This Is The Swim You'll Want To Be Wearing All Summer

I came across Vitamin A swim when I was browsing for the perfect non-fussy bikini that was simple, stylish, but most importantly, sustainable. I kept hearing about Vitamin A, a company that similarly believes sustainability can be sexy. They too, felt strongly that bathing suits should be effortless and that they shouldn’t harm the environment. It seems crazy to wear a bathing suit in the ocean that would add to the destruction of it, so Vitamin A ensures the suits they create leave a positive impact on this Earth. They’ve become a favorite swimwear brand of mine that openly share their sustainable practices with all of their customers and followers, not to mention the swimsuits fit beautifully. I had the pleasure of chatting with Enya, a member of the Vitamin A tribe, on all the ins and outs of this company so you too can see what goes into making this sexy, sustainable swimwear! Enjoy!

1. How do you think you tapped into markets beyond the sustainable world? How do you maintain the “cool” factor while being eco-friendly?  

We believe that sustainability and style really go hand in hand! Our eco-conscious production practices are part of what make Vitamin A sexy and cool. This is the essence of the Vitamin A brand, and something that doesn’t change for us. 

 We were one of the first brands nearly 20 years ago, to come up with a new concept of sexy and bring about a new direction for color palettes. Prior to Vitamin A, we were only seeing bright colors - fuchsia, purple, turquoise, jade, and black - in the swim industry. Neutral palettes didn’t exist yet, so Vitamin A was one of the first to really introduce a softer and more simple aesthetic.  So later, when we integrated the sustainability aspect into Vitamin A, it was another platform, but the aesthetic was already there - it became another point of association for our customers and others in the swim industry! 

2. What criteria does the company have for choosing factories to work with?

All Vitamin A bikinis and bodysuits are produced locally in California, which dramatically reduces our emissions for transporting and delivering raw materials! And by keeping the vast majority of our work local, we’re able to closely monitor any of the processes we can’t do ourselves to ensure our sustainable standards are being met. We're able to take the time to get to know the people who make our goods, and we’re proud knowing that our manufacturing team maintains a high standard of ethics and environmental responsibility.

For some of our products that cannot be made here in California, we partner globally with fair trade artisans to produce our materials ethically, meaning Vitamin A production outside of the US is providing women with fair-wage jobs in safe working conditions! We also visit their factories and remain in constant contact with our partners to ensure that they are meeting our same high standards.

3. What can we do as consumers to prolong the life of our swimwear and is Vitamin A working on a way to close the loop on waste after use?

Our first fabric was actually created out of industry waste! Vitamin A’s EcoLux fabrication was the first in our industry and the model for all of our sustainable fabrics. So we‘re constantly working to close the loop on waste – this means keeping that waste out of landfills and recycling it within the industry, innovating with plant-based fabrics, and also looking for ways to recycle worn garments (we’re not quite there yet, but trust us, we’re working on it!).

Prolonging swimwear:

Wear More, Wash Less
When cared for properly, Vitamin A swimwear will last for years. We recommend a gentle, low-impact approach. Unfortunately, when you wash anything made from synthetics (even if its recycled) it sheds microfibers that can be pollutants if they wind up in the ocean. Here are some environmentally-conscious tips on how to care for your swimwear:

Swim Cycle
Rinse in cold water to shed fewer microfibers. We love hand washing with Bikinis Over Everything, an eco-friendly bikini cleanser. 

Use an all-natural biodegradable soap, such as Dr. Bronners, to spot-clean only necessary areas (it’s much better for your bikini and the environment than chemical-packed detergents or bleach).

Slip your bikini into an eco-friendly bag (like GUPPYFRIEND) designed to keep any loose microfibers from entering the water in your washing machine. It keeps our ocean water clean and will help your suit receive more delicate care.

Make sure to cold rinse your swimsuit after each wear, even if you don’t go in the water.

Stay Dry
Skip the dryer (and the green house gas emissions) and hang dry your bikinis. Avoid direct sunlight and lay your suits flat in a cool, dry place for a drying method that requires zero energy. 

