It was during a family summer holiday that Jane Hayes became conscious of the gender divide on the beach. “While kids and their dads were all wearing rashvests, swimming and playing on the sand, most of the women were sheltering up the back of the beach under umbrellas.”Back home in Sydney Jane started searching for a women’s rash vest that wasn’t pink with a prominent logo.
Her friend and fellow mum Julie Capobianco had always worn one. “I called Jules and asked where she got hers. When she told me it was a men’s one we thought let’s look into this.”The pair had talked about starting a business during recent career breaks. With a mutual love of fashion, Jane’s background in PR and publishing and Julie’s in digital marketing, launching an online shop was a natural fit.
“There was a genuine need and gap in the market,” Jane says. “No one, here or overseas was making luxury women’s rash-vests that made women feel stylish and confident no matter what age.”
“We decided if we were going to do this we would manufacture locally and design one product, and get it right. It had to be something we would wear ourselves that would make women feel relevant and still be able to swim and use the ocean. Living by the beach meant we knew exactly what we wanted.”
After a year of researching, costing and case studies The ACQUA Brand launched in December 2014. Thanks to Jane and Julie’s PR and marketing expertise the brand gained instant profile, with public figures like Lisa Wilkinson, Paula Joye, Sarah Wilson, Candice Lake and Zoe Foster Blake promoting the “water-wear” on social media. Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe also featured the brand on her website after discovering it on Instagram.
A key aspect of the business and brand is it’s ethical credentials. Designed and manufactured in Australia, each piece is made from Econyl®. Also the basis for champion surfer Kelly Slater’s new menswear label, this sustainable fabric is made from regenerated waste like fishnets and carpets.
“We always wanted the brand to be made from the highest quality, yet sustainable fabric and it’s something we’re really proud of,” Jane says. It’s also been essential for business growth. The ethical nature of the brand was a key factor in David Jones quickly snapping up The ACQUA Brand for all Australian stores.
Next step is to go global, Jane says. “It made sense to start in Australia where we have been overwhelmed with the response. Sun-protection and anti-ageing are becoming increasingly more important for health and wellbeing. In our research we learnt that a white cotton tshirt only has a UPF of 5, that 90% of skin ageing is caused by sun exposure, and that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia, Europe and the US.
“I think we can start the conversation there and really go global with our product and message.”
“Our goal is to bring the Australian beach lifestyle to the world, with the added bonus of stylish sun protection.”
Underthings are often last or non-existent on the ethical shopping list. If you’re like us, a Marks & Spencer five-pack of briefs does the job for far longer than it should. But out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind. Take your eco outfit all the way by choosing to buy ethical, responsibly made and good quality underwear that will last.
For other intimate essentials, like tampons and condoms, we've found some innovative ethical alternatives.
Bras and undies Australian made Nico underwear strikes the perfect balance between style and practicality. Their bra, undies and bodysuits are made of sustainably sourced materials like modal, bamboo and organic cotton. Most importantly Nico underwear is made to last. The first underwear brand to be accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia, Nico also won the Lingerie and Swimwear category at the 2013 Source Awards - the global awards for sustainable fashion.
Tampons TheTOM Organic message is simple: we can look after ourselves and the planet every (time of the) month. TOM Organic feminine hygiene and nursing products are made using pure organic cotton grown in Australia. The company is Australian-owned, Certified Organic, B Corporation and supports women specific charities.
Underwear 2.0 Combine TOM Organic with Oxfam and you get something like Thinx: Underwear designed for wearing during periods, no other product (or landfill bound waste) necessary. And daggy period undies these are not. Thinx are super sexy black and lacy and come in four variations to suit your flow, including a G-string for light days. Thinx are made in a family-run factory in Sri Lanka that’s committed to providing supplementary education and training to its female employees. But it doesn’t stop there, the company’s partner organization AFRIpads, trains women in Uganda to sew and sell washable, reusable cloth pads, helping them become entrepreneurs. In turn, girls are able to purchase an affordable and sustainable pack of pads, allowing them to attend school every day of the month.
Condoms Trying to resist using the phrase “making sustainable sexy”, but it’s so appropriate for Sustain condoms. These boys are Fair Trade, B Corporation, Vegan, Cruelty Free, Non GMO and nitrosamine free (try saying that in one go). Sustain condoms are made of latex from one of the most sustainable rubber tree plantations on the planet, located in southern India. As well providing 180 unionised rubber tappers and their families with a higher than average wage, the plantation provides education and healthcare to the entire community, including an AIDS awareness program. Sustain are also an FSC® certified company trying to address the number one cause of climate change: overpopulation. Over 200 million women globally lack access to contraception. The company supports Planned Parenthood and 10% of profits support women’s reproductive healthcare.
“The ocean makes me feel really small and it makes me put my whole life into perspective… it humbles you and makes you feel almost like you’ve been baptized. I feel born again when I get out of the ocean.” Beyoncé Knowles
A swim at the beach is good for the soul. Ocean-side is where we go to relax, have fun and be immersed in a natural environment. But this is under threat. As of 2015, there is six times as much plastic in the ocean as there is sea life. Sea levels have risen alongside ocean temperature causing beaches and sea life to shift and disappear. This isn’t the kind of beach we want out children to experience, but it will be unless we make better decisions about what goes in our oceans.
That extends to what we wear at the beach.
Cozzies ‘Shaping swimwear sustainably’ is the motto of Shapes in the Sand, a sleek ethical swimwear brand. Their bikinis and one-pieces are made from ECONYL®, a yarn of 100% regenerated materials. This material actually helps to reduce the amount of global waste by collecting it from landfills and oceans and feeding it back into production cycles. This waste includes nylon contained in fishing nets and clothing, which is transformed back into virgin raw material without any loss of quality. Made in Australia, they manufacture their swimwear to the highest quality for a long lifespan (say goodbye to that only-good-for-one-summer bikini).
Much loved for their super sexy mum-friendly one-pieces, JETS also qualifies as ethical being a long-term signatory to the Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation process. The iconic Australian label says they are committed to improving conditions in the textile, clothing and footwear industries.
Rashies With Australia having the highest rate of skin cancer in the world covering up as much as possible is the smart way to swim, but can present style challenges. Thank heavens The ACQUA Brand make the previously utilitarian rash vest the new beach essential. For the sun conscious as well as the style conscious, each piece in The ACQUA Brand collection is 100% Australian designed and manufactured. They also use ECONYL® - not only is this material eco-friendly, it’s two times more resistant to chlorine, suntan creams and oils than competitors' fabrics. With styles that are super chic, flattering and full arm and torso coverage (think Giselle in that Chanel ad), The ACQUA Brand ticks all the boxes.
Surfboards Modern surfboards are notoriously “unsustainable” with most made from toxic, petroleum based chemicals. Once broken or damaged the potential for re-use or regeneration is very limited. Firewire was the first major high-performance surfboard brand to produce a surfboard made from the latest advancements in green chemistry and recycled materials. Their ‘ENVIROFLEX’ boards are glassed with resin made from 25% biologically derived carbon content and meet the
ECOBOARD Project benchmark developed by Sustainable Surf, an environmental non-profit organization. In Australia, MKSY Surfboardsare bringing back the all-wood boards made from a timber called paulownia, which doesn't absorb water due to its waxy qualities. If you fancy DIY, Tree to Searun make-your-own wooden board workshops from Mt Eliza, Victoria.