The Future Of Sustainable Swimwear: Podcast interview with Striding Forward
Our founder, Charys Caldarella, was recently featured on the Striding Forward podcast on the future of sustainable swimwear. She had so much fun sharing her thoughts on the future of sustainable swimwear with the host of the podcast and owner of Stride, Australia's leading ethical fashion store. We wanted to share some little tidbits of her interview here today!
Stride has stocked Styelle Swim bikinis for a while now, and their values are definitely aligned with ours. So it was especially fun for Charys to be able to chat with Jordan about the things that matter to both of them, and how their businesses reflect those personal values completely.
Read on to find out more about why sustainability is so important to us and why it is part of everything we do here at Styelle Swim, and of course, Charys’ thoughts on the future of sustainable swimwear!
A commitment to sustainable swimwear
Charys has always had love for the beach, and also fashion. Her love for sustainability, however, came during her time at a fashion college.
“I was having trouble finding something that really made me interested in what I was designing,” she says, “So my teacher introduced the idea of sustainability to me, which was completely new to me.”
It was at this point that Charys learned about the ethical and sustainable fashion movement as a reaction to the huge, industrial level amounts of waste and pollution being produced by the fashion industry.
This inevitably led Charys to joining the Ethical Fashion Forum, where she learned about sustainability and ethical sourcing, important knowledge that continues to drive her to this day.
She definitely considers her time in college as an important foundation to her understanding of fashion and sustainability.
More importantly, sustainability has impacted her personal life too!
“(Sustainability is) part of my lifestyle now, it’s literally in everything I do,” Charys says, “It’s not just what we wear, but also not taking that plastic straw, and using reusable coffee cups. It’s the little things that make a difference. This is something I think we should teach from a young age, like I do with my kids.”
An important turning point
In the years after college, Charys started to consider how her love for fashion and sustainability can be a basis for her own fashion business. At one point, a friend of a friend who lived in Thailand told her that she could help Charys source reversible two-piece swimsuits for just $25.
“I thought, well that’s interesting”, Charys says, “A pretty good business model - get it cheap, get it out.”
Unfortunately, the reality was a little less than ideal. Charys is always hands-on in everything she does, so she went to visit the factory where these swimsuits were being produced. What she saw during her visit to the factory was heartbreaking.
“Children asleep on the floor. Literally children 8 to 9 years old, sleeping on fabric on the floor, waiting for their shift,” Charys shares, “It was a huge turning point.”
She decided there had to be a better way forward. It’s this thought that has pushed her to be strict on her ethical and sustainable stance, and prioritise it in her professional life.
Sustainability as part of Styelle Swim’s DNA
Even though Styelle Swim has always been a lean operation with little wastage - our off-cuts are all donated to schools for arts and crafts, for example - Charys had hesitated to label our brand as ‘sustainable’ because, in the beginning, our swimwear was still being made with Lycra, a fabric that is not considered sustainable.
Over time, Charys discovered different fabrics that are more sustainable. First came upcycled Lycra, which while a little more sustainable, is still made of plastic. Then, our manufacturers in Brazil mentioned to Charys that a fabric house that they use has just developed a new type of fabric.
This fabric, dubbed the Fluity C02, is 30% biodegradable, because it’s partly made of plant filament! The other 70% is made of polyester, that is very tightly woven to avoid microplastics being released as easily as regular swimwear.
“It’s so soft, it’s amazing!” exclaims Charys, “(It has) fit, form, and feel that’s like second skin.”
It was after we began producing our swimwear exclusively with this amazing fabric that Charys decided we could really claim our sustainability as part of who we are!
What makes swimwear sustainable?
As we mentioned before, we believe that safe and sustainable fabrics should be the basis for all swimwear. Our fabric is Oeko-Tex 100 Class I certified, which means that it’s completely non-toxic, aside from being 30% biodegradable and 70% degradable.
In the swimwear industry, upcycled materials like we used to use are also a good start, but it’s not great in the long term. This is mainly because the Spandex content is still difficult to dispose of. In fact, it will never break down. Our AMNI Soul Eco fabric features a plant-based filament which acts as a replacement for Spandex that is more earth friendly and easily disposed of.
Another important factor is creating standards around end life plans for swimwear. We need to seriously consider how swimwear can be safely discarded, and best ways to reduce the amount of plastics in our landfills.
“Swimwear is unique in that it can’t be passed down and shared,” Charys says, “There needs to be an end life plan, and thinking forward about how to go about that.”
We also consider sustainable processes as a part of our commitment to sustainability. All our fabrics are made with earth-friendly practices at its core. For example, there is no water wastage during the closed loop process, and we safely dispose of all our dyes so they don’t end up in waterways and oceans.
We also believe that a commitment to low (or zero) waste is vital - for example, all our plastic off-cuts are recycled.
The future of swimwear
Charys reckons - and we agree - that the future of swimwear needs to focus on people first! We have been committed to this from the very start, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
For every piece that we sell, a child in Brazil gets to attend school for three months. The family that owns our manufacturing factories also has an ongoing commitment to community growth and keeping their children safe. Providing the future leaders of the community with support and a strong foundation of stability and education is important to all of us at Styelle Swim.
“Being a mum to five children myself, this is something important to me,” Charys says, “It brings me to tears to think about the amount of children who suffer in the world, so it’s something I’m very adamant on, making sure we have that side of business.”
We are also sponsors for Miss Grand Australia and support their work with Destiny Rescue, helping get children out of situations of exploitation and sex slavery.
In terms of fabrics and sustainability, we can look at the fashion industry at large and see how the swimwear industry can benefit from those same ideas. For example, all the big Fashion Weeks have made a commitment to say no to fur. We hope the swimwear industry can adopt a similar stance against non-sustainable fabrics.
We also look at sustainable design, and what we can do to make sure the manufacturing process operates more leanly. Designers like Bianca Spender, who uses dead stock fabric in her designs, and also Kit Willow, who sources ethically-made fabrics, are leading the charge and showing the world that sustainable fashion can look amazing while still reducing harm to the planet and its people.
At Styelle Swim, we are aiming at creating zero-waste designs. We want to create patterns with no offcuts at all. It’s definitely forcing us to be more creative, but we’re getting closer to achieving this goal with each collection we release!
We also want to move some of our manufacturing to Australia. We love working with our artisans in Brazil, but it would be nice to offer Australian-made products to our customers too.
The way forward: Putting ethics and sustainability first
“Doing the right thing makes you feel like you’re 10 feet tall and bulletproof.”
- Charys Caldarella
Styelle Swim was created not just as a way to make gorgeous swimwear designs available to the masses, but also incorporating sustainability into the swimwear industry and making it the norm.
Nothing looks better on you than knowing you’ve done the right thing! We still have a long way to go, but all signs point to the future of sustainable swimwear being a bright light in the fashion industry in the coming years.
You can listen to Charys’ interview with Jordan Wilkes by heading to the Striding Forward podcast website. You can also learn more about our passion for ethical business and sustainability by reading our past blogs.