Take Turns
We know you have a favorite bikini, but the key to making it last longer is to wait until it’s completely dry to wear it again. If you’re planning to spend a few days in a row dressed in a bikini (lucky!) plan on bringing a couple different suits to wear.

4. In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What is Vitamin A doing to combat this? What about ethically?

The least sustainable part of the fashion industry is the pure fact that it’s based on petroleum products, which are materials derived from fossil fuels. At Vitamin A, we’re working on utilizing plant-based swim fibers to create our designs, while also shifting all of our beachwear to biodegradable products, recycled cotton, organic cotton, tinsel, linen, and silks.

5. For someone new to the sustainable world, what are some key small steps they can look out for when shopping to ensure they’re investing in a good company?

Consumers should look out for certain environmental endorsements, partnerships, or support of certifiable organizations that will indicate if any certain company is dedicated to eco-causes. For example, Vitamin A is a member of 1% - meaning we pledge to donate one percent of our annual sales to environmental non-profits. 

 We should also be sure to read our labels! Keep an eye out for where products are being made and what kind of materials are being used. Swimwear that’s made domestically will have less of a carbon footprint.

6. What are the next steps for Vitamin A?  How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?    

We recently launched our newest BioRib fabric this season, which is made from organic plant-based fibers – meaning there’s zero impact on the food chain, 20% less CO2 emissions, and lower water consumption! We’re currently working on expanding on this concept with more biodegradable fabrics and continuing to innovate with new sustainable options. We’re also excited to be launching exclusive product collaborations with some of favorite retailers with the concept of “sustainability is sexy", to further share our mission with other brands in the industry! 

Getting To Know Amour Vert, The Company All About Green Love

As a model, I get to work with so many different types of companies. That’s what I love about my job, I’m a chameleon and I get to change for every brand to represent their image the best I can. From dream wedding dress companies to haute couture and Ready to Wear, it’s beautiful to see behind the scenes and what often goes into making the clothes and the images to sell them. On the flip side, this is what opened my eyes to the sometimes wasteful nature of our industry. A lot of the times, I can feel firsthand the difference between a product that was made with love and one that was made to disintegrate to potentially fuel the overconsumption nature of our economy. I am however a firm believer in working with those who we wish to inspire. It’s not about working against the companies that “aren’t doing it right” but by inspiring them to change and be better! And sometimes, I’m lucky enough to work with companies that I TRULY believe in, like Amour Vert. It was an absolute dream to shoot with a company that is so in alignment with ODM/ODC and our values. Scroll down for my interview with Emory Cooley from Amour Vert and see for yourself why the Model Activist group is obsessed with this company!

1. Tell me a bit about how you got connected with Amour Vert. What’s it like working for them? 

I studied Fashion and Textile Management in school and took a course on sustainability. After taking the course, I was shocked at the corruption within the industry. Upon graduation, I knew I wanted to work for a brand with a larger vision at hand, and I found Amour Vert. I moved from North Carolina almost 2 years ago to join Amour Vert in their quest to change fashion. 

It’s been an amazing experience working at Amour Vert. My co-workers have become close friends and the office has amazing energy. Teams collaborate frequently and ideas are shared and formed throughout the office and between teams. We have a company-wide meeting every Monday and every Friday there is a family-style lunch. When you work for Amour Vert, you’re a part of a family. 

2. What are some of the core values to Amour Vert and how does the company ensure they’re sticking to them?

Our core values are to be sustainable in everything we do. From the factory to the fibers, we are sustainable. We stick to this by having transparency and close relationships with our mills and factories. 

3. I love the fact that the company partners with artists on limited-edition prints. I especially love the print you just did with Buckley for Women’s Day! Tell me a bit about this process and some of the collaborations the company has done in the past and what you have coming up in the future.

We work with value-aligned women to develop prints. The collaborative process is between our design team and the artist. The prints are developed based on the season, designs and story we have planned for the collection they are designing into. 

