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! 

This Week On WWD...

We recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Rosemary Feitelberg from WWD on the future of sustainability in fashion. Sharing our journey and story with you all means so much to us. We’re only a few years into living our sexy sustainable life and continue to learn and be inspired by everyone in our community each and everyday, so thank you to our tribe for never failing to motivate us to do bigger things and be better people. We will never stop learning and will always share what we come across along the way, being entirely transparent about the companies we promote, and the things we produce. Cheers to making it into WWD as we near the end of the year, one of our biggest goals of 2018. We can’t wait to see what 2019 brings for ODM/ODC and for everyone in our community. Let’s continue to spread the world of sustainability in fashion and beyond.

All our love, Britt & Maria

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.

Your Sustainable Guide to Fashion Week

Living in a big fashion capital like New York, it can often be tough to stick to sustainable habits. However, once we're properly informed, avoiding fast-fashion shops like Zara and Forever21 can become quite easy. Other habits are harder to form, especially as fashion week approaches. We see celebrities and models dressed in gorgeous new outfits every day. We’re bombarded with the new "must have" trends that models wear as they strut down the runway, some available for purchase before the show even finishes... and we’re invited to parties and networking events where food is left untouched and plastic straws and cups are littered about, most of which will not be recycled. It’s an exciting time when the city comes alive and everyone shows off their best-looking selves but why is it we forget what truly matters, our duty as human beings to be more environmentally conscious? Shouldn’t our utmost priority be to make sustainable sexy? Here’s how!

Going to an event? Not sure what to wear? Try some of these options below. 

Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway is a company that lets you borrow dresses and evening wear for those special events, then return it for free as soon as you’re done! You can order in multiple sizes so you can ensure you get the right fit and don’t have to worry about dry-cleaning post wear, they’ll do all that for you!

When you rent a dress, you’re saving all the natural resources that go into manufacturing a new piece of clothing. The average woman throws away around 82 pounds of clothing per year. Renting helps reduce this significantly. [1]

We often wear that statement dress only once or twice, so why not get something fab (they have 250,000 designer pieces to choose from!), wear it once and then return it? It’s about shifting perspectives of the consumer and letting your friends and peers know it’s okay to rent something that’s already been worn and it is so much more environmentally friendly. 

Have a clothing swap

I’ve written about it before on a previous blog post but I can’t stress enough how amazing a clothing swap party is! You can do it with as little or as many people as you want, and the whole thing can be done without spending a dime. Have some extra clothes laying around that don’t get worn? Bring them (or host) a clothing swap party where everyone brings a few garments and trade away! It’s the perfect way to revamp your wardrobe and get some awesome unique pieces that your friends no longer wear. The best way to ‘shop’ sustainably, and reduce waste is to reuse! [2]

Borrow from a friend

Sometimes, the easiest and most cost effective way to complete a look is to borrow from a friend. Rather than my friend buying a fancy clutch she’d only end up using once for an upcoming wedding, I let her borrow one from me. Now I know in the future I can count on her to lend me an accessory or even a dress if I need it. We all have way too many things in our closet so why not share and save a little money for some more drinks with your girls at the bar?;)

Second-hand shopping

Here in New York, we’re lucky enough to have some truly amazing second-hand shops. The stuff is already made and reusing that is, without a doubt, the most sustainable option out there, even more so than making new clothes out of sustainable materials. You can often find some one-of-a-kind pieces that will make your outfit so much cooler than whatever Zara outfit every other person is wearing. Then, when you get stopped by a street-style photographer asking where you got your blazer, you can be that cool, off-trend person who says they got it from the second-hand store;) Often, used items are less expensive as well. Beacon’s Closet, Buffalo Exchange, and even your local Goodwill are excellent options. 

Reduce the Plastic

With a plethora of parties coming up and with that, a decent amount of drinking, why not make a pledge to yourself to #stopsucking? The Lonely Whale foundation seeks to educate people about the oceans and our impact on them. From overfishing, plastic pollution and acidification, our oceans need us to live smarter and become more aware of our actions. In the U.S. alone we use 500 million plastic straws EVERY DAY, many of which end up in the ocean. Lonely Whale has set out to combat this pollution by not using any plastic straws and encouraging everyone to join them. Paper, metal, glass and bamboo are all MUCH more sustainable options. Take the pledge to #stopsucking on single-use plastic straws and challenge your friends! Going out to a fashion week after party? Order that drink sans straw. Or, if you prefer your drinks with straws bring one with you! Read more about strawless oceans here

Your Straw offers incredible bamboo straws as an alternative. They’re the perfect size for anything from coffees to smoothies and come with a tiny brush so you can keep them clean. Purchase your own Your Straw here.

In addition to straws, try and carry a tote bag with you everywhere you go. That way, if you get some cool gift bags from shows or have to do a quick grocery shop on the way home, you can skip the plastic bag! I also always try and carry a fork and spoon with me. It’s the easiest way to reduce the single-use plastic options and is great to have on hand as I run from casting to casting all over the city.  

Take Public Transportation

New York City Fashion Week is spread out with a conflicting schedule that makes attending a few shows each day near impossible. Traffic is always a mess and people are always running late. Why not take mass transit to avoid the headache of being stuck in traffic knowing you’re not doing the environment any good? “A bus with as few as seven passengers is more fuel-efficient than the average single-occupant auto used for commuting.” [3] Sometimes the high heels are too high to navigate the subway steps and grates, so if you plan on using Uber or a taxi as your main resource try and pool with as many friends as possible. 

Living sustainably is without a doubt more difficult. But taking positive action is not only beneficial but is necessary. If we stick to our current ways by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. Our actions have a direct impact on our earth and we have the resources and knowledge to reduce this impact and live cleaner. Fashion is the second dirtiest industry after oil. We can make a significant impact just by shifting our consumption habits... even in small ways. So, as you get ready for fashion week try a couple of these recommendations and share some with your friends. Rather than buying the newest, latest thing, why don’t we all try and make sustainable trendy? Nothing is sexier than a cleaner, greener environment.   

Sexy, Sustainable Street Style Basics (Click the boot to see entire collection)