fit, but then they ended up scaling back on their sizing. So I was a 38, triple D at the time, and now I’m looking for triple D. Victoria’s Secret took away all their triple Ds and double Ds and only works to a 38D. That is not the same thing,” says Bell.
Eventually, Bell took matters into her own hands and ended up going to three different stores, grabbing several swimwear tops she found cute, cutting them up, and sewing her own customized suit.
Throughout high school and college, she had friends and friends of friends asking where she got her swimwear. After realizing she was not the only woman looking for a suit that didn’t involve sacrificing style for comfort or vice versa, Arrow + Phoenix Swimwear was born.
Bell’s mission for the brand was to eradicate the idea of a “Bikini Body,” and create swimwear for the women she knew around her so they could confidently enjoy the sun, beach, and pool like everyone else.
Bell always felt drawn to nature after going to the beach as a kid and felt she wanted to do something philanthropic for the environment with her brand, too. She not only started designing swimsuit tops that could double as crop tops to combat rapid fast fashion consumerism, she also began looking into different fabrics she could use to make her brand more sustainable.
That’s when she found Reprise, a company based in North Carolina that makes fabric from plastic water bottles. She began making her swimwear out of their textiles, and not long after, did a soft launch of her sustainable activewear collection, too.
Prior to COVID-19, Arrow + Phoenix Swimwear had a program dedicated to repurposing old swimsuits and plans to start it up again soon. Similarly within its skincare line, everything is sold in glass bottles that can be returned and filled up in order to keep plastic waste to a minimum. As a bonus for doing that, Arrow + Phoenix offers a discount on a customer’s next purchase.
Now, Arrow + Phoenix includes a skincare line, its Home Goods Collection Sanctuary, and Sustainable Swimwear, and looks forward to launching its full Sustainable Activewear Collection Sweat, along with a Sustainable Winterwear Collection in the next year.
“We have a unique platform. We are woman-owned, Black-owned, and we’re stainable. We kind of are a bit of a unicorn… Through that, we use it to amplify other women-owned businesses and other Black offices and other single offices, because there’s more than enough room for us all to succeed,” says Bell.
There is enough room for everyone to succeed and there’s enough room for everyone to look cute in swimwear this summer. To shop or learn more about Arrow + Phoenix, visit https://www.arrowandphoenix.com.