We had the good fortune of connecting with Aika Exceus and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aika, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I knew building a business/brand, it had to stem from something I love and passionate about. At the time, Haitian designers and artist were incorporating more voodoo symbols, called vèvè, to their art pieces or clothing line. It was a way to show more awareness of the different aspect of voodoo and finally accepting it as our culture because it is part of us Haitian, it is our blood and our ancestor’s way of liberating us from slavery. I wanted to hop on the trend yet think outside the box. I thought: what are the things I love and can talk nonstop about…Haiti and the beach and bikini. Haiti spelt in my language creole and bikini together. Ayittikini = Ayiti + Bikini. I immediately said I will create a swimwear brand showing my version of Haiti that goes beyond the country’s flag color. I will have a vèvè collection to showcase the artistic side of voodoo. It will be the 1st swimwear brand with the symbols on it. I was so excited of the thought of tapping into my creative side and creating a whole brand for myself. I knew that It will not have a lot of demand but I could not let go of the idea. I felt that I needed to put it out in the world before someone else does.
In order to ease people into that collection, I had started with the palm tree collection which represents strength, victory, growth. The Caribbean that showcased some of Haitian’s national flower and birds, which we can also find in other Caribbean islands. Lastly, the vèvè swim line represents the religious and cultural symbol of voodoo with different gods that is complex and yet beautiful. Each symbol has its storyline. I added my personal touch, putting the face to identify the gods alongside their symbols.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I come from a creative family. My father was a painter and I used to admire his pieces. We used to have painting sessions when my brother and I would visit him on weekends. Then he stopped painting overall and for some odd reason, I did the same. It wasn’t until I started thinking about creating Ayittikini that I went back to develop my drawing skills. I took some private art lessons, watched YouTube videos on portrait painting, etc. The only real challenge for me as I tend to be too hard on myself when it comes to my art. I want everything to be perfect so I end up procrastinating and hiring a Haitian artist to design my ideas. However, I have been receiving so much positive feedback and messages of people telling me how I was an inspiration to them that it proves that my hustle and hard work have not been in vain. I had to come to terms that whatever I put out will be beautiful and worthwhile. You are your toughest critic thus I learned to not downplay myself when it comes to my art pieces or ideas. I want the world to know that any ideas that you have are worthy of a display!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My friend actually came to visit in May so this was a short version of our itinerary.
– Lunch at Flower Child or a vegan pizza at La Grande Orange in Scottsdale.
– Later we would drive to Night bull riding to have the full Cowboy experience.
-6am drive to Sedona
– Some Hiking trails : Devil’s Den etc
-find a local restaurant with fancy cocktails preferably with a view of the mountains
-Visit the church on the rock
-Red rock State
– Drive back home
– Frontier town for Cowboy shows, visit the shops
– Tempe Beach park in the afternoon to ride the scooters
– Party at Old Town (Bar hopping)
-Brunch at the Hash Kitchen
– Party Bike
-Relax by the pool
– visit shops in Old Town
-What are we in the mood for!
-Hiking at Camel Back
– Dinner at STK
– Got to the mall before flight
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Ayittikini wouldn’t be possible without my mother Petou. She is my rock, my mentor! My sister Altagracia, my New York Baz/great friends , my family and everyone who have been supporting me since the beginning . I know who you are and I want to say Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the encouraging words and spreading the word about my business. You are appreciated!! ♥
Other: TikTok : Ayittikini19 Etsy: Ayittikini