BEHIND THE BRAND: KIM DEUSS

May 31, 2019 6 min read

BEHIND THE BRAND: KIM DEUSS

 

Kim Deuss is the founder and creative director of Daughters of Summer. Kim grew up in Bermuda - a small island in the North Atlantic, surrounded by cerulean seas and an abundant coral reef. She spent her childhood on the water before taking up free diving, scuba diving and surfing - passions which continue to drive her today.

Adventurous and curious, Kim recently returned to Bermuda, having spent several years working as a fashion designer in New York. She launched Daughters of Summer earlier this year - a resortwear line inspired by her love of the ocean which puts its wellbeing at the very core of its ethos with a focus on environmental and social responsibility.

We sat down with Kim to discuss her most memorable moments on the water and the importance of ocean conservation.

 

What was it like growing up in Bermuda?

I was very active and did a lot of sports growing up. I was outdoors a lot. We spent our weekends at the beach and often with a close group of friends on their boat inner tubing, water skiing and wakeboarding. When I wasn’t in the water, I spent the majority of my time being creative - playing piano and drawing (at first cartoons, then portraits and eventually sketching clothes). My life is not so different today!

 

Has the ocean always been a big part of your life?

When I was a kid, my Dad nicknamed me "little fish" because I would stay in the water so long that my fingers and toes shriveled. He often had to bribe me to get me out of the water! I would gladly spend my days at the beach, sitting in the surf and allowing myself to get pushed up and down the sand banks with the incoming waves.

I also spent a few summers at The Bermuda Zoological Society where I learnt about marine life and snorkeling. I always thought that if I didn't go to study fashion at university that my next choice would have been a marine biologist!

 


When did you first start diving?

My step father, Neil Burnie, came into our lives when I was about seven years old and soon became a second father to me. Neil was a veterinarian and he was deeply passionate about the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it. He was also incredibly adventurous!

He developed a passion for free diving along with spearfishing. One of his favourite past times was swimming with sharks  - he would often leave the cage to swim alongside them - and later went on to found The Bermuda Shark Project

I became quite interested in free diving too. I was never trained or got any direction on how to free dive. I just watched Neil and did as he did. I later learnt to scuba dive when I was at university.

Tragically Neil died in a diving accident a few years ago. After losing him, I reflected on the lessons that he had taught me and decided to incorporate these into my own life. They were: Do what you love. Say yes to as many opportunities as you can and make the most of what life has to offer. And lastly to fully learn to love yourself for you regardless of any quirks or "imperfections" because life is too short to not do any of these things.

His way of thinking continues to inspire me and led to me launching Daughters of Summer. When we lost Neil, my family and close friends of his set up The Dr Neil Burnie Foundation as a way of keeping his memory alive and continuing his work for marine education and preservation.

 

 

What do you enjoy about diving?

When I'm diving I feel like I'm a part of another world that doesn't belong to me. There is just so much to see! You could be swimming along and think there is nothing there but sand when you suddenly notice a translucent shrimp darting along the bottom of the ocean floor.

Sea life is genuinely interested in humans too! I've been surprised to find small pudding wives swimming underneath my belly as I scuba dive. I've had also wahoo come within a few feet of me. I once had a dolphin fish 3/4 my size eat out of my hand. It's absolutely amazing that these creatures are so inquisitive about us and we must do everything we can to protect them.


How often do you dive?

Unfortunately lately I haven't been diving very much. Although now that I've become friends with Rachel and Taylor (pictured here), who are both avid divers and lovers of the sea, I hope to change that and get out on the water more often!

When my stepfather was alive we would frequently go out on the boat. We loved going to Eastern Blue Cut, which is a protected dive area with a sunken ferry boat and a really cool underwater swim-through. I wouldn't attempt free diving it, but Neil could easily do it. I would follow behind him on a scuba tank.

 

What is your most memorable diving experience?

That would definitely be the night dive I did in the Big Island of Hawaii. It was my first night dive. I sometimes get claustrophobic so I was a little nervous as it was completely dark. When we got into the water there was a very strong current coming into the bay. It kept pushing me over on the ocean floor and I couldn't sit upright. Eventually the dive master placed a giant rock in my lap to keep me weighted down!

We had flashlights to attract the plankton and manta rays, who soon joined us. With their impressive size, the rays (which reach up to 29 feet from wing tip to wing tip) floated so gracefully and effortlessly. They swam only inches above my head, scooping up the plankton into their mouths.

After the dive we swam through the dark back to the boat. My dive buddy didn't signal our ascent and I found myself alone in the dark. I started to get anxious and as soon as I saw them at the surface I quickly swam up to join them.  I ascended too quickly and ended up rupturing one of my ear drums! After that I couldn't dive for 6 months. Apart from that, it was by far the most incredible dive experience I’ve ever had!

 

 

 

Where is your favourite place to dive?

My favorite place to dive in Bermuda is Eastern Blue Cut since it holds a lot of memories for me, including one birthday when I dove there with Neil and he and his friend sang Happy Birthday to me underwater!

I also love diving in Hawaii. In Maui we dove in the Molokini Crater which was amazing. I saw eels that imitated sea grass - as you swam up to them they retracted back into the sand. I also saw a small reef shark following a sunfish.

 

How did this lead you to Daughters of Summer?

For me, being in the ocean is therapeutic. I always feel so happy in the water. Spending time in the sea definitely relieves stress for me, no matter whether I'm going for a swim, free diving or going for a surf. After being raised by the water, it means so much to me to do my best to help protect it.

I have always wanted to do something positive with my life. After reading Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, I was inspired to make that positive change through business.

The fashion industry is incredibly wasteful. Working as a fashion designer in New York, I witnessed first-hand just how polluting the industry is. Working for large corporations, I tried my best to try to incorporate environmentally friendly fabrics, but this wasn’t always their priority.

This led to me founding Daughters of Summer as a resort wear brand with sustainability at its core. I decided to launch with swimwear after finding an environmentally responsible swimwear fabric that is as luxurious in look and feel as it is socially responsible. It is made from recycled plastics. Not that you’d know it by looking at it - the quality of the fabric is amazing and it feels incredibly luxurious.

I’m currently researching alternative fabrics made out of polymer fibers which are made from organic plant-based materials. This is even better for the environment because it is not plastic, which takes tens to hundreds of years to break down. I’m continually researching better methods in order to further improve our business processes and I’m excited to share this journey with my customers!

 

 

Kim and her friends Rachel Sawden, a fellow freediver, and Taylor Barit, a record breaking spearfisher, spent the day free diving off Bermuda’s Elbow Beach.

Kim wears the Mica Top and Rianne Bottom is Black

Rachel wears the Mica Top and Rianne Bottom in Fire Coral 

Taylor wears the Mica Top and Rianne Bottom in Cedar

Photographs by Conor Outerbridge




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