The swimwear designer, entrepreneur and lifestyle blogger Ellie Furuya tells Gennady Oreshkin about her style evolution and how she draws inspiration from Hong Kong for her creations
While an insatiable yearning to travel is one Covid symptom we all suffer from, rediscovering local gems can be as rewarding as partying in Mykonos with blacked-out Lindsay Lohan. The young entrepreneur who came to a similar revelation is Ellie Furuya, founder of sustainable swimwear brand Rii Swim.
How did you get into the swimwear game?
I launched Rii Swim at the peak of the pandemic last year when the government was shutting everything down, the post-travel quarantine was 21 days and frustrations were at an all-time high. At that point, it was the longest I hadn’t travelled in my life. Many would say this was a terrible time to launch a new swimwear brand, which I don’t disagree with, but the perpetual lockdown made me want to bring that “vacation feeling” back. Before starting Rii, online swimwear shopping was my secret pre-travel guilty pleasure, and it gave me such a rush because I’d know I was about to be on a beautiful beach somewhere. I wanted to convey a similar feeling with my brand and encourage people to take this opportunity to explore Hong Kong’s natural gems.
Do you design all the pieces yourself?
Yes. From personal experiences, I’ve learned about the kinds of bikinis I tend to grab on rotation, those I wear once and never look at again, and what feels comfortable in terms of wearing out in public (especially in Asia). Despite Hong Kong being an international city with lots of foreign influences, there’s still adegree of conservatism here that I have to keep in mind for swimwear designs. Popular bikini styles in the US and Australia don’t necessarily work here, so I try to balance the sexy and classy. My aim is to create beautiful, understated and timeless pieces.
Do you have a muse?
Not really, but I do love Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s classical and effortless aesthetic, which is the vibe I hope to evoke with Rii Swim.
How would you describe your personal style?
I feel that I dress according to my setting, in the bustle of Hong Kong. It’s mostly mixing and matching a capsule wardrobe of blacks and whites and sneakers (with the occasional glitzy shoe for events). On vacation, I’m more inclined to choose bright, bold colours and dresses with lots of movement.
What is your biggest fashion faux pas?
Whenever something doesn’t fit right. The difference a little bit of tailoring can do to elevate an outfit – whether to change up a set of tired buttons or cinch the waist of a pair of trousers – is well worth the amount you spend on it, especially in Hong Kong, where quick-fix tailors are everywhere.
How has your style evolved over the years?
In my early twenties, I wasn’t as comfortable in my own skin as I am now and I found it difficult to discover my personal style. I found joy in fashion after I left the corporate world with renewed passion and purpose, and the creative juices started flowing. I’m also no longer a fan of constantly buying new clothes to keep up with seasonal trends, so I tend to invest in a few timeless pieces that are versatile to style for my everyday looks. I’d say my style has become simpler and more conscious.
What’s your favourite piece in your wardrobe?
I love my Dior book tote that’s big enough to fit everything I need. I’m constantly lugging around my laptop since I work remotely, and no bag is ever big or sturdy enough to fit it along with my wallet, bulky camera, swimwear samples and other knick-knacks, but this one does the trick while looking cute.
Is there one thing in fashion you find particularly inspiring?
Daniel Roseberry’s work for Schiaparelli. I love his escapist approach to fashion, especially in these pandemic times. The spring/summer 2022 couture runway was captivating in the way it was able to showcase surrealism, grandeur and elegance using just a few basic colours.
What’s next for Rii?
We’re currently popping up at Aanya on 67 Hollywood Road for the summer – and beyond that we’re looking for future collaboration opportunities in Hong Kong. We’re also working on a new capsule collection at the moment, which will be released early next year.