Voyager Journal
Dialogue Series No. 9 / Pali Swim


There is always something special for us about San Francisco based brands, it might be a similar way of understanding things or just the simple sharing of a wild spirit that always makes pop ups with local artists a bit wilder than others. Martha and Naomi, met in San Francisco, both working at their second job and dreaming about what could be. 

Pali Swim is their collaborative venture. Pali Swim is a swim, surf & chillwear brand based in San Francisco, California. Their first collection of expertly crafted, actively minded swimwear launched in this past Spring and is made in Northern California.

Marta: Hii!! I am so excited to hear more about your story guys! How did all start? How did you two became Pali Swim?

Martha: It all started at Levi Strauss and Co. where Naomi and I both worked in Merchandising and Design. We honestly weren’t really friends until one day when I asked if anyone wanted to take a pottery class. She was psyched on it and we started spending every Tuesday night making fairly bad bowls and cups. Spending time outside of work lead us to realize how much we had in common from fashion, to humor and most importantly, our love of the ocean. About a year later and within a day of each other, we both quit Levi's. We spent a few months traveling together and separately to Bali, Australia, Japan, Hawaii and New York. We talked about what we liked from every market place and what we thought the world is missing in swimwear. After our eat, pray, love moment, we returned to SF and said screw it, let’s just try this! 



M: That is so perfect! And a great time to do it! I think there is a lot of us with that big corporate background that wanted to break free from it! That said the experience you get working with so many people at such an enormous company I think it is priceless! I know you always loved fashion design but did you always know that this was what you wanted to do? Did you always know that swimwear was were your heart was?

Naomi: As a kid in New York City I was completely fascinated by all things California surf. Maybe it was the Pet Sounds record that my brother and I listened to on repeat on our Fisher Price turntable or the fact that I spent my summers in the available lake, pool, ocean, playground sprinkler etc. but It surprised no one when I moved to SF after college. My career has taken me in a lot of directions from art to food to fashion and Pali Swim just feels like a natural progression. 

Martha: For me personally, I’ve known I wanted to design swim since I was 9 years old. I grew up in Hilo, HI on a Pali (Hawaiian for cliff) overlooking a local surf break. I woke up and fell asleep to the sound of the Ocean, and would be swimming in between. The water is my happy place, and everyone deserves to look good in their happy place! After attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, my love of chillness and hate of winter quickly brought me back west. 



M: I love getting into the designer's head and trying to understand why they do what they do, so this question is always my favorite! What are the first steps when designing a new collection? Do you start by a color palette, or a textile, or a pattern? What is the first inspiration that sets all in motion?

Martha: Pali really stemmed from our love of being active in the water and the lack of cute swimwear for that. Whether you are surfing, swimming, tanning or jumping off waterfalls, we wanted to create a line that you could do anything in and remain both comfortable and stylish. We took that stoke of being in the water and combined it with our knowledge of trends and fashion. 

Naomi: That said, rather than looking toward other active or swim designs for inspiration we take elements from ready to wear apparel such as a seam line on a dress or the cut of a sleeve on a sweater and work from there. Most of this process takes place on a shared Pinterest board or via text. We send each other a lot of media from a bra strap detail on a coworker to a video of a woman who's best friend is an eel. Somehow it all comes together. 

M: The bay area also and more than that California is also something very important in your inspiration process and the way you do things, right?

Naomi: Making our products in California has been important to us from the beginning. Being able to go to the factory and work closely with them on fit and pattern has been so special.  

Martha: We also want to work with a new Pali Person every season. A Pali Person is an artist we collab with that shares our love of the water and brings a unique artisan approach to our brand. This season’s Pali Person (and my big sister) Sasha Duerr is an Oakland based Natural Dyer and Author who has shown us the endless bounty of nature’s beauty through natural color. 

M: I can see that nature is a constant both in your designs, your style and your concept too, right? How would you describe Pali Swim in a few words? What is the bigger idea behind it?

Naomi: Pali Swim is active, classic, and funny. We design unique, functional pieces that aren’t fussy or something you need to worry about in the water. We take fashion seriously but not ourselves and try to incorporate humor into everything PS puts out into the world. From our product descriptions to our Instagram we are creating a carefree, funny, tropical oasis of sorts. 

Martha: I think what motivates me to continue PS can be summed up by my experience at the Russian River this weekend. Halfway down the river, I took off my straw visor, got out of my float and begin to climb up a tree to jump off of. Three women floating by yelled “You’re suit is beautiful”. I responded with “Thanks! It’s Pali Swim, come to our pop up at Voyager next weekend” and then cannonballed into the water. I really hope they show up! 


M: Awww I sure hope they do too! That spontaneity and that freedom is something that I value so much, and it is one of the things that keeps us doing what we do at Voyager. That said, why did you choose Voyager for a Pop Up? What excited you about us and made you decide to let us carry the brand?

Martha: It’s a dream come true to see Pali in a local store we’ve always loved and respected! We think Voyager gets it. It’s such a well curated shop that carries beautiful, unique, well thought out designs but also doesn’t take itself too seriously. I loved walking into there a few weeks ago and seeing a random face glued onto a plant. You get it, fashion and humor can go hand in hand!

M: Aww, thank you so much! I am so excited to be able to host and see local brands grow, It is a real treat for us to be part of the process ! 



M: And now to finish, the classic question of how do you see the line in 10 years, but I want to know more about where you would like to see it? 

Martha: In ten years, I’d like to see Pali Swim as well respected brand, loved by ocean enthusiast across the globe. We don’t need to be the next Roxy but I'd like to have a store front/studio to work from so my roommates won’t have to live with hundreds of swimsuits. Although in 10 years, I hope to have replaced my roommates with a pool. Eventually, we want Pali Swim to expand from just swimwear into a full lifestyle brand, tiki mugs included.

M: YES! Save me a couple of them! :) Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, so excited about the pop up this weekend and about Sasha's performance! 

Please all join us at our San Francisco store, this Friday from 6 to 9pm, for drinks, tunes, beautiful life natural Hibiscus dying and the best swimwear for the Indian Summer to come!


More Pali Swim here

More on the party here

All pictures courtesy of Pali Swim

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