Loop Swim has some very exciting news… We have been featured in InStyle magazine. Not only did we have a four page spread, but we were also mentioned in the letter from the editor!
We were featured by InStyle due to our passion for sustainable fashion. Loop is not only an advocator, but also a practitioner of environmental protection. We make swimwear from rPET yarn, turning disposable plastic into valuable resources. Today, not only is Loop Swim made from used plastic bottles that would otherwise wind up in landfill or our oceans, but Loop will recycle your swimsuit at the end of its useful life. Our innovative approach to fashion has been highlighted by InStyle.
How did Loop Swim start focusing on making swimwear? Why not other categories?
Three reasons: we love beach holidays, fantastically bold prints, and being able to use entirely recycled materials.
We’re ardent travelers and ocean lovers ourselves, and with 57% of travelers choosing beach destinations, we realized there is a huge demand for high-quality swimwear.
We love designing bold, unusual prints but also get the reality that most people prefer to wear solid neutrals in their day to day lives. We started thinking about when we most like to wear color and fabulous prints – definitely when we’re on holiday!
Typical swimwear is made from poly or nylon anyway, so why not use recycled poly from used plastic bottles? We loved that by using fabric made from recycled PET, our swimwear could actually help keep plastic bottles out of our oceans and landfill.
We partner with the world’s most luxe hotels and resorts, and plan to expand our offerings to include organic resort wear next spring. Our founders’ backgrounds are both in women’s apparel, so expect to see gorgeous kaftans and poolside options soon!
What are the challenges you have met and how did you fix them?
There are the challenges that come along with any start-up business, from growing your team with talented, passionate people who share your vision, to learning how to pitch investors and scale your company. But there are also challenges unique to being a sustainable business – every step of your process has to be reimagined, from designing the product to how it’s made and shipped to how it is recycled at the end of its useful life.
One of the biggest challenges we’ve given ourselves is to make sure that our products never end up in the waste stream. This means designing swimwear that can be recycled when you’re done using it, and not having any single-use packaging or tags. For instance, we’re working with another start-up to provide each of our garments with a ‘digital identity’ so that you can get all of the information usually printed on a paper hangtag from your phone instead.
For now, we still have a carbon footprint shipping garments, but hope someday you’ll just download a file and print your own swimsuit at home.
Loop is using fabric made from plastic bottles. Can you explain more about it to us? Except how it was made, how does this fabric feel? Does it have any advantage compares with normal fabric?
The symbol PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles you buy at convenience stores are essentially the same material as polyester. After used plastic bottles reach a recycling center, they are washed, chopped up into flakes, and melted down into pellets (also called nurdles). These pellets can be made into all kinds of new products – furniture, roads, clothing, car upholstery – even bikinis.
We developed our bespoke fabrics made exclusively from REPREVE™ recycled PET yarn with US company, Unifi. REPREVETM has recycled over 17 billion plastic bottles into fabric, which makes this collaboration especially exciting! We’re not only making long-lasting, phenomenal swimwear but recycling post-consumer plastic bottles and keeping them out of our oceans and landfill.
The hand-feel of our swimwear is exceptionally soft – people are always surprised something made from plastic bottles can feel so luxurious! While you wouldn’t ever think our swimwear is made from bottles, you would definitely notice the high quality of our fabric – it has excellent recovery (doesn’t stretch out of shape) and the colors don’t fade even after many swims in salty ocean water or chlorine pools. Not only that, but our fabric naturally blocks out 98% of damaging UVA and UVB rays, which qualifies it for the highest sun protection rating possible: UPF50+. All steps of our manufacturing process occur here in China.
What are the challenges you are facing now for making your products as sustainable as possible? Do you have any goals for the future?
We always start presentations by stating that in the 20 years we’ve been fashion designers, over 250 million tons of unwanted clothing has been thrown away. That’s about 36 kg per urban adult each year. Definitely the most unsustainable thing about the fashion industry is how disposable has become the new black.
We want to see apparel producers being financially responsible for what happens to their products at end-of-life.
Last year, H&M had $4.3 billion dollars worth of unsold product it had to get rid of – this on top of customers throwing away all the fast fashion they don’t want to keep anymore. It’s totally unsustainable to expect that governments and citizens now have to deal with all this waste.
One company we are super excited about is Connect Fashion. They will enable garments to have a ‘digital passport’ that not only identifies where, by who, and how your garment was made, and with what resources, but could also advise you how to dispose of your garment so that it does not enter landfill or our oceans.
Imagine if waste being dumped into landfill was billed to the producers? As soon as there is a financial incentive to recycle or design longer-lasting, sustainable products, we will all be able to enjoy what really makes fashion inspirational: great design.
We hope to be a key player in the movement to get all businesses – starting with fashion – thinking and acting circular. Producing waste is no longer fashionable.
What are the attitudes do you want to pass to today’s women through Loop Swim?
In the past decade, we’ve watched the world increase already fast-paced consumption at break-neck speed. Food deliveries in China alone now exceed 60 million containers, and globally we’re going through one million plastic bottles a minute. Plastics companies are only doubling down and producing more, on the back of the narrative that it’s fine as long as it is being recycled.
We love that Shanghai and other China cities will soon set the bar for recycling due to the government’s new policies and support. At the same time, what’s missing is the hardest thing to advocate for: REDUCED consumption of resources, across the board. As a business owner who needs to sell products to survive, we are fully aware of the paradox. But we can’t sell anything if we can’t breathe – and 70% of our oxygen is coming from our oceans. If choked with plastic pollution, we will not have a healthy planet or people.
