La Salle’s Raven Domingo Shares Glimpse of Hawaii with Keahikini Swimwear

Photo Courtesy: Raven Domingo

La Salle’s Raven Domingo Shares Glimpse of Hawaii with Keahikini Swimwear

The COVID-19 pandemic gave Raven Domingo time to think, which revealed two important things.

With pools in her native Hawaii closed, Domingo got a break from training with Hilo Aquatic Club. Instead, she and her teammates did their best to stay active in the ocean around the Big Island, working within rules against hanging out or socializing in the early days of spring 2020.


Photo Courtesy: Raven Domingo

Her return to open water helped ward off what she now recognizes as early signs of burnout on the sport. And connecting to the natural setting – to the beauty of Hawaii, to the freedom offered by the sea that is so central to Hawaii’s fiercely independent culture – rekindled interest in her culture and left her searching for new creative outlets to express it.

“It was kind of reconnecting with the ocean again,” Domingo told Swimming World recently. “Because I’d been swimming in the pool for so long and staring at the line at the bottom of the pool, it was so nice to be able to get out in the ocean and look at things and see nature. It was eye-opening because I got so fixated on my times and if I was improving and I think I got a little burnt out in the pool. But having the pandemic happen and everything getting shut down, I was forced to take a break and reevaluate, and I found my love for swimming again.”

Domingo would come out of that break with not just a new outlook on swimming but a way to bottle that feeling of revelation. She used her new free time during the pandemic to found a swimwear company, Keahikini, with designs near and dear to Domingo’s heart: Businesses owned by Hawaiians, by women, that showcase motifs of cultural significance on the island. The venture has followed her to the mainland, where she just finished her sophomore year at La Salle University.

The contrast of those early pandemic workouts was stark. Domingo went from tile-bound school pools populated by swimmers in drab racing suits to the boundless beauty of the Pacific. Suddenly, the dour palette of racing suits seemed so lacking by comparison.

Domingo sought to change that, if only for herself. A creative person attracted to design, she had grown closer to her Hawaiian heritage and the island’s cultural traditions. Keahikini allowed that to blossom.

She touts the brand as “handmade slow fashion.” She connected with Hawaiian designers to find patterns for the suits, many showcasing natural shapes like flowers and sea shells, in colors that are naturalistic but vibrant. She experiments with different swimsuit cuts, allowed them to be flattering on different body types and suited for use in water or all day at the beach.

“Being a small business and woman-owned, I also wanted to support other businesses that were native Hawaiian owned, women-owned,” she said. “I look at their story and how they started, and I feel like they have the same kind of mission as me, promoting culture and reeducation of culture. Their designs are what help me deliver my message and illustrate it. They help tell a huge part of the story.”


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A post shared by Raven Keahi Domingo (@ravendomingo_)

Keahikini started in the fall of 2020, Domingo’s junior year of high school. With swimming on hiatus in the pandemic, Domingo got a glimpse of the end of her swimming career. In Keahikini, she saw something that would outlast her swimming days, a way to stay connected to the water and the things about it that were most important to her.

The company came with her to La Salle, where she figures she’s one of the few students with an in-dorm sewing machine (“It wasn’t in the guidelines that we couldn’t have one, so,” Domingo reasons). She runs the operation from her dorm, taking orders online, doing marketing on social media, sewing the suits and shipping them through the school’s mailroom. Time management is a challenge, one she’s gotten better at as she’s grown into life as a student-athlete. Living in Hawaii, she’s used to the supply chain challenge that is waiting for fabric to cross a vast ocean, so the expedited shipping that comes with being in Philadelphia is a relative joy.

What’s most important to her now is what sent her on the journey in the first place: The Keahikini suits are a way to communicate her cultural identity. They’ve sparked so many conversations, with teammates or opponents at meets, about the story behind the fetching designs.

“I’ve been able to connect with other people from Hawaii in the A-10 that I didn’t even know were from back home,” she said. “And it’s sparked a lot of conversation about my lineage and my personal connection to my culture, which is something I don’t think I always share.”

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kimo kulolo
kimo kulolo
11 months ago


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