Prepare to embark on a stylish journey with Karina Irby, the creative force behind Moana Bikini and The Moana Smile Club. If you're not already familiar with these empowering brands, get ready to be swept away by Karina's passion for inclusivity, positivity, and vibrant beachwear. Alongside her husband and furry companions, Karina has been redefining the swimwear and activewear scene for over a decade, infusing her designs with a unique blend of confidence and coastal charm.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

"I am Karina Irby, the founder and owner of Moana Bikini and The Moana Smile Club. I am 34 years old; living and loving my home of Currumbin on the Gold Coast, with my husband, our three adorable chihuahuas – Billie, Barnie, and Biscuit - and our cockatiel, Charlie. I can’t start my day with a little Taylor Swift dance-party and an oat cappuccino.

I have been creating seamless, reversible bikinis, in incredibly unique and exclusive prints and colours, for now over 13 years!  Just 12 months ago we launched our amazing sister-brand, The Moana Smile Club, creating activewear and accessories with the same positive, empowering, and inclusive values as Moana Bikini."

Moana Bikini

In a previous interview with Frank Body, you discussed your dedication to body positivity. Could you elaborate on how this commitment influenced the creation of Moana Bikini?

"Of course! Moana Bikini began centred in my own struggles with body image and body acceptance.

I was always a little self-conscious growing up – I had a larger booty and thighs – as well as suffering from quite severe eczema. I didn’t find that the bikinis on the market, at the time, created cuts that were flattering for larger booty and I definitely didn’t feel like they fostered a community that would accept me for my skin conditions and issues, or communities at all.

First and foremost, I just wanted to find ‘my people’ and build a community of like-minded women who hyped each other up and had each others’ backs.

Being a long-term surfer and beach lover, I thought that perhaps I should create some bikinis that actually fit and flattered my body shape, and then use Social Media to get these into the hands of the kind of women who would support each other, and not compete or bring each other down.

This legitimately started with me selling to my friends and connections on Facebook with my very first $800 order from my manufacturer (money I borrowed from my Dad)… and has grown steadily and sustainably ever since."

How do you prioritise self-care and your well-being amidst the demands of running a business and maintaining a public persona?

"I won’t lie, it can be hard to prioritise yourself amidst all the business and public creator roles and responsibilities. To be honest, my Team at Moana HQ are probably the biggest catalysts in me prioritising self-care and well-being.  

While everyone loves and adores the brands and their roles, they have fostered an incredible Team environment that priorities personal self-care. Everyone is constantly checking in on each other’s’ well-being; for example, we actually all share the same therapist, and the gals all go to the same Pilates studio together.

I take their lead and make sure to take time for myself, my physical health, my mental health, my relationship health and, when I am taking ‘me’ time, I make sure it’s exactly that, and try hard not to let work creep in.

That said, I am always raring to get stuck back into work, but I absolutely love it!"

What's your go-to pump-up song or anthem when you need a burst of energy or motivation?

"Well, like a lot of people right now, I am definitely in my Eras Era! Over what seems like almost two decades now, Taylor’s music has always had my back and guided me through so much; break-ups, moving away from home, starting my businesses (!), ending friendships, and so on. Right now, I feel like ‘Karma’ or ‘Vigilante Shit’ are the songs that help to remind me to stay on my path of positivity, and be committed to the powerful and positive message and meaning behind my businesses."

What's the most unexpected or unusual talent you possess that your team members might not know about?

"Ha! Well, I think Team Moana would say there’s probably not much they don’t know about me! I am a bit of an over-sharer and there are no off-limit topics at Moana HQ."

Outside of your role with Moana Bikini, what are your passions or hobbies?

"That’s a great question… because, as I am sure a lot of other founders can attest, it can be incredibly hard to separate your passions and hobbies from your business and vice versa. My businesses are, truly, my biggest passions and hobbies!

Outside of business tasks, I definitely have a passion for Social Media. I really and truly see it as a positive force for change, inspiration and empowerment. So, I do spend a lot of time outside of Moana roles, creating, engaging, and supporting my community online.

Outside of that, I have always been a beach baby. I grew up surfing and was always in the water. So, I am at the beach out the front of our house as often as possible. My passion for improving my health and fitness continues to grow and I love being outside and moving my body as often as possible."

Who is a female founder you admire or find inspiring?

"Oh my goodness! There are so many incredible Female Founders I find inspiring. I am constantly inspired and motivated by watching other founders push their brands and products in incredible directions. Some constant inspirations are Jane Lu, Sarah Timmerman, Pip Edwards, Samantha Brett… basically anyone who is out there, running a business, while also being fiercely and proudly themselves, being passionate about creativity, building inspiring communities and allowing their product quality to take centre stage."

What advice do you have for aspiring female entrepreneurs?

"This is something that I am asked a lot! And I always have quite similar advice.

"Firstly, do it for yourself. Don’t do it for profits. Don’t do it for the image. Don’t do it because someone told you to. Don’t do it just because you don’t like working for someone else."

There are going to be incredibly long hours, soul-destroying hurdles, and long periods of time before, or during which, you might not turn a profit. If you aren’t personally and internally motivated, then you won’t make it through these struggles. Find a problem that you, personally, want to solve, or a gap in the market that you, personally, have experienced… and go and solve it, for you and no one else!

Secondly, have fun. Isn’t that why you wanted to be your own boss in the first place!? Enjoy it and make it your own, and it’s true, you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life."

As the founder of Moana Bikini, what is the most memorable "oops" moment you've had on your entrepreneurial journey, and what did you learn from it?

"I feel like I am saying “oops” every day! Running a business is like a consecutive series of (somewhat measured and calculated) “oops” moments. Without risk there is no reward, and our Team is always encouraged to try different things and throw caution to the wind. I always think that the fastest way to go out of business is to do what everyone else is doing, so we love an “oops” moment. I think the real “oops” moment would be trying to avoid those moments!"

If you could travel back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

"Don’t listen to them. No one will believe in you like you do!"

Lastly, if you could sum up the journey of building Moana Bikini. using a GIF, which GIF would you choose?


"It might seem negative, but I know that a lot of other founders will get a giggle out of this.

It perfectly sums up the day-to-day, week-to-week fun and games of running a business.

But we all wouldn’t have it any other way!"

There you have it! Whether you're an avid beachgoer, a fitness fanatic, or simply someone who values self-expression, Karina Irby isn't just the founder of Moana Bikini; she's a beacon of body positivity, creativity, and unwavering determination. So let's take a cue from her vibrant spirit and continue embracing life's adventures, one wave at a time. Explore the latest collections from Moana Bikini and The Moana Smile Club, and join Karina's uplifting community of sun-seekers and smile-makers.