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Joanna Hedley, the Founder of BeachCult, is Making Waves

Joanna Hedley, swimwear designer and owner of South African swimwear label BeachCult, tells ELLE how it all began

Akim Jardine (AJ): Five words that best describe you?

Joanna Hedley (JH): A creative, wanderlust-driven entrepreneur.

AJ: Where did it all begin?

JH: I’d started BeachCult on a small level – importing and creating a few garments – before doing my MBA with the International Fashion Academy in Paris. After completing my Master’s, I refined my vision of developing a 100% sustainable South African swimwear and resort brand and launched my first official swimwear line in 2015 at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg.

AJ: What is your brand’s core philosophy?

JH: The journey was an organic one – from seeing a niche in the market to realising that the pieces I made myself were preferred over imported ones. I’m an ocean child through and through, and feel that life really is better in a bikini – so there’s a lot of synergy between what I do and who I am.

AJ: How would you describe your brand and design?

JH: My brand’s largely defined by my use of local artists and illustrators to create unique art-driven South African-inspired prints. I design pieces for strong, confident womenwho like to express themselves. I draw my inspiration from my travels – I’ve visited 56 countries so far – and the brand’s defined by my identity.

AJ: What challenges do you face as a young designer?

JH: I stick to my vision and what I believe in, even when I’m filled with self-doubt. I only create garments I would wear myself and this has translated well to my following. I design for women who enjoy feeling beautiful and want an excellentt. There’ve been many dificulties and I have to figure it out myself – some decisions have been great, others not so great.

Photographs via AFI

AJ: Where does your creative process start?

JH: In my head! From obscure inspirations, I build a concept over a few months. I then work with illustrators and graphic designers to find a good fit for our prints – this defines how our collection looks. I make samples in all our new colours and prints and narrow it down to the new season’s styles.

AJ: What’s next for BeachCult?

JH: We’ve started expanding internationally; the brand is currently sold at high-end boutiques and beach clubs in Mykonos, Paris, Bodrum, Buenos Aires, Tulum, Mozambique and Madagascar. We’ll also be releasing small capsule collections throughout the year.

Follow the brand on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and shop online at

ELLE would like to extend our sincerest apologies for the incorrect publishing of Joanna's name in our November 2018 issue.

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