Naomi Newirth’s life sounds like the plot of a film. The setting? Maui, Hawaii. Our heroine? A bikini designer, balancing creating her beautiful swimwear line with raising her two little island boys.
“We are outdoors all the time”, she tells us of her idyllic life. “It is so special to see my son grow up on the beaches I grew up on. We are also fortunate to have family close by. We live on a two acre family compound full of fruit trees and vegetable gardens. He runs down to see his ama (grandma) every morning.” Naomi’s workdays are spent perfecting her collections, which have now expanded beyond swimwear to include resort and children’s ranges, and running her flagship store. Time is punctuated by beach sunsets, horseback riding, and homemade veggie juices.
But before this all becomes too perfectly cinematic – even in paradise, the work/life balance conflict cannot be escaped. Acacia, the sustainable swimwear line Naomi began working on in high school, opened their first flagship store just two days after she gave birth to her second child. “It was so difficult, because I was so sick with hyperemesis gravidarum”, she recalls. “There was so much I wanted to do, but just could not at the time with how severe my sickness was.”
And while she may crave the slow life just as much as we all do, it seems Naomi is drawn to the hustle. “I thought I would be a younger mother”, she tells us, “but as life progressed and my focus was on my career and my dream of starting a swimwear label, I didn’t have kids right away. I ended up waiting until my early thirties… I had worked so hard up until this time. Many times I would work through the weekend and have no days off. I feel that is how I was able to get to where I am now”.
We spoke to the designer about her childhood in Maui, growing up surfing and sewing, and how the transition to motherhood came at the perfect time for her – though not without its sacrifices.
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Tell us about your childhood in Maui - what are some of your most vivid memories?
I have very vivid and fond memories of my elementary school. I attended a Waldorf school in a magical setting, old plantation houses surrounded by a beautiful campus. I also grew up surfing everyday, and running to waterfalls on the weekends. Maui provides a very special environment for childhood.
You started sewing bikinis from a young age. Was this something you taught yourself, or was it passed down in your family?
I grew up in a creative household. My mother was a kindergarten Waldorf teacher and an interior designer, and my father has always been amazing with his hands. I have a Native American heritage, and used to spend weekends with my dad beading Native American rattles. Waldorf was very art based as well. Come mid-high school, I wanted to learn how to sew my own swimsuits, and took a class that taught me exactly that.
What did you feel was missing in the bikini market?
The market was missing small cut and form-fitting bottoms. You could not walk into a store to purchase a suit that didn’t sag on your bum. Growing up on Maui we all wanted skimpy bottoms, that flattered one’s curves. We wanted that mix between the low-cut Italian bikini, with the coverage of the Brazilian bikini bottom. It’s everywhere now, but when we first launched Acacia you could not find this anywhere!
What brought you to Bali as an adult?
My boyfriend at the time was a professional surfer. We traveled all over the world and in 2006 I traveled to Bali with him. It was this trip that I met my manufacturer who we still work with today.
Did you always know you wanted to be a mother?
Yes, always. I thought I would be a younger mother, but as life progressed and my focus was on my career and my dream of starting a swimwear label, I didn’t have kids right away. I ended up waiting until my early thirties.
Where did motherhood come in your career journey - was your brand already established?
Yes, the brand was established and somehow timing of motherhood worked out perfectly. I waited to have my first child at age 30. He is now 3.5 years old. My second came last November. He is now a little over 5 months old.
How did your life and career shift when you first became a mother? What was that transition like?
It was not easy. Rewarding, but not easy. Your first child feels so overwhelming. I didn’t trust anyone with him, so I was juggling having him tied to me and the breast, while also trying to pull off work. Luckily I had a wonderful team to support me. It was time to let go of the reins a bit and put some of my focus elsewhere. I had worked so hard up until this time. Many times I would work through the weekend and have no days off. I feel that is how I was able to get to where I am now and why I feel motherhood came at the perfect time – a time when I was ready and able to not work 24/7. Now it’s all about balance and juggling both.
Was your children’s label inspired by your experience dressing your own children?
Our girls line had already been established for a few years, so when I became a mother to my first boy, I of course decided to add boys to the mix. It only seemed natural to do so.
What's important to you in kids clothing?
Comfort, style, simplicity. A more sophisticated color palette. Everything is just mini versions of what we offer to adults!
You recently opened your flagship store in Maui in the same month that you gave birth! What was that like and would you do it again?
We opened two days after I gave birth. It was so difficult because I was so sick with hyperemesis gravidarum. There was so much I wanted to do, but just could not at the time with how severe my sickness was. Luckily my mother is an interior designer, so I hired her to be the project manager and help see everything through. My girls in office were angels figuring out all the logistics and moving parts to running the store.
What is it like raising a family in Maui?
Maui has always been home. I couldn’t imagine raising my children anywhere else. While my newest mini is still so little, my toddler is such an island boy. He loves nature, which is so important to me. We are outdoors all the time. It is so special to see him grow up on the beaches I grew up on. We are also fortunate to have family close by. We live on a two acre family compound full of fruit trees and vegetable gardens. He runs down to see his ama (grandma) every morning.
How has the transition from one to two been?
It’s easier, but more difficult, all at the same time. Easier because the second doesn’t feel as overwhelming as your first. More difficult in the sense that I was finally getting my freedom back after my first, and finding my passion again. You lose it a bit as a new mother, as your focus becomes your baby. Now I’m thrown right back into it. I’m nursing (not bottle feeding), so I don’t have as much time to work or as much personal space – but they are only little for so long and this is my last baby, so I’m soaking it all up!
And what’s the best part of motherhood for you?
My favourite part is to see their joy, their innocence – and guiding them to explore and navigate this magical world.
What does a day in your life look like?
We wake up between 7- 8am. Talk for a bit with my kids. Hunter helps me make my veggie juice sometimes, or runs to grandma’s house. Then we work on his breakfast. His nanny comes and I send them off to do a fun activity (horseback riding, beach, skate park, etc), so I am able to nurse the baby, get him down for his morning nap, and either get a couple hours of work in (if baby lets me) or go to the office to work with the team. Afternoons are dedicated to lunch, naps and waiting for Daddy to get home so we can race to the beach before sunset, or do something fun outdoors all together.
What's your go-to outfit?
Best parenting advice you've received?
Spend time with your children and make them a priority, as they grow up too fast.
You're a mother, designer, business owner, and store owner - please tell us your time management secrets!
Find a team you trust and admire. A team you can communicate well with. I couldn’t do any of this without them. It takes time sometimes to find the right team. I feel so lucky to have found them!
What are you loving at the moment - anything from books to podcasts to products and experiences?
With the state of the world right now, I am really enjoying staying home, cooking, and browsing my cookbooks for new recipes. I love London’s Ottolenghi Cookbooks and It’s All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow.