Keep Your Mind Dirty And The Earth Clean: How Two Vancouver Entrepreneurs Are Raising The Bar on Eco-fashion And Redefining Sustainability As We Know It.

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This tagline isn’t the only thing about Vancouver-based swimsuit brand Londre Bodywear that will make you look twice. If you ask us, founders Ainsley Rose and Hannah Todd have done the impossible – created a one piece bathing suit out of discarded plastic water bottles that night life’s as a bodysuit, and looks as classy with a blazer at happy hour as it does sexy with a tequila and disco lights. And that’s not even close to the best thing about it.

Revealing doesn’t even begin to describe these babes and what they shared with us – but it’s not what you think (but check out their minimalist suit and then let us know what you think). By peeling back their own production curtain and letting us in, we learned just how much goes into running a truly sustainable business – from material sourcing, to manufacturing processes, waste management, shipping and packaging, to end of garment life cycle plans.

We connected with the goddess bosses over at Londre and dug deeper into what they do and most importantly, why we should all care about it.

After you had the idea to create something wearable and sustainable, where did you start?

We wanted to create versatile swimwear that made women feel sexy on vacation, even after their 5th taco and motivated by our own travel dreams. Following a few margaritas the idea really took off and we began brainstorming designs inclusive of all body types while weaving in the sustainability factor, which was huge for us.

After finalizing our first design, The Minimalist we began researching various manufacturers and making every possible mistake along the way which eventually landed us in Vancouver to begin production and bring our ideas to life.

What was it like starting up in Vancouver?

Starting up in Vancouver happened by chance, after reconnecting with an acquaintance we hadn’t seen in over 14 years. It was when they introduced us to their manufacturing facility in East Vancouver that our plans took motion and we signed on with the team.

From the start of working together, they took us under their wing and gave us so much confidence and support in our business. Overall it has been an amazing experience for both of us, especially after facing so many obstacles before signing on.

It’s also been such a gift to combine our love for travel with business and although we constantly find ourselves taking calls and meetings in different time zones, planting roots in Vancouver through Londre has meant it will always be our beautiful home base.

How have you planned and prepared for the lifecycle of the suits at their end of use?

We have a recycling program where we encourage our clients to return their suits when they are done with them, so that they don’t end up in a landfill. We can then upcycle them into other products, which is something we are super excited about!

We also try our best to partner with other sustainable brands who we believe are innovators in the eco fashion sector to increase awareness of these type of options for our clients.

What is ‘sustainable fabric technology’ making possible for the future as far as base materials and finished products go?

For us, sourcing sustainable fabric technology has meant only using fabrics that meet Oeko Tex Standard 100. This is a system to ensure all products are free of harmful substances. This focuses on the dye process and chemical process of some of our fibres. Therefore, our mills use only low-impact fibre reactive dye stuff. This standard ensures that the least amount of water is used, that no harmful chemicals come in contact with the workers or the water, and that the end product is ‘grey’ water – water that can be reused. This means that workers aren’t exposed to any potentially harmful toxins.

Did the manufacturing process for your fabric exist when you started or have you built it from the ground up?

Our Vancouver based manufacturer personally oversees all production. Right now, we have 3 sewers who work on our products and one manager who helps us run production. Our skilled sewers are paid $18-25 an hour, well above BC’s minimum wage. We are so privileged to be able to produce our garments in Vancouver where we have very good work safety standards, particularly in global terms.

The warehouse we source our materials from has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and we appreciate their expertise on ethical overseas manufacturing, as they specialize in ethical and sustainable materials.

We also hope to personally visit our textile maker sometime in 2020, as we believe there can always be more transparency and empowerment for people in our supply chain.

What are some of the roadblocks you faced?

We were originally planning on starting our business based out of Bali because we wanted to live there. Manufacturing is slightly less expensive and offered at a high quality standard. We tried to do that very unsuccessfully – it was such a mistake. Every disaster you could imagine happening – happened. Someone disappeared with our samples and our fabric right when we were starting out!

It was when we ended up back in Vancouver and began manufacturing locally that we saw the entire experience as a blessing because we are now able to oversee production.

What did you refuse to settle on in terms of quality and sustainability standards?

We were shocked to discover that most swimsuits are derived from oil, which comes from non regenerative fossil fuels and irresponsible textile dying, with fast fashion being the second biggest polluter of fresh water ways.

Given this information, we decided to set our suits at a premium price point so that dollars could responsibly go towards high quality, long lasting, multifunctional swimwear while not settling for toxins, single use plastic, harmful working environments and excessively wasteful energy and water levels.  

What are some other waste materials you are seeing being created into sustainable fashion?

We are huge fans of our Vancouver based friends, Leze the Label who creates stunning, versatile women’s workwear collections while relying on innovative materials like recycled coffee grinds, and bamboo.

We also recently connected with the brand, BaYou with Love and discovered all their stunning jewelry had been upcycled from old dell computers.

Anything you are excited about using?

Since our line is also deeply connected to protecting our ocean, it was important for us to find ways to support a conscious change through the use of recycled plastic bottles in our designs which would otherwise end up polluting our waterways.  

Does Londre have any plans to expand beyond bathing suits?

You can expect some exciting launches this year that will go beyond our swimwear. Without giving away too much, through our expanded product offering we plan to promote the longevity of our swimwear and go even further in protecting our planet from harmful plastics.

Any new designs or colours coming? How do you choose sustainable dyes?

This year you can expect us to move towards new and innovative garments, more inclusive sizing, and continued honest manufacturing. We will also release a few spins on our favorite best selling suit with more details to come! Follow us on instagram and/or join our mailing list to receive more updates, we are so excited!

If you caught all that, you are probably feeling like you’ve died and gone to heaven. Or maybe you’re thinking, “well god damn, angels really do exist and maybe our earth isn’t so doomed after all”. Either way, we hope this inside scoop into the heart and hard work that go into making sustainable fashion possible will make you think twice about stocking up on those 2 for $12.99 factory produced suits. It’s so important that we peel back the curtain and start to realize the heavy cost the earth pays when we try to save a buck and invest our dollars into companies that don’t invest them back into the planet.

One thing is for sure, our eyes are wide open now and we’re paying close attention to what we buy and from whom. Are you?

Words by | Emma Rose Tait