We have had so many collaborations it’s difficult to speak to all of them, but most recently in March, we partnered with Kate Miller from Elworth Studio. She developed our Mojave Floral print which we love! We will definitely continue this program in the future, while also developing in-house prints. 

4. Tell me a bit about the fabrics Amour Vert uses. They’re so incredibly soft it’s hard to believe they’re sustainable!

We partner to use fiber blends to create new exclusive fabrics that are fashionable, durable and of course, sustainable. We are excited for our exclusive Tencel and Modal blends for the spring season. Tencel comes from eucalyptus trees and Modal comes from beechwood trees and both are created in a closed loop process using sustainable yarns and are biodegradable. We have brand new fabrics from each of these fibers to look forward to this spring.

5. I love the fact that 97% of the clothing is made near the San Francisco office. What’s the importance on producing locally and what are some of the advantages of being so close to the factories? 

Producing locally allows in-person conversations, which we believe are crucial and allow for creative minds to collaborate together. It also allows us the opportunity to touch, feel and see the softness and drape of the fabrics.

6. I also love that you showcase the women in your community who live and breathe the Amour Vert ethos. Tell me about some of these women and why you’ve chosen to highlight them in some of your campaigns

In January we launched the “It’s Not About Us” campaign, it’s a campaign that has no end date and will continuously highlight women who live the ethos of Amour Vert. We believe models are more than a pretty face, and we want to give them a platform to tell their story. 

7. What are the criteria for choosing like-minded companies like Agolde denim, Vitamin A swim, Veja shoes, etc. to sell on the site?

We partner with companies that share the same sustainable and ethical standards. That means these companies are aligned in their values. We work hard so that our customer can shop online and be effortlessly sustainable. 

8. In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What are you doing to combat this?

There are so many aspects of the fashion industry that are unsustainable, but something that we like to focus on shifting is fabric production. We work with only 100% Certified Organic Cotton (only 1% of the world’s cotton is grown organically), and natural fibers that are produced in a closed loop process, such as our signature Modal, and Tencel. 

These fabrics are not only better for the environment and the farmers, but also for every person working with them along the supply chain, and eventually the customer who purchases and wears the piece. In terms of ethics, we ensure that the factories that we work with respect to their workers by providing safe and clean work environments, a living wage, reasonable hours and breaks. This shouldn’t be unique in the fashion industry, but sadly it is. 

9. For someone new to the sustainable world, what are some key small steps they can look out for when shopping to ensure they’re investing in a good company?

We would encourage consumers to ask for transparency. Ask if the factories are sustainable, understand the fiber content. Customers should educate themselves so they can ask companies the harder questions that often times no one is asking. 

10. What are the next steps for Amour Vert? How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?

To continue to grow, open stores and spread awareness about the importance of sustainable fashion, etc. 

An Inside Look Into Groceries Apparel

After being introduced to Groceries Apparel by a fellow model, I was immidiately drawn to their simple, stylish staples that were clearly made well with the environment in mind. I had been thinking about creating my own basic white tees at the time and while modeling was taking over much of my time, I found it difficult to balance both worlds. I created a sample tee, here in New York and after I wasn't completely content with the first mock-up, I reached out to Groceries to see if I could do an ODM/ODC edit on a tee they were already producing perfectly. I was exceptionally impressed by their openness to work with a smaller company like myself. They were flexible with their minimums and completely open about where they sourced their fabrics, where everything was made and everything in between! They're a dream to work with, and after a recent visit to L.A. I was even more impressed with how open they were on a tour of their factory. Robert Lohman, founder of the Groceries took the time to answer some in-depth questions so you can get to know a bit more about where our Sustainable Is Sexy tees come from! Check out his answers below!

1) Tell me a bit about how Groceries Apparel came about? Where did everyone in the company come from and how did you all transition into the sustainable/ethical world?

