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Catching up with Ann of La Bamba NYC

Late this summer we sat down with Ann Kim, a brand strategist, entrepreneur and tastemaker. She's the founder of La Bamba NYC, a surf company designing super stylish wetsuits made by women for women. 
Ann Kim of La Bamba Wetsuits

Tell us more about how you found surfing and what inspired you to create a brand in this space?

I grew up in Los Angeles, so surfing has always been a part of the cultural atmosphere. Being by the ocean has always felt incredibly natural for me. But it wasn't until my early-20s that I started getting into surfing more. 

And then a few winters ago, when I was out in CA visiting my parents, I went out surfing in a really garish, ugly wetsuit. I realized how surf gear and surf garments don't really cater to someone with an aesthetic sensibility. And every surf story in the category felt the same. I wanted to see if I could bring something fresh and sophisticated to the space and that's how La Bamba was born.


La Bamba Wetsuits


Love how you talk about creating La Bamba in a way that reflects your “heart and the times”. What are you craving from brands these days, how does that influence what you’re creating? 

I'm really craving more vulnerability, more raw creativity from brands. 

If 2020 taught me anything, it's that this pursuit of perfection in brand development and content creation is a total work of hocus pocus. It's not really relevant anymore. We all want to be real and raw about what we went through and I would love to see that reflected more from brands, especially in the surf space.

In that regard, I see a lot of legacy surf brands piggybacking on promoting diversity after decades of representation dirth and gender misrepresentation.

What I crave is a sincere apology if they're going to play there now. Or perhaps a recognition of how they haven't shown up in that way before and the impact that's had on young people of color, diverse gender identities, and how they feel about their right to play the sport.


Ann Kim of La Bamba Wetsuits

What does surfing mean to you- what do you love about it?

I'm a classic overthinker. I'm very in my head, all the time. And that habit can be very toxic, especially for someone like me, who is a kinesthetic learner. 

I need to be in my body in order to feel good, healthy, and alive. I'll start going mentally and emotionally south if I'm not diligent about having a body-based practice. Surfing is an incredible way for me to get out of my head and more into my body and intuition.


What's the last thing that made you belly laugh?

Conversations with friends! I recently chopped off all my hair and my friends and I lovingly refer to the new look as "mushroom". We've given her an entire personality and it's hilarious.


Ann Kim


Is there a new project or hobby you just started that has you excited to learn something for the first time?


Ooh, yes. There's a universe where Studio Holiday evolves into a more intentional content studio under another name. That's in the works currently. We're hoping to bring a more intentional point of view to storytelling and visuals with brands and companies we work with. 


As far as La Bamba goes, it's been slowwwww going with Covid restrictions and factory shutdowns, but we're prototyping a few new fullsuit ideas.


What gets you out of your comfort zone, in a good way?

I recently started doing a lot of manifestation work. It has required really going within to heal inner wounds that talk therapy hasn't been as effective at. Talk about getting me out of my comfort zone! There's no comfort there. You're digging deep, feeling so many emotions and rewriting old thinking. It's incredible, in the best possible way.


You moved from NYC to CA - welcome to the west coast! Have you found any hidden gems or favorite local spots yet (food, drinks, surf, etc)? 

I can't believe I'm going to say this. But, I love this spot in Ojai called Hip Vegan. It's not a secret so Ojai locals won't have to kill me. And undoubtedly, the name needs some work. But the food, wow, the food is like crack.

Everything there is INSANE. I am the last person on earth that could ever be a full-time vegan. But I don't know, if I had to eat here everyday, I would not be mad about it.

Hip Vegan Ojai

I also low-key love Ventiki in Ventura. I don't know. I'm just a sucker for a tiki bar. They also have spam musubi, which is my kryptonite.


Studio Holiday is your creative brand studio where you work with clients. Tell us more about that - do you love having a brand + creative studio? 

I love it. I beyond love it. I really enjoy working with people who are trying to build a business and put something new out into the world. Finding the patterns and hidden gems in their story and putting it on full blast is my superpower. And I love working with designers to translate that into a visual identity.



Is there something small you try to do every day to stay creative? Any recommendations on how to incorporate creativity into your everyday life? 

I'm was in Paris a few month ago and tried to walk every morning with no agenda on where I'm going, where I'll grab coffee, where I will eat. I force myself to put my phone down and not to look at a map. If I get lost, or wander too far from the apartment, I let it be. It's my daily practice in trusting myself and my intuition, which is as important to any creative practice as anything else I know. 

The walking thing works really well in a city, but back in Ojai, I cook a lot. I love to cook. Cooking, even if you use a recipe, really exercises my intuition and creativity muscles. Not to mention sharing, if you're feeding people you love.


Current recipe or drink you’re loving and what you're listening to?

This sounds strange. A girlfriend of mine turned me onto it, but I love Kombucha mixed with a little Mezcal on ice.

I've been listening to a lot of DJ Louise Chen's mixes lately. You can access a lot of them on NTS radio (here's the latest!). 

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