We must all advocate not just for recycling, but for reducing disposable products altogether. Throwing things away is an unsustainable mindset. We know now the only things that go ‘away’ and don’t come back are our natural resources.
Imagine inventors, designers, creators all considering what will happen to their products after people are done using them – we have tremendous power to advocate for sustainability from our producers. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle. That’s the order of importance we all need to relearn.
Except for the sustainable part of your products, what image would you like to build up for Loop?
Even though we spend a ton of time talking about sustainability, we know people buy our swimwear mainly because they like the designs. We never forget that sustainability is probably the ‘fourth box’ we check with our customers – first being that they love the prints and colors, second that it fits and is flattering, third that the price-value relationship is there.
Our goal is to deliver really gorgeous swimwear, and a better-made alternative to what’s on the market now.
How did you start the slogan #ProtectWhatYouLove? And how do you indicate it through your design and products?
“The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It” – Robert Swan OBE
Everyone leads such busy lives that it’s easy to lose track of what really matters. Of all the plastic produced since the 1950s, less than 10% has been recycled. Plastic is an amazing material, but the downside is that it does not go away. Every piece of plastic we’ve ever produced is still in our environment.
#ProtectWhatYouLove is a reminder to all of us to not take what we love for granted. We’re talking about our health and our bodies (especially our skin) and the health of our environment. With one million plastic bottles being consumed around the globe EVERY MINUTE now, we’ve all got to be part of the solution by demanding better design and changing our consumption habits.
It’s fun to get a cheap swimsuit or outfit on Taobao until you consider the true cost of that purchase. Our model is the complete opposite: we don’t follow trends and create timeless styles that tell the world you value design, quality and the planet.
Loop has collaborations with PADI, Plastic Oceans, Green Initiatives, Breathe and The Clean Cliffs Project. Can you share with us how do you collaborate with each organization specifically?
As a start-up with a social enterprise mission, we collaborate with amazing global partners to amplify our message of producer-driven sustainability.
We designed our SS2019 collection with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) to spotlight ocean conservation and celebrate healthy oceans. With 2.5 million divers, instructors and ocean-lovers in the PADI audience, we’ve been able to connect with mindful people who share our values and are looking for ways to reflect that in their purchases.
In 2017, co-founder Heather Kaye was deeply impacted by viewing the film ‘A Plastic Ocean.’ With the Shanghai-based Green Initiatives team, Heather founded the “Plastics are Forever” impact project focused on ending the use of disposable plastics. Heather and the GI team have since screened ‘A Plastic Ocean’ with thousands school-age children and companies throughout China.
Our constant commitment to reducing waste by better design and championing the end of single-use plastic joins the momentum of China’s new recycling policy to make this year particularly exciting!
‘Breathe Conservation’ is a non-profit organization founded by South African long-distance swimmer Sarah Ferguson. In March 2019, she set a World Record by being the first person to swim the perimeter or Easter Island (Rapa Nui, Chile) – and she did this to increase awareness of plastic ocean pollution. We are collaborating with Sarah on an educational level, sharing her story alongside our ‘A Plastic Ocean’ screenings, and working on a collection of sustainable swimwear for Breathe.
The Clean Cliffs Project was founded by diver Ellie Smart, who started organizing beach clean-ups around cliff diving competitions. We love their motto, “DON’T DESTROY WHAT YOU CAME TO ENJOY”! Loop Swim (under our first label FINCH designs) supplied the divers with swimwear and UPF50+ sun protection rash guards.
Through collaborating with different organizations, what did you learn about?
Most of all, we love learning and connecting with those at the front lines of climate change: divers that have seen coral bleaching in person, surfers who’ve seen a massive increase of plastic on the beach, swimmers who aren’t afraid of sharks or jellyfish stings but of plastic in the ocean. As part of our mission to reduce waste, we help connect the dots between our purchases and protecting what we love.
Since all of our suppliers are in China, we can effectively bridge the gap between designers and producers to create a circular company. We’re able to work directly with our factories to make our fabrics and designs, reduce plastic packaging to an absolute minimum and share our lessons learned with fellow designers. For our partners who dive, swim and surf, we’re able to provide them with best-in-class Loop swimwear and support their amazing work.
Besides applying the zero-waste concept in your products, what about your lifestyle?
When you break down ‘being environmentally responsible’ into every day actions like not using disposable plastic, carrying your own reusable coffee cup or not buying fast fashion, people understand they have the agency to control those decisions. They know their actions mean something. This is how everyone on our Loop Swim team lives their daily life.
We started by wanting to clean up the fashion industry and demonstrate that businesses can be eco, ethical AND profitable. The fashion industry is still a dinosaur ripe for major disruption, but the power lies with each producer and consumer. Framing every purchase you make as a vote for the change you want to see is an empowering way to live.
What we love most about China is the curiosity, eagerness and willingness of people here to embrace new ideas. Change is a constant here, and it creates an open mindset to new ideas, technology and information. Things are not set in stone here, every day brings new opportunities and as quickly as we’ve embraced the ease and convenience of disposable plastic, we believe much better alternatives will be commercially successful here first and spread around the world. It’s our big hope that China will lead the way in sustainable design.