Groceries started on the Venice boardwalk with American Apparel organic blanks dyed with grass, orange juice, rust, soil, tomatoes, blood, and milk, and basically anything in my backyard.  I was set on creating a non-toxic t-shirt.  When I was trying to expand, it dawned on me that there were no volume blank providers that were 100% committed to chemical-free and made in USA.  I had randomly met Dov Charney at a fabric store called Ragfinders and he ended up inviting me to take a tour of his American Apparel factory.  Dov showed me how to sew in teams and digitize patterns.  The next day I rented three Kansai Special’s and a Tukatech license.  I’m not really a fashion guy, I’m an environmentalist that loves manufacturing.

2) What is your take on organic, recycled and regular cotton? Is there one the company is partial to?

From day one we’ve sourced only organic or recycled ingredients.  I’m not a fan at all of regular cotton, one of the reasons we exist is to shift demand away from it.  The future is in hemp, post-consumer recycled textiles, and bio-based textiles, these are some of the only fabrics that fit into a larger circular economy.  Lenzing has been working on some really soft closed-loop textiles made from recycled eucalyptus fiber, like Refibra.  We have some new spandex blends made from recycled ocean fishnets.  There are a lot of textile innovations on the horizon made from food waste, orange peels, fish skins, coffee, etc.  We also dye garments with flowers, roots, bark, leaves, and onion skins.

3) All of your clothing is made in America, which is awesome!! While I don’t think made outside the U.S. has to necessarily mean it’s a bad thing, why did you guys choose to stay local?

Locally-made is central to our business model.  Being local means being closer to our garments as they are made, which helps us command the fit and quality.  It also allows us to cut out middle men, trim redundancy, and lower the carbon footprint impact and costs.  Being local enables us to respond and fulfill orders faster, which helps our boutique partners.  Stores are able to hold their budget and analyze sales trends later into the season before purchasing.  Brands that stay local don’t need to speculate their production orders, they can cut-to-order and limit waste.  There are a ton of advantages to manufacturing local, made in China is great if you sell to China.

4) Tell me a bit about the factory you use and how you chose it. What’s the best way you guys ensure workers are treated well?

We are the factory.  We operate our own factory to ensure our standards and values are fully executed, especially when it comes to treating our employees well.  We have 80 yards of cutting space and 43 sewing machines, producing 40,000 units per month on average. 

5) What’s something difficult Groceries has been able to overcome in terms of becoming more sustainable?

Early on we were passing on a lot of sales opportunities due to our higher price point and our unwillingness to manufacture non-organic garments.  Groceries’ first business model relied on economies of scale in order to compete, which was hard to execute out of my garage.  It was kind of a paradox in the fact that we needed more orders to feed our factory, but we were also turning down orders because we were unwilling to make a cheaper non-organic option.  I was unwilling to compromise my values in order to stay in business, which sounds great but was actually a huge problem for the company.  My business model stated we had to generate about 4 million dollars a year in order to feed our factory and become profitable.  Groceries’ was more of a young, big business than a small business.  It took me a while to convince banks and investors that my business model wasn’t insane.

6) In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What is GROCERIES doing to combat this?

The industry is the 2nd most toxic in the world behind oil, so I would say the toxicity.  We’ve purchased 3 million yards of organic and recycled textiles to help push the demand for chemical-free and gmo-free.  We’re also moving toward non-toxic, vegetable-based dyes. 

a)What about ethically? 

We pay well above minimum wage to our employees and offer a safe and happy workplace.

7) What are the next steps for Groceries? How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?

I see non-toxic and ethically-made clothing becoming the standard for our industry.  Every step we take will be working towards this.

The Production Process...

We did it!

We finally have some of our own product on the site... Nothing makes us happier than promoting the sustainable and ethical companies we love and trust, but we've always had the itch to create our own stuff and finally we can say we're making strides in the right direction.

The Start...

With the help of online accelerator program Factory45, we were able to seamlessly source materials, factories, suppliers, you name it, with sustainability and ethical production at heart. Shannon Whitehead founder of Factory45, collected everything she learned from starting her own sustainable company and decided to create an online accelerator course to help other passionate entrepreneurs in the eco-friendly world. For anyone with a desire to learn anything pertaining to sustainable production, this course is a gold mine!

