How Filipina Entrepreneur Jemina Ty Turned Blackbough Swim into an Empire
It's not easy being a woman of color on an entrepreneurial journey, but thanks to women like Blackbough Swim founder Jemina Ty, every day brings us one step closer to a more diverse, inclusive and empowered future.
Traveling back to 2017, the Manila native struggled to find a bikini that went beyond the standard modest swimsuit available in the Philippines. Destined to see change, Jemina took a leap of faith and started Blackbough. Today, Blackbough has grown into one of the most prominent swimwear brands, loved by thousands of women worldwide—and has even received co-signs from Kendall Jenner, Camila Cabello and more.
Blackbough Swim prides itself on its high-quality, sustainable manufacturing. Each swimsuit is specially made with triple-lining, with each custom design printed directly onto the material to use less water and minimize waste. Their packaging is 100% biodegradable and reusable, and they purchase carbon credits to eliminate carbon shipping. When you shop Blackbough, you're also buying a story—Jemina's youthful prints are inspired by the places she's visited and, ultimately, a reflection of her love and dedication to swimwear.
Below, Jemina sat down with Sweety High to discuss her path to and relationship with Blackbough and her advice to emerging business owners.
(Image Courtesy of Jemina Ty)
Sweety High: What does it mean to you to be an Asian woman in the fashion industry? Do you feel like your identity as a WOC has affected your entrepreneurial journey?
Jemina Ty: People are often surprised when they find out that Blackbough Swim is a Filipina-owned brand. This may come with both negative and positive connotations, but I always take it as a compliment. I feel like being a Filipina makes me more proud of how and what Blackbough came to be.
My identity definitely has helped me in my entrepreneurial journey because I instilled my Filipino values into my everyday work and bring my heritage and culture into some of the products I make, whether it be the print or style.
Also read about: The Minority-Owned Swimwear Brands You Should Know
SH: You're based out of Manila. Do you think growing up in the Philippines shaped the way you view swimwear?
JT: Because the Philippines is a more conservative country, most of the swimwear has more modest styles and cuts. When I started Blackbough, I wanted to break away from the stigma and make a variety of pieces I personally would want to wear, which were different from those in the Filipino market.
P.S., Blackbough is still based in Manila, but we cater to all our customers worldwide.
SH: What has been the most meaningful moment in your career with Blackbough?
JT: Seeing my vision come together—from printmaking to final execution. The fact that I've built something like this has kept me motivated through my journey as Blackbough's CEO and creative director.
Another small but meaningful moment is being in the office every day, working with my team and seeing all of our hard work and ideas come to life. We are one big family that shares the goal of making each collection and launch unique and organic to our brand. My team constantly inspires me to give my 110%, push my creativity to its limits and make each day a change for the brand to be the best in the industry.
(Image Courtesy of Jemina Ty)
SH: As a small team ourselves, we love that Blackbough promotes a close-knit environment. Why is it important to you to be able to work closely with the employees?
JT: With Blackbough being a brand that caters to a worldwide audience, it's ideal to have a lot of helping hands. However, I personally prefer to keep my work circle to around 40 to 50 employees. As a CEO, I want to be able to get to know every single employee at my company.
It's been so much fun working with everyone on my team. Blackbough wouldn't be where it is today without their hard work and dedication, and I will always be grateful for that.
SH: On your website, you call Blackbough the "perfect, no-nonsense bikini to bum around on the beach." How do the Blackbough bikinis differ from other swimsuit brands out there?
JT: I think what sets Blackbough apart from other brands is that every print, style and cut is unique and original. My designs are a reflection of certain moments in my life. I also think the quality of our triple-lined, buttery-soft bikinis is something you can't find anywhere else.
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SH: What's your favorite bikini that you've released?
JT: It's almost impossible to pick one favorite suit, but at the moment, it would be the Martini Top, Daniella Bottoms and the Keisha Saron in Sicily, inspired by the coastal towns I've visited and instantly fell in love with.
The classic triangle top was one of our first designs back in 2017, and it instantly became a hit. Despite the several styles I've created, this remains one of my favorites to this day! The Daniella Bottoms, on the other hand, are extremely versatile and have the right amount of coverage. I love the matching Keisha Sarong—worn around the waist or over the head. It's extremely chic and fun.
SH: Where do you hope Blackbough will be in five years?
JT: In five years, I would love for Blackbough Swim to be a household name worldwide. When I founded the brand six years ago, I had the goal of creating beautiful, vibrant and functional pieces that would make its users feel as confident as possible.
I'm confident that if we continue to keep these core values at the forefront of everything we do, we'll be able to reach that goal.
(Image Courtesy of Jemina Ty)
SH: To other Asian (and POC) women who want to be business owners one day, what advice can you offer them?
JT: Aside from my goal of building a worldwide-loved brand, I want Blackbough Swim to be an inspiration to all Asian, POC women and women, in general, to dream big, take up space, do great things and lead.
I truly believe that women's leadership and creativity are essential in modern business, and this is evidently shown in my own team, which is 97% women-led.
Ready to purchase your 2023 bikini? Check out Blackbough Swim and read HERE to discover the this year's top swimsuit trends.