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‘We are responsible for what we create’: Meet the swimwear brand focusing on end of life design

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Georgina Wilson-Powell

13 June 2018

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Swimwear is synonymous with holidays, fun, adventures and happy memories. But our fast fashion addiction means swimwear is another source of plastic pollution hurting the planet. British swimwear brand Davy J, is not only taking a new approach to product design but also post-product design - ie what happens to it once your holiday is over.

How often do you think about what happens to your stuff when you throw it away? Your shoes, clothes, make up...how about your swimwear? All those swimming costumes you had as kids (hello, Minnie Mouse stripey sailor cossie), where are they now?

Since mass production arrived, we’ve worked on a linear economy approach. 

We buy, we use, we dispose, we don’t think of it again. But our  stuff doesn’t magically disappear. And most of the time it isn’t recycled or unstitched and reused...it’s in landfill, clogging up the earth with hard to decompose materials and microplastics. 

It’s like realising your other half hasn’t tided the house and miraculously gone minimalist, they’ve shoved everything they’ve ever owned in a cupboard that’s threatening to burst open and bury your house in pre-loved crap.

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Davy J makes swimwear for women who want to take on the water and win

So anyone with half a brain, an eco-conscience and an eye on future profit, is embracing a new, more circular,design model. While the circular economy, might be...circular in nature, it’s made up of some essential building blocks.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation reckons these are: “material selection, standardised components, designed-to-last products, design for easy end-of-life sorting, separation or reuse of products and materials, and design-for-manufacturing criteria that take into account possible useful applications of by-products and wastes.”

Essentially, if you’re going to make new stuff, make sure you can break down the components of what it’s made of, and even more, build into the design up front how the materials are going to be remade or disposed of. 

For British swimwear brand Davy J, all these elements are key towards building a circular brand.

"I firmly believe that circular is the future, both from an ecological and economic perspective. There’s no two ways about it, in a world of limited resources we can not continue to operate in a linear fashion where we continue to ‘consume’ the world’s resources at such a fast rate," says brand founder, Helen Newcombe.

Functional and flattering

Designed and manufactured in the UK, Davy J’s swimwear showcases that functional can be flattering. This isn’t swimwear for stiletto clad beach babes but open water swimmers, divers, wild swimmers, SUP-ers, all year round active women who want to work their bodies while also looking great.

"In a world of limited resources we can not continue to operate in a linear fashion where we continue to ‘consume’ the world’s resources at such a fast rate"

Clever elastane and cross back designs mean you can pull off a cliff dive without your cleavage falling out or a triathlon without making a tit of yourself (well, without showing boob at least).

"We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive responses we’ve had and the reach we’ve gained in such a small amount of time," says Newcombe. 

"First and foremost we know we’re making an amazing product, this is key. You can have all the ethical credentials in the world but if the product doesn’t perform well or isn’t hitting the mark in term of style and fit then you’ll never build a strong brand. We make great swimwear."

Made from waste

For that it’s already earned itself a legion of fans, but it’s the way the brand embraces and encapsulates the circular economy ethos that really makes a splash.

2018’s ‘Waste Collection is made using ECONYL® yarn - made from recycled ghost fishing nets, which make up 10% of all ocean plastic and are a huge issue in their own rights, strangling marine life and choking coral. 

To give you an idea of how many upcyclable resources there are out there, one ton of fishing nets can make 10,000 swimsuits. For every 100 Davy J suits sold, around nine kgs of waste has been regenerated.

“I developed a partnership with Aquafil, the makers of ECONYL® yarn right from the inception of Davy J,” says Newcombe.

“I love their ethos as a circular business and their innovations in the field of nylon yarn are truly ground-breaking – raising the bar for material regeneration and designing a fully circular system where 100% of their yarn is regenerated without any compromises in terms of durability and strength relative to virgin nylon. It was a no brainer for us, why would we use virgin material when there’s an equal alternative made from recycled waste.”

(Read about what it’s like rescuing ghost fishing nets from the sea here).

This is how marine waste becomes amazing swimsuits

Davy J

The graveyard of swimsuits

Stella McCartney has called for more brands to take responsibility for the products they create, and what happens to them at the end of their life with the consumer, and this is something Davy J take seriously.

She told the BBC in April 2018, “If you think about how much fashion there is, whether it be luxury or fast, it is sort of swamping the planet.”

An End of Life Returns scheme is in place for Davy J - meaning you can send back your swimsuit when you’re done. Even better they’ll take off your hands any other brand’s swimwear as well. Anyone sending back a Davy J swimsuit gets 20% off future purchases and the brand are collecting old cossies for an upcycling project.

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“It was a no brainer for us, why would we use virgin material when there’s an equal alternative made from recycled waste”

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we could recycle 50% of the clothes we currently send to landfill, including swimsuits. 

Davy J is aiming for 60% closed loop recycling (making new products from old materials rather than virgin ones) by 2020.

"To top it all off you’ll notice that Davy J prides itself on celebrating real women in all their beauty as part of their brand imagery. You’ll find no photoshopping here, only raw, real images of women out and about enjoying the oceans…the way it should be," says Newcombe.

And that's how you do it - good business, great design, job done.

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