Quote Unquote: This 12-Year-Old Girl is Debuting Her First Swimsuit Line

Keānuenue DeSoto is a 12-year-old fashion designer on the rise.
Photo: David Croxford

Last December, Keānuenue DeSoto, 12, presented her first collection, Mākaha Fierce, before fashion notables that included Kini Zamora, who came out to support this designer on the rise. Her collection only consisted of 15 mix-n-match swimwear pieces, but this creative wiz has to design, cut and sew her pieces when she gets home from a full day of classes at Kamehameha Schools. 


KEĀNUENUEHAHAIIKANALUPO‘I means “the rainbow that follows the breaking wave.” My mom named me that so when my dad, Duane DeSoto, goes on surfing trips and he sees the spray from the breaking waves and the rainbow it creates, he remembers me. 


MY DAD TAUGHT ME to not be afraid of anything, I was surfing with him before I could walk. My mom gives me good advice too. She always says, “I know you can do it, and if you know you can do it, you can do it!” 


WHEN I WAS 3 years old, I used to watch my grandma sew and it looked like fun, so I began to sew simple bags. Four years later, my mom attended a gala and bid on free sewing classes. She won, and I got to learn how to sew from Me + U. I made a ruffle skirt, ’cause I love ruffles, threw on bright pink leggings underneath it, paired it with my black Nikes and went to the skate park for skate lessons. 


I STARTED DRAWING bathing suits last year. When I was deciding what type of pieces to make for my first line, my dad said, “Why not swimsuits? You live in yours.” I thought, That’s true. And I somehow always lose them. 


MY INSPIRATION FOR Mākaha Fierce came from Mākaha. It’s an important place for me because my dad’s side of the family lives in Mākaha and he learned to surf at Mākaha Beach. Actually, I think we’re the only DeSotos that live in town! 


I CHOSE bright colors because that’s what I love to wear, my name does mean rainbow. Mākaha has a lot of graffiti, so the print has spray-painted words on it. Plus, my mom and dad loved the brightness of the pieces because it makes it easier for them to spot me and my siblings in the water. 


THERE WERE so many challenges producing this line. The biggest one was manufacturing. No manufacturers wanted to help, they were all too busy with other projects. Most of the sewing got done a few days before the show. My mom, cousin and a couple of aunties helped me cut and sew, I stayed up until 3 the night before the show trying to finish everything. 


I DO WANT TO try surf more. Right now it’s design and homework during the weekdays, and surfing on the weekends. Sometimes I wish it was the opposite. 


MY ADVICE to kids who want to pursue their own passions: No dream is too big. Kids think they’re small and no one will notice them, but if they work hard and make their dream real, it’ll happen. 


Did you know? Keep an eye out for Keānuenue’s next beach-inspired clothing line, which she hopes to launch this May.