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From Bali to Sicily: Swimsuit designer Innes Heywood’s six favourite swimming spots around the world

Photography By Anna Pihan and Innes Heywood
Published 26.08.22

“If I wasn’t in a swimsuit, I was naked. I was essentially a water baby.”

On the east coast of Bali, nestled between Mount Agung and a sandy black beach, rests the remote island beach resort Amankila. It’s where Innes Heywood – founder of swimsuit label Innes Lauren – grew up.

With hoteliers for parents, her childhood was a stark contrast from the typical Australian suburban life it might’ve been. Until the age of eight, Innes was eating local Indonesian food, speaking Bahasa and exploring the resort’s endlessly photographed backyard, as if it was her own personal playground. “I was sort of kept to exploring corners of the resort. I would spend a lot of time down on the grass where it meets the sand,” Innes says. “I grew up in a bubble, but it was a beautiful bubble.”

Innes means “island dweller” – a fitting match for her life experiences. Her first memories are nature-filled escapes, immersed in the ocean and sand. “I could actually swim before I could walk,” Innes laughs. “My childhood was totally careless, wild and free. It was barefoot and a little bit nonsensical at times. But being in that environment shaped who I am today.”

It’s also the impetus behind her label, Innes Lauren, which was founded in 2018. The swimwear designs are an authentic reflection of her and have a unique sense of nostalgia. “I’ve gained a lot of inspiration from other places in the world, like Italy and Europe in general, but essentially the core of my business is an ode to Indonesia and to Bali,” she says. This comes through in the brand’s consideration of the environment: using recycled textiles, a made-to-order ethos and an emphasis on high-quality garments. “Growing up so close to nature definitely made me appreciate it more,” she says. 

Innes Lauren promotes a return to slow living and island pace. “I think when we become adults a lot of that childlike freedom and ease and carelessness tends to be overridden by sophistication. I think that often when we’re in a swimsuit we’re our best selves,” she says. By imbuing her pieces with simplicity, Innes hopes she can help women tap into feelings of innate beauty that come with considered design. 

This is also evident in the creation of pieces that are sexy and stylish, yet supportive and functional. “They’re sort of designed as a second skin,” she says. You can wear these swimsuits everyday, all day: under pants, under dresses, with shorts, on a beach, on a boat or on a plane. 

She describes water as a big part of her everyday life, a “kind of meditation” that is essential to resetting and realigning. And, whether it’s five degrees or 30 degrees, wherever she is she’ll find a place to swim. “I was in Sweden the other day and there’s not much swimming in Stockholm, but I managed to find this swimming spot because I just needed that swimming fix. I always try to seek out little swimming spots wherever I can whether I’m in a city or by the coast,” she says. 

On her travels around the world she’s scouted some of the most unique and blissful locations. Here’s Innes’s top six swimming spots to add to your never-ending bucket list. 

NUSA LEMBONGAN – BALI, INDONESIA

“About halfway between Secret Beach and Jungutbatu Beach in Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia, I found a sweet little spot to swim. Depending on the tide, I either dive off the rocky ledge or walk in through the stairs. The ocean is crystal clear, sparkly from the morning sun and there are no people around, just the fishermen on their jukung boats coming back from sea.”

SECRET LOCATION – SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

“[There’s] a little secret spot [for swimming] between Milk Beach and Hermit Beach along Sydney’s harbour. If you look closely along the boardwalk there are some small rocky steps that lead you down to the water’s edge. I swim out to the sailing boats that are close by and hear only the gentle lapping of waves against the rocks.”

WATEGOS BEACH – BYRON BAY, AUSTRALIA

Located only 2km east of Byron Bay town centre, Wategos Beach is one of the most loved beaches in New South Wales’ Northern Rivers region – and a beautiful spot to swim. “My Australian home. I like swimming on the side closer to Little Wategos as I am a creature of habit. I sometimes run down for a quick swim in between my work day or stay for the afternoon and watch the sunset that takes over the sky with a golden hue. It’s also my favourite place to surf,” Innes says.

PANAREA – SICILY, ITALY

Panarea is the smallest of the seven inhabited Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily. Known for attracting international jetsetters for a taste of dolce far niente (sweet nothing), it’s the perfect place to switch off and enjoy the idyllic landscape. “I swim everywhere on this island, but there is something about jumping off the side of our little rubber boat into deep blue water that I love. We anchor the boat near big rocks and swim, drink wine and take in the heat of the day,” Innes says.

AMANKILA POOL – EAST BALI, INDONESIA

Amankila is a spirit-lifting sanctuary on the east coast of Bali. The smell of tuberose, frangipani-lined walkways through the treetops, architectural clean lines and neutral colour palette are a treat for the senses. “I was lucky enough to call this beautiful property my childhood home and it’s essentially where Innes Lauren all started as a careless, wild child running and jumping from pool to pool. Now I love swimming between the pool up on the cliff and walking down to the private beach to dive in the ocean,” Innes says.

SAN FRUTTUOSO – GENOA, ITALY

“San Fruttuoso is a small pebble cove between the lush green Portofino National Park and the ocean. It can only be accessed by boat or a long hike down. I love sitting outside at the little restaurant eating trofie al pesto then spending the whole day by the crystal blue water’s edge,” Innes says.

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