This chat truly revolutionised how we view ethical and eco swimwear in Australia...
Charys provides tremendous insight into how we need to be a lot more holistic in how we truly assess if the swimwear is made sustainably. Recycled swimwear is a great start, but Charys believes it to be a 'bandaid solution'.
Do you agree? Make sure you read her interview to find out more!
And if podcasts are more your thing, listen to the audio version of our chat with Charys on 'Striding Forward'. Listen now on your preferred podcasting platform below:
• Apple Podcasts
• Google Podcasts
1. Tell us a bit about your journey and how you got into sustainable swimwear in Australia?
Charys: Well, my journey is quite a vast one at that. So I originally when I went to college and I attended FBI Fashion College and I was doing my master class and I spoke to my teacher about how I was having trouble finding something that really made me interested in what I was designing.
I've always been obsessed with the beach - and she she introduced the idea of sustainability to me, which I had honestly never really heard much about. She was saying how cotton is very wasteful because 10,000 litres of water is used per per kilo of cotton and she's going on with all these statistics... and I'm a huge statistic fan.
All these statistics for me were actually really interesting. So I started to look into it and became a part of the Ethical Fashion Forum and learned all about sustainability and ethical sourcing and things were there and actually produced an organic and fair trade silk couture collection, believe it or not. So the the grounds of my my fit and my learning of sustainability came deep within college.
But moving into eco swimwear, a friend of mine that introduced the idea of me having swimwear range when I was discussing launching a fashion label - it was actually one of my husband's friends.
His partner at the time lived in Thailand and she was saying that she could get reversible two sets made for $25. And I was like, oh wow, this is really going to be a great business model. Get it in really cheap and get it out.
And then a visit to the factory was mind-blowing. Children asleep on the floor, literally. Children, maybe eight or nine years old, sleeping on piles of fabric, waiting for their shift was the huge turning point. And I said, no, this is not what I'm doing. There has to be better for the world. So this is what pushed my ethical swimwear stance.
We never claimed sustainability in the swimwear, even though we had sustainability that we give away our offcuts to children for crafts. We have sustainable practices deep within the core, but we never claimed it to have sustainable swimwear because we were still using lycra at the time, and there wasn't much available in the way of sustainable fabrics back then. So we didn't actually claim it because to me it didn't feel right to claim to be eco friendly swimwear brand if it wasn't 100% sustainable.
2. How is Styelle Swim's fabric different from the materials used by other not so sustainable swimwear brands?
Charys: The fabric company where I get it from, it's actually called Santa Constancia - we pride ourselves on our transparency as well. We quite happily say if another swimwear company comes and uses the fabric. We're not even worried because that to me is also another move in the right direction that another similar company is taking it on board.
It also takes away our point of difference, but it doesn't bother me because the sustainable side of it is actually more important than anything else. So I think people need to really let go of that. The fabric that we use is STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®, which means that it's been verified by a governing body outside of the fabrication area.
So not many people actually have that certification. It's very important because it shows our customers that we're not full of it basically. To know that all our fabrics don't harm the earth, the waters used to create them is recycled. Our dyes are also caught and not put into the oceans and everything is safely discarded. And even our offcuts, the plastic offcuts, are actually taken and recycled.
So the 30% plant filament in our fabric ensures that when you put it in a compost bin, you'll pull out 70% of it three years later. And that is that 70% is actually degradable. So that'll that'll break down into well, microplastics has a bit of a bad name, but they are much better because they break down more so than normal plastics. Yes, microplastics are problem - plastic is a problem in itself. But to be able to break down faster than the current plastic in the world is amazing.
3. What are some of the fabrics other swimwear brands are using? Why isn't their swimwear and bikinis sustainable?
Charys: There's quite a few of them now. There's like VITA Xtra Life LYCRA, REPREVE and these are all upscaled from things like fishnets. And yes, that is great that they're pulling fishnets from the ocean and using the plastic for something of beauty.
But to me, it's more like a bandaid approach, because as soon as you mix that with the spandex, it doesn't allow it to be discarded efficiently. So spandex is the problem. Our 30% biodegradable fibre is the spandex. So spandex is like an elastic and elastic will never break down.
So it's really quite sad to put a negative spin on a positive, and yes, they're all verified and whatnot. But I think it's it's just a bandaid solution and it's not an end life. With a blazer or a skirt, you can always hand that down and pass it on. It can go through three or four people before it gets made into a new garment.
With swimwear, It has to have an end solution because it's like underwear. You can't share it - it's not like you can go and give it to your sister or your best friend.
4. How do you see the industry changing in regards to recycled swimwear, sustainability and all things ethical swimwear in Australia?
Charys: There's nothing sustainable about butchering animals for the sake of what we wear. You know, we're not we're not cavemen. We don't need to butcher animals to keep ourselves warm anymore.
Bianca Spender - I'm a huge fan of her. Most of her patterns are zero waste. So they all fit together and she has no offcuts in most of her designs and KITX does a similar thing. So KITX actually drapes all her things. Her patterns have very minimal, if any, offcuts at all as well. It's something that we are aiming towards at Styelle Swim.
So it's just it forces us as the designer to be more creative. You'll get some very interesting and different unique styles. And I think that's a good thing in itself. It shows people that there is another way. So the sustainable swimwear on that front is amazing.
And we also are looking to bring some of our production home to Australia to provide the Australian people with Australian made swimwear, as well as Brazilian made. The main reason we produce in Brazil is because they are actually the world-leading artisans in the way of swimwear... and second in the world is Aussies.
5. If you could say one thing to Australian swimwear lovers that don't understand why choosing sustainable swimwear is important, what would you like say to them?
Charys: Well, it's good for your skin is probably the biggest one and that's important to most women. It's good for your skin to have a sustainable swimwear. Especially a Styelle Swim bikini because of the natural fibres.
It's also good for your soul. You know that you've done the right thing. And having that confidence, knowing you've done the right thing, I think is the most attractive thing on a woman.
Has Charys shifted your perspective on what Australian sustainable swimwear really means?
She sure has changed our beliefs to think more critically about what eco swimwear really means...
And don't forget that Stride has a wide array of sustainable and ethical swimwear. We are proud to partner with Styelle Swim, as well as beautiful swimwear from Cali Rae, Seapia, Guava Babe and much more!
But if Australian made swimwear is more your thing, then click here to shop our entire Australian made swimwear range.
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What part of Charys' insights did you learn the most from?