United by a desire to clean up the plastic littering the world’s oceans, Zanna Van Dijk and Natalie Glaze co-founded Stay Wild Swim (SWS), a line of eco-swimwear made from regenerated ocean plastic. In tapping into the hearts and minds of consumers seeking ethically produced and sustainable items, the brand has gone from strength to strength. Highlights from 2019 included a debut in Selfridges’ Bright New Things initiative and being the only British brand selected to feature in Instagram’s 2019 Founders campaign. Natalie (pictured right) speaks to LB about the SWS success story.
Are you able to explain a little bit about your experience and how it’s informed what you do now?
We both have backgrounds in social media and blogging and had spent years creating audiences of our own. We used that experience to inform how we started our business, launching our social media channels before we had a product and sharing the brand journey and a behind-the-scenes look at the launch. What’s great about having two of us is that we combine our different skills sets from social media, marketing, creative direction, right the way through to operations and logistics. It’s great to have one another to bounce ideas off and to challenge each other. We always make sure we are working towards a common goal.
How did you meet and what prompted the idea to launch a swimwear brand?
We meet through blogging events and had always kept in contact. It was our mutual love for the ocean that definitely brought us together. We connected while discussing the horrors of ocean plastic and wanting to be a part of the solution to this problem. We both love swimwear and saw an opportunity to use it as a force for good, turning threat into thread.
What were some of the initial challenges you faced when launching the brand?
We both came into fashion and swimwear with zero experience in those industries, which we talk about openly. We don’t have degrees in fashion and are pretty much making it up as we go along. This has brought challenges such as learning everything from scratch, things like factory lingo down to the more technical aspects of design. Creating a sustainable brand is always a slower, more expensive process, so a lot more research went into finding components that were planet-friendly. Not having any preconceived ideas around ‘how to run a brand’ meant we just did things our way, went with our gut, and as a result, we’ve probably been more free with our decision making.
What is it that differentiates Stay Wild Swim?
We saw a gap in the market for beautiful, timeless sustainable swimwear which puts the planet and people first but also flatters every woman. We create our pieces from regenerated ocean plastic and craft them in London, making sure every element of what we do is as sustainable and ethical as possible. From our factory, our material, packaging, right down to our biodegradable hygiene liners – sustainability is at the heart of what we do.
Since launching a year ago, we have created a community of more than 32,000 people. We interact with our customers and community in a unique way. They have helped to build our brand, chosen our colours, and modelled our pieces.
In the past year, we have created sell-out designs, been stocked in Selfridges as part of its Bright New Things initiative, exhibited at London Fashion Week as part of its Positive Fashion Exhibition, featured on Instagram’s Founders series (see below), to name a few. We are rapidly expanding our brand worldwide and we have huge goals for Stay Wild Swim. This is just the beginning!
Who is the SWS customer and how do you communicate with them?
Our customer ranges from people who love the planet and are passionate about sustainability, to people who just love beautiful swimwear. Community is crucial for our business and we have used social media to communicate with ours in a unique, innovative way. By engaging our customer in helping to shape our products’ colours, styles and by hosting open casting calls for modelling our collections, we create products that people actually want. We want to make a positive change within the fashion industry to show it’s possible to create stylish, timeless pieces that put the planet first.
How did you go about finding your suppliers?
Word of mouth has been incredible – we were particularly lucky to be introduced to most of our suppliers. We put out some feelers and spent months researching and visiting factories and suppliers, as we didn’t want to rush. But being able to tap into our sustainability community and contacts was very helpful at the early stage and made that side of things a lot smoother.
You were featured in Instagram’s 2019 Founders campaign – what did this do for the brand?
That was a real pinch-me moment for us. We had just marked our first birthday and were featured on the @instagram account (which is the most followed page in the world) as part of its #Founders campaign, which profiled five brands worldwide. We were very lucky to be chosen as the UK brand and were able to tell our story and ethos to a huge community. We have definitely seen an influx of great opportunities off the back of it and some great exposure for the brand. I think it also helped showcase us to a more international audience and the feedback has been incredible. An opportunity we are very grateful for.
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Natalie Glaze and Zanna van Dijk met because of Instagram. Today, they’re the #founders of Stay Wild Swim (@staywildswim), a sustainable swimwear brand designed and stitched in London. ? The pair’s deep connection to sustainability and the ocean inspired them to start the company together. But neither had a formal background in fashion. “For us, there was so much bliss in the naiveté of just beginning our business,” explains Zanna. “We started out not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into and gave it a go — and the next thing you know, we’re in up to our necks.” To see even more #founders stories, check out @instagramforbusiness
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the fashion industry?
The biggest challenge for a sustainable brand is ensuring each little detail meets our ethical and sustainable standards. We want to be able to sleep well at night knowing that all aspects of Stay Wild are in line with our ethos, and that is one hell of a challenge when the whole industry is built around fast fashion.
There are a lot of challenges facing the fashion industry – the whole industry is sadly built around mass-consumption and overproduction of pieces. It takes extensive research, hard work and often a lot of time to produce products which are ethically and eco-friendly while being premium in quality. But during the last year, we have seen big steps towards a more positive conversation in the industry, so whilst there is a long way to go it’s great to see how many people are talking about sustainability.
What’s on the horizon for SWS?
Last year was a time for us to dip our toe in the water and we almost used it as our ‘market testing’ year. This year is a big one for us and we’ve got some very exciting plans in the pipeline.
We’ve just launched sustainable accessories including an eco beach bag to complement our reusable water bottles and we plan on adding a few further sustainable accessories as and when we believe they are needed.
Rather than dropping multiple swimwear collections, we add to our collection piece-by-piece so we have less wastage, promoting a slower, more conscious way of consuming. So we will be slowly adding styles as and when they are needed and have some beautiful designs in the making. Maybe even a menswear line, who knows!
The overall goal for us is to create a positive change in the fashion industry by showing a slower, less wasteful and more mindful way of doing things. We want to focus on ethics, sustainability and transparency and be the forefront of the sustainable movement.