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Manakai Swimwear owners meld sustainability and style

By Staff | Apr 6, 2017

Anna Lieding (left) and Kelley Chapman cut this netting away from the shore and carried over 1,000 pounds of the material away from the rocky coast near McGregor Point. A majority of their swimwear is actually repurposed ghost netting.

“Did you know that over 70 million barrels of crude oil are extracted each year for the swimwear industry alone?” Kelley Chapman told the Lahaina News.

Chapman is the co-owner/designer of Manakai Swimwear. Her partner is Anna Lieding.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the 36-year-old moved to Maui in 2007. She is a certified diver, marine naturalist and has “spent many years working on commercial boating operations here in Maui County.”

Chapman earned a Bachelor’s in Science in Outdoor Experiential Education and Sustainable Tourism from Appalachian State University.

Lieding is a U.S. Coast Guard-certified captain. The 31-year-old competitive paddler is a Hana Elementary and High School alumni. She has a degree from Brown University in Marine Science.

These two power-women, entrepreneurs launched an eco-friendly swimwear company on Maui in 2015, with a vision “to lead the high-end swimwear industry into a more sustainable practice using top-of-the-line recycled materials, help empower women to feel good in their skin and bring awareness to ocean conservation.”

Their superhero mission may appear Marvel-like, but their actions attest to their “green-tegrity.”

Manakai Swimwear is where sustainability and style meet.

The entire collection is fashioned from futuristic-type techno-fabric created from recycled nylon.

“We are working with top Italian companies Carvico and Econyl yarn to ensure the finest fabric in the world is used for our swimwear,” Chapman advised.

“Almost all swimwear and synthetic fabrics are made out of some form of stretch fabric,” she said. “Why continue making virgin stretch fabric when there is a plethora of waste waiting to be collected and repurposed?”

The duo is an eco-force in the waters surrounding Maui.

“Last week, Anna and I spent four hours cleaning a massive drift net off the rocky shore near McGregor’s Point. We are slowly working on a collection facility, so items like these can be turned in and repurposed into other products rather than being dumped into the landfill. A majority of our swimwear is actually repurposed ghost netting,” Chapman commented.

“On a local level, we are attempting to create an efficient system for rescuing and repurposing nylon 6 plastics that are found in Maui Nui waters. We have already contacted several colleagues around Maui and have collected thousands of pounds of netting to be repurposed,” Lieding detailed.

“In addition to using recycled fabrics,” Chapman boasted, “we now manufacture in the USA, where workers are paid livable wages and treated with integrity. Manakai Swimwear is proud to support the local economy and ensure a very valuable skillset is kept viable and strong in our country.”

Jennifer Yi and Joe Makarewicz carry the Manakai line at their retail store, Goin Left, located at 143 Dickenson St.

“We carry Manakai because it’s a local, small business like ourselves, and the line uses eco-conscious fabrics. The pieces that we carry are also reversible, so it’s really like getting two pieces in one,” Yi commented.

The eco-collection can also be viewed and purchased online at manakaiswimwear.com. Prices start at $96.

Beyond the bottom line, however, Lieding has a dream: “Manakai Swimwear will grow to become a global inspiration for companies that are looking to operate sustainably.”

As their website reads, they are “making a difference one bikini at a time.”