We initially had plans to start ODM/ODC with our own line of off-duty model basics, but after some thought, we decided it was a smarter choice to focus on one piece and do it well. Enter the perfect white tee. Our hope is to expand on the wardrobe staple in the future, once we really get the hang of things.  

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The Perfect White Tee

Living in New York City certainly has it benefits, especially for those of us who work in the fashion industry. There are plenty of manufacturing options available, but trying to get your own products or garments made can get a little pricey, especially if you hope to do so in an ethical and sustainable way. That means we had to make a few compromises throughout this whole process, but regardless of that, we promise to continue being open and honest about our methods and practices. That is our main goal. 

If a company produces their clothes overseas but works with a factory that takes care of their workers and ensures proper wages, that's great! We'll promote that kind of work. If they use sustainable materials but may not be fully transparent about their factories, we'll still promote them, but we'll let you know they don't disclose the factories they use.

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When it came to deciding on the production process for our perfect white tee, we knew if if we were going to use cotton, we'd make sure it was organic. And since  organic cotton uses a vast amount of water to produce, we decided it was best to source the  material locally to ensure we weren't using an excess of water in addition to flying the materials overseas  and increasing our carbon footprint. Ethical production was also a big concern, so we chose to use a factory in Brooklyn, giving us the freedom to check in on the production process and meet the people who were making our clothes! By using organic cotton we compromised on water waste but made sure to use a factory that was open with us about their policies.

Surprises along the way...

In addition to chasing the perfect factory, it was important for us to get the fabric right. One thing we learned, though, was that it’s very hard to find a supplier who is open to working with a new company with low production minimums. Luckily, through Factory45, we were able to find a supplier in New York City’s  garment district who had organic cotton sourced locally from Texas. (I will note, however, that when I asked to learn more about the actual cotton farm, the supplier didn’t provide further information. The experience taught me to be more diligent about getting as much information as possible in the future, and I pledge to do that to my best abilities from here on out.)

Eventually, , we were  able to agree on a price that matched our budget and brought our sample yardage into the Brooklyn factory to do a sample T-shirt. Pro: we had this 'test' before we ran full production. Con:  I hated the fabric once I felt it in  t-shirt form.

So... what next?

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Rather than going back to the drawing board and buying more sample fabric, I decided to buy wholesale T-shirts  from Groceries Apparel, a company I already knew and loved. Groceries Apparel will remove their tags and add yours, and the best part about them is the fact they  are extremely transparent about their production process. They have lovely white tees that would rival any of your faves, they’re made with organic cotton and they’re manufactured at their factory in Los Angeles. A perfect match for the ODM/ODC perfect white tee!

We were also able to find a water-based ink printing company locally in Brooklyn along with sustainable fabric for our labels, sourced in Canada.

Sustainable is sexy...

The next phase in completing our perfect white tee was deciding on a design that would both promote the ODM/ODC brand and work as the perfect white tee you could wear with anything. We also wanted it to include a message people would be  proud to wear and support.

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Rather than using  our logo, as we've done in the past with water bottles and reusable straws, we decided to use the slogan "sustainable is sexy.” To us, this takes the "un-cool" out of sustainable clothing and is a catchy slogan that people would be excited to wear. With  our #sustainableissexy campaign, we’re hoping to take the edge off the eco-friendly discussion and  prove to our customers you can dress stylishly, sexily and simply, all with sustainability at heart.
 

With our t-shirts, you don't have to worry whether or not they were made ethically. You don't have to worry if they were made with sustainable materials. We will always be transparent about our practices and how we strive to better our planet. Along with that, we’ll tell you what roadblocks we face along the way and share how  we are constantly learning to be more sustainable and ethical without, of course, compromising on style.

 

Join our movement. Get the perfect white tee that will go with everything, will never go out of style, and is made with integrity, the ODM/ODC way!

#sustainableissexy

*Article edited by Julia Brucculieri of Untangledstories