Hong Kong-born, Toronto-bred Toni Chan was formerly "a management consultant for a large firm for a few years." She later left her corporate job in 2013, made a career switch, and founded sustainable swimwear brand, August Society in Singapore. Chan named it after her friends who often vacationed in summers, "It's actually quite common for those in Southern Europe – think France, Italy, Spain, Greece, etc – to take the month of August off and spend it at a holiday home with family and friends, quite often at the beach. Small businesses shut down completely, projects grind to a halt, and no one expects anything to get done until September," Chan quips.
Chan is married to a Frenchman, and turn every summer they visit his family home in the Southern offshore French island of Corsica. It then made sense for Chan to start a swimwear business. "I've never been professionally trained in design but have always had an interest in visual arts. I do all the designs myself," Chan continues. Her vibrant, printed swimwear pieces come in international sizing, and Chan prides her label on the sustainable fabrics they source from an Italian mill. "Approximately 10 to 20 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans each year. The polyester and nylon used in swimwear are actually types of plastic, derived from non-renewable petroleum." In her latest collection, all swimwear pieces are made from recycled plastic waste "that would have ended up in a landfill, or worse, the ocean."
The brand was birthed by coincidence when 26-year-old Ng Su May and 45-year-old Belinda Lee, co-founders of PINKSALT, met in a fashion diploma course. There the duo realised a "gap in the local market for modern and fashionable swimwear," says Lee. They spent six months on research and development before launching the brand in June 2016. While Lee oversees the design process, Ng continues the manufacturing process. PINKSALT's pieces are manufactured in China.
There, Lee and Ng's swimwear pieces are made sustainably through minimal wastage processes. "We have chosen to use the heat transfer sublimation printing process, which is a more eco-friendly printing technique. There is minimum wastage and none of the dye gets into the water system," Lee adds. Chemical dyes have been a salient consideration in the fashion industry. Over 200, 000 tonnes of dye is used per year in the textiles industry. China being a focal point of manufacturing, has reportedly dumped chemical dyes into rivers. PINKSALT's choice of machine dye eliminates that, and has been lauded to produce zero waste. Taking their sustainability cause further, Lee quips, "we will be exploring recycled polyester in the next few seasons."
For 12 years, Singaporean Lyn Rosmarin "was [a] Forex sales person covering hedge funds and asset managers." Rosmarin admits it was a good job with many open doors, but there was a catch. She "couldn't see myself doing this job for my entire life."
Rosmarin spent her formative years schooling in France. The French 'joie de vivre' attitude never quite left her. When an opportunity arose, "I quit my banking job" and made a career switch to start swimwear label, K.BLU in 2014.
The mother of two started out designing her own pieces. She reached out to the myriad of vibrant Asian cultures for prints. Rosmarin has since pulled together a design team and associate creative director, "to keep up our design effort on prints". Her fabrics are Italian. Rosmarin thinks they are "softer in general with a higher percentage of polyamide mixed [with] polyester." These fabrics dry fast and offer UV protection as well. Rosmarin carefully notes that her swimwear pieces are designed for the petite Asian physique. "For every silhouette, I would try them on to make sure that it fits my body like a glove... We are a team of Asian women and we know how it would look like on our shorter torsos and smaller boobs," she jokes.
Rosmarin and team have sustainability on their minds. They've recently produced a beautiful blue-turquoise one-piece swimsuit of 88% recycled polyamide fibres. Yet, she notes that these "eco-friendly polyamides are a more expensive fabric to work with". The resulting swimsuit will also be particularly delicate to abrasions and friction. Rosmarin continues to develop her fabrics with the 55-year-old Italian textile company Carvico, "we are working more with Carvico to test fabric swatches as we speak".
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