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Michaela Cawley

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Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had taken that one risk? Or are you considering taking a leap of faith? Michaela Cawley was not afraid to take risks. She put it all on the line.



Omaha Native Michaela Cawley’s line of swimwear called KKINI was inspired by her world travels. Before graduating from Santa Clara in 2006, Cawley decided to study abroad in South Africa. She spent the 2004-2005 year in South Africa and has since gone down every January for a month. Her year long journey in South Africa took her through Durban, Johannesburg, up the west coast of South Africa, Mozambique, Victoria Falls in Zambia, and Krueger National Park for safari. Cape Town was where Cawley felt most at home. Cawley says Cape Town is a very stylish city where many young designers are working to make their mark.

It was in Cape Town that Cawley noticed that she would wear an outfit the whole day and the concept of KKINI was formed. KKINIs are bathing suits stylish enough to wear all day and night. “I lived around the mountain from the beach, so I would go early in the morning to get parking, grab a coffee in my bikini with cute cover-up, sit at the beach in my swimsuit, meet my friends at a restaurant for lunch in a deck suit top and skirt dressy enough for an outdoor cafe, head back to beach in bikini, then go for sundowners at a bar and out for the evening---wearing swimwear all day and a chic enough cover-up that can transition from day to night.”

Early Years

Cawley has been designing since she was little. Growing up she would sketch out designs for Halloween costumes and her grandmother would help her sew them. She always had original costumes. When she was in high school she would create shirts inspired by designs she saw in Vogue. Cawley says you don’t need money to have style. “I think that as long as you think outside of the box, and you know what works for your body type you will have it," says Cawley. "You can't buy style."

“It's hard work and sometimes you'll feel like throwing in the towel because someone criticized a look with no thought about hurting your feelings--- but there is someone else out there that may love that same look--- and that's what fashion is all about - perception!”

On this month’s cover of Metro Magazine, Cawley’s swimsuit was worn by Miss Nebraska. Cawley’s swimsuit was pulled by a stylist who was organizing the shoot for the Miss America photo shoot. It was in the Omaha boutique SHELA, where she did her first trunk show. Cawley says she felt empowered as a woman and a new designer from Nebraska that her KKini was chosen for Miss Nebraska’s photo shoot. Cawley says of Miss Nebraska: “she's someone who represents power for women, intelligence, beauty inside and out and integrity in my home state.” She says those qualities are important to her and she tries to keep them in mind when designing. She adds that the “history of the bathing suit for women has evolved over the years, from covering up to stripping down, especially for pageant girls,” She was honored to have been able to combine the past and the future for this piece for Miss Nebraska.”

Successful people take risks. Cawley says if she were to think back on her life she would say, “I did something really risky, all on my own, with my own money that I saved.” She adds that she could have possibly failed but she listened to her heart to do what she wanted to do to succeed--- even when others put her ideas down. “I think it's really important to always focus on how you want a situation to turn out. If you really believe, you will find a way to make it happen. I want to be a self-made woman that doesn't let it go to my head,” says Cawley.

Inspiration comes in many different places. Cawley’s designs were inspired by Harry Houdini’s optical illusions. Houdini had tricks that made the eyes and the brain communicate at different times which created an effect. Cawley has used that same principle in her swimsuit designs. She uses ruching to make a stomach look smaller when she designs a bikini. She makes bust lines look larger with underwire and she has even designed straps that can change positions to make tan lines disappear. She enjoys using the concepts of Houdini in a modern way.

Cawley tells emerging designers to not think that fashion design is an easy job filled with sketching and finding a seamstress to create it. She says: “It's hard work and sometimes you'll feel like throwing in the towel because someone criticized a look with no thought about hurting your feelings--- but there is someone else out there that may love that same look--- and that's what fashion is all about - perception!”

What Next?

She would like to keep on adding designs to her swimsuit lines, particularly adding more one-piece suits. Further down the road she would like to design sunglasses and sandals too. Cawley hopes to make swimsuits forever and use a percentage of the profits to help save kids in townships in South Africa and spend a portion on research for alternative energy.

Cawley recently traveled to a temple in Japan that had a rock that fulfilled wishes. She journeyed downstairs in pitch black and found her way to a big rock that was lit by one shining light coming from the outside. Legend is that when you placed your hands on the rock, and you made a wish, it would come true. “I wished for happiness for friends and family, strength, and to make a difference somehow in the world that will mark my place here on earth in a positive light,” Cawley says. She doesn’t want to be remembered as some “floozy, but instead as someone who has a bigger picture in her head to make a difference doing something to help mankind while pursuing a passion for design and beach culture.”

Cawley says her life purpose is to try to make people smile, no matter what walk of life. She has traveled a lot and has lived in foreign places for long periods of time. This has been a great journey of discovery for her. She is when she is listening to others and finding some commonality to break bread and share a laugh together. Cawley likes knowing that the women that wear her suits will be having fun and living in the moment. “It gives me pleasure that my product will aid in some type of interaction in sunshine where the intention of the person wearing the suit is to smile," says Cawley.

Swimsuit photography by Thaddeus Rombauer

-end- metroMAGAZINE




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