Name: Heather Bowie Kaye + Itee Soni
Hometown: Heather: New York City, Itee: New Delhi
Now living in: Shanghai
Brand: Loop Swim
Tell us about Loop Swim
We are all about closing the loop on waste and making sure we #ProtectWhatYouLove – especially your skin and our environment. For divers, surfers, swimmers, snorkelers, paddle boarders and wave jumpers, that environment is our oceans – and our oceans are saturated with plastic pollution.
The two of us met in Shanghai in 2008, devoted women’s apparel designers from New Delhi and New York City, we bonded over our passionate for fashion, and the intricate, human process of making clothing, but also our discomfort with the unnecessary waste we were seeing generated by the fashion industry.
In 2012, fabric made from recycled PET (plastic bottles) was just becoming available as an alternative to virgin polyester, and we saw the opportunity to make swimwear entirely from recycled plastic. We began developing our signature UPF50+ sun protective swimwear fabric with Unifi, maker of Repreve rPET yarn.
Today, not only is Loop Swim made from post-consumer use plastic bottles that would otherwise wind up in landfill or our oceans, but Loop will recycle your swimsuit at the end of its useful life.
Tell us more about the material you use
One million plastic bottles per minute are sold around the globe, so Loop Swim transforms them into UPF50+ sun protective swimwear for women, men and kids.
How are the swimsuits actually made from this material?
We make our swimwear exclusively from REPREVE rPET yarn. Most people don’t know that the symbol PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles you buy at convenience stores are essentially the same material as polyester. After used plastic bottles reach a recycling center, they are washed, chopped up into flakes, and melted down into pellets (also called nurdles). These pellets can be made into all kinds of new products – furniture, roads, clothing, car upholstery – even bikinis.
Where do you draw the inspiration for each design?
We are big fans of big bold colors and timeless prints that vibrate with our frequency.
A lot of our prints are inspired by our adopted home of Shanghai. From the ginkgo – China’s national tree, to Shanghai’s art deco architecture, and even the cicada – the sound of summer in Shanghai – have all featured on our suits in distinctive colors combinations. We also have classic geos and foulards in all-time favorite aqua and corals to round off other more organic, yet funky inspirations like the Ukiyo-e stylised puffer fish in our Fishbowl print and a more updated still-life like the Fruit Salad in neon hues.
What inspired you to start doing this?
Our industry produces over 100 billion garments a year – and almost none of those clothes are ever recycled. 85% end up in landfill or incinerated. We believe waste is just a resource in the wrong place, and so our goal became to design a circular product with the end-of-life in mind. What happens to this product after the customer is done using it? Where will it go? How do we keep its resources ‘in the loop’ so that it doesn’t become part of the waste stream? That’s how we got our name.
Who do you create your work for?
The women in our lives – single, coupled, childless or mothers, those who are comfortable with, and those still learning to love their bodies. Driven and authentic women with excellent taste, who vote with their wallets and want the brands they buy to be an extension of their values – AND those who love the joy of gifting something they love to someone they love!
What are some of the projects you are most proud of?
Business should be a force for positive, sustainable change both on the environmental front and for all workers and stakeholders. We hope to create the biggest impact through education and awareness. We partner with students, educators, businesses and non-profits to amplify the conversation around “designing better” upfront, whether you’re a start-up brand or creating a science project at school.
We also founded the Eco Warriors Summit, and work with global organizations like PADI, Clean Cliff Divers Project, Plastic Oceans, and Green Initiatives to stop plastic pollution in our oceans by educating people about the true costs of single-use plastic.
How has Chinese culture shaped your work?
Grace Coddington put it best when she showed up in silk pyjamas at the Met Gala themed “China: through The Looking Glass” in 2015. For us that is exactly what China has been – the perfect blend of comfort, style and bold experimentation.
Our relatively modest fit, with UPF50+ sun-protection, was influenced by Chinese culture which prioritises function and elegance. Traditionally, Chinese have not prioritized beach vacations and being in the sun, but this is changing – fast. Our goal is to get everyone in the water, and to design our swimwear for the wearer to be active and feel uninhibited.
Surfer wears our latest rash-guard in a classic black and white print – inspired by the China’s ancient interlocking wooden beam architectural details.
What is your dream for your brand?
Our dream is to scale a truly sustainable company – for our planet, our supply chain partners, ourselves, our employees and stakeholders. We’re definitely out to prove that a profitable business does not have to come at a high cost to the planet’s resources or to workers at our partner factories. We play the long game.
By 2024, we aim to be the unrivaled premium resource for eco-swimwear in Asia and Australia, with over 300 retailers, distributors and a significant online presence. We hope our clients continue to fall in love with Loop, and to share their stories and travels with us!
What should we be looking forward to seeing from you next?
Loop Kids is launching this summer! So excited to bring our bespoke, funky prints to kids swimwear – naturally UPF50+, of course!
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