Renee Yanagihara, Owner/Designer of Wanderluxe Swimwear
Combining her love of being in the water with her passion for fashion and design, Renee Yanigihara delivers one of kind, locally made swimsuits here on Kaua'i through her company Wanderluxe Swimwear. At only 7 she had her first taste of entrepreneurship through custom beaded bracelets that she sold at a local craft fair. In high school her love for being in the water inspired her to make her first suit to surf in since she couldn't find what she wanted in stores. With a passion for the creative process she is constantly refining her craft to include the best fabric along with the perfect fit. From sourcing, curating, and collaborating, she has built a thriving business that offers everything from single custom orders to wholesale deliveries. Her ease and candor in sharing her story as a step by step journey is an invitation to tune into your own passion as the leading energy for growth.
Tell us who you were as a kid?
I was a wild child but at the same time very shy. I mostly played with the boys I grew up with because sometimes I was too rough with other girls.
What sparked the desire to be an entrepreneur/launch this business?
I first started out making $1 beaded bracelets and sold them at my mom’s craft fairs. I enjoyed taking special orders with customer names and used all sorts of fancy beads! I realized that I was passionate about creating things- anything really, I always had some sort of project I was working on. My dad got me into surfing and so that started my bikini obsession and the rest was history!
What milestones led you to where you are now?
I loved going to college, I attended Honolulu Community College on Oahu and met so many of my closest fashion friends and was mentored by some of the best in our industry. At the time I didn’t really want to go to the mainland for school and I’m sorta glad I didn’t because I wouldn’t have met any of my Hawai’i fashion family that have supported me since day one.
Who were the key influencers in your journey?
Amos Kotomori, Renee Kawakami and Reise Kochi. I met Amos Kotomori and Reise Kochi while I attended college- they would put together these amazing fashion shows at Ala Moana Shopping Center and I fell in love with high end fashion (being from Kaua’i this was all so new to me!) we were split into groups and basically helped produce the show and it was an amazing experience! Renee Kawakami found me through social media and included me in her magazine, Kaua’i Lifestyle - which then got me to show a line of handmade suits at Kaua’i Fashion Week. I am so grateful for her mentorship at such a young age, she introduced me to a whole nother world and I met so many people through her! I am forever grateful for Amos, Reise and Renee, I wouldn’t be who I am without their guidance.
What have you learned about yourself through this process?
I have learned so much but to the main takeaways for me are:
1. Always go with your gut and give it your all, every single time.
2. You can’t control everything and learn to just go with the flow.
3. Don’t be anything you're not, just be yourself and things will fall into place!
What “mistakes/learning moments” in this journey have been useful in moving forward?
In 2019 I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I pushed myself way too hard to the point of what seemed like there was no return. I knew I had to take my mental health seriously and in turn I realized that it’s okay to not able to do everything even if I had a solid plan- and I had to learn to be okay with just going with the flow and taking things one day at a time. This helped me move forward in life and grow in ways I never thought I could, my mind and body have never been healthier and I can say that I can control my feelings and emotions better because of it.
What are the different roles you play in life and how do you balance them?
I dabble in creating content media for Lappert’s Hawaii- it’s fun to be creative and try new techniques! I don’t consider myself a photographer at all but I do enjoy taking pretty photos!
When do you feel most alive?
I’m an introvert but I also love intimate friend gatherings and hanging out at the beach or in the mountains with my boyfriend. I love being able to dream about endless possibilities.
What are you
Reading? Radical Acceptance
Listening to? Daydream Lily Meola
Watching? Downton Abbey
What impact or influence do you hope to have with this business for Kauai?
I hope to influence up and coming local designers who have a passion for art and fashion- knowing that anything is possible if you work hard and never give up on your dream because life should be fulfilling.
What are the values that guide your business forward?
Always be humble, never forget who you are and where you came from. My parents taught me that and I owe everything to them and for instilling these values. I am who I am because of them.
What advice would you offer to others?
When chasing your dreams don’t forget to give yourself a break because running a business is really stressful but it’s worth it when you see everything come together!
Thank you so much for including me in this interview, I am so honored to have been chosen for this feature. Much love!! xx