Jarra Campbell - the Bondi Alchemist
Meet Bondi alchemist, Jarra Cambell, designer and creator of her own surf wear brand, “the Bondi Alchemist” … see what we did there? And there is certainly nothing ordinary about Jarra’s original, sustainably produced swimwear, masterfully crafted using luxurious Italian fabrics produced from recycled fishing nets.
Jarra found peace and purpose when she discovered surfing in her early 30’s. Although beach and surf culture were ingrained in her upbringing, hailing from Sydney’s Cronulla beach, and spending much of her adult life living at Australia’s iconic Bondi Beach, her own wave riding journey came later, during a somewhat serendipitous time living in Bali. With a growing dissatisfaction in the surf-functionality of swimwear available on the market at the time, a feeling shared by many of her fellow female surfers, an idea began to form, and Jarra’s passion project began. Aided by her successful corporate career as a business professional, Jarra took her time to develop her brand with integrity and care, and passionately pursued a more ethical business model. “the Bondi Alchemist” was born, and due to its early success, Jarra was able to leave the corporate world behind and now dedicates her time solely to her “Love Project" with infectious positivity.
So let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from?
I’m from beautiful Cronulla Beach, a coastal neighborhood about 30 minutes South of Sydney CBD, Australia.
Where do you call home now? And how did you end up there?
I’m in between countries at the moment, so don’t call anywhere home (ha!) but have been living in Bali for 3 years. I originally moved to Bali to work as the Director of Business Development & Marketing for one of the best resorts in the world, Nihiwatu.
Tell us about your swimwear brand the Bondi Alchemist. Where did your brands journey begin and what inspired you to start it?
In Bali at 33 I decided to seriously sink my teeth into learning to surf, even though I always loved the ocean, had grown up in Cronulla Beach and lived in Bondi Beach for 12 years I’d never really had the time surfing needs and in my younger days it was just something really only the boys did. When I started surfing I became so frustrated with having to adjust my swimsuit all the time. That’s the most difficult time for a surfer because you’re getting smashed around a lot so its preferable to not have to worry about anything but you and the waves. I had a million swimsuits and found 1 or 2 brands that worked but there really wasn’t many options. I also noticed that ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethically made’ weren’t a focus so I originally decided to start tBA for a bit of fun.
Is there a story behind the name the Bondi Alchemist?
The iconic Bondi Beach played a huge role in my adult life and shaping who I am as a woman, as did the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; so I wanted to honor those memories. Alchemy is turning something basic into something beautiful and that’s exactly what I do with my sustainable production.
I love so many quotes from the book The Alchemist but here’s one ‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself and that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams’… I truly followed my heart in creating this brand.
Tell us about some of the practices you have in place to create a greener brand, and how you came to use your awesome fabrics made from recycled fishing nets!
I knew there were sustainable options out there so started doing my research. I am first and foremost a business professional and as tBA was just for fun there was no time pressures. I wanted to make the very best product I could and I wanted to do business the right way, with integrity and with people who have the same vision. A bit off track as an answer I guess but still relevant because I searched and found an Italian fabric known for being a perfect material for swimwear, made from recycled fishing nets. I do whatever I can to stay green and have recently decided not to have business cards. Someone once pointed out that my swimwear was delivered in plastic bags (to me) which I embarrassingly had overlooked so I now request that my factory deliver all of my stock in my new bags made from bamboo and eucalyptus material which will then also be given to the customer to use.
Do you have a favourite piece of swimwear from your range?
The Signature One Piece for sure, it’s the heart of my brand. It was designed with my friends and I in mind and it’s also definitely the most popular. I have a new long sleeve version of the Signature One Piece on the way, as well as some High Waist Bikini Bottoms and matching Surf Triangle that I love too but they don’t suit me so much. They are all made to stay on and make you look good, no matter your size, so each of them have a little piece of my heart.
What’s next for the Bondi Alchemist?
Two new ranges, a new website, more product ranges, expansion into other markets, a second roadshow through the East Coast of Australia, a collaboration with a zinc brand and so much more…
What did you do before you set up your own brand, and do you work on the Bondi Alchemist full time?
Before Nihiwatu as mentioned above I worked in a National Sales role for LVMH. It’s currently my full time role.
What’s the best thing about what you do, and what is the most challenging?
The best thing is meeting so many amazing women around the world, getting their feedback on tBA and seeing them rockin’ in my stuff and loving it (gives me goose bumps)! The most challenging is expanding to people who don’t know your brand, especially to other markets saturated with swimwear. Although tBA is not your typical swimwear brand, communicating this and building a level of trust can be challenging if people can’t touch and feel the product. The Aussie East Coast Roadshow helps a lot with this and kills two birds with one stone because I also get to meet so many cool people in and out of the water and I find most customers who buy from me once, almost always come back for a different colour or design which speaks volumes to my quality.
It can be very daunting leaping into the volatile world on entrepreneurship. What advise would you give to others looking to set up their own brands built on their passions?
Keep a job while you do your research. Ask people what they think and be willing to accept honest feedback so you can create the best business possible. Think of every possible thing you will or could need and budget for WAY more than you’ll think you need. Stay on top of your accounts from the get-go and if something or someone doesn’t feel right then stop what you’re doing. Learn how to say no and learn how to say yes when you need. If you know you’ve got something worth creating only keep those around you who help you to stay positive and keep going when the times are a bit tough.
The personal stuff:
What are you known for?
In business, my perseverance and desire for win/win. Personally; my love of people and optimism.
What are you most proud of?
Listening to my heart and creating the Bondi Alchemist.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
That if we look inside ourselves and follow our heart without care for what other people think, that we can be happy.
Of all the places you have travelled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Nihiwatu Sumba Island, there is simply no place in the world like it. I am very grateful to have been a part of it’s beauty.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Love, family, friends and surfing of course.
What are you most grateful for?
All the good and the bad stuff that happened to lead me to where I am now.
What does surfing mean to you, and how has it changed your life?
Freedom and happiness. It’s the reason I created the Bondi Alchemist, met the people I’ve met, have the friends I have. It represents all the lessons in life.
Favourite wave or surf spot?
The Mentwai’s has to be one of the best places in the world to surf
I really don’t follow surfing that much, I’m more of a player than a spectator but if I had to say someone it would be Stephanie Gilmore.
Finish the sentence:
…this beautiful world.
…my family and friends.
…more surfboards ;)
Where can we find you online?
Posted by: Emma Gibbons, on October 13, 2018
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