Summer is here, for us in the northern hemisphere. The days are getting longer. The winter swells are dying off. The sun is shining and the water is warming up. I love summer. However there is a downside... having to choose a bikini. I mean, where do you start? There are so many options from an array of outlets, it's no simple task. To make life easier I have certain requirements, which narrow down the field. The latest addition to those being: what is my bikini made from, who made it and where?
Upcycled and recycled clothing is not a new concept, but it is slow to catch on. Some big-name brands dabble by producing 'green' ranges demonstrating their good intentions. It's a great start, but the all-important questions still remain: who made my clothes and where? Most products are made in Asia and although factory conditions are improving with more emphasis on workers' welfare, there is still room for improvement. Seeing as fabrication takes place in Asia, these products then need to be shipped over to me in Europe, so I'm left wondering: is your Fairtrade, recycled plastic bottle T-shirt really all that "green"?
So, what's the solution? Well, you could be more relaxed about your principles. Or, if you're looking for a bikini (which is where we began), we may have the solution for you.
HangZen Clothing, founded by Emily Price; an avid surfer from Devon, UK, which aims to solve two serious issues. Firstly, to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the ocean, and secondly, to create bikinis and one-pieces that are comfortable, functional and flattering for women who are active on the beach. How? I hear you ask. Well, let's ask Emily herself.
SB: Hi Emily, many thanks for sparing us some of your time. How did HangZen come about?
Emily: Simply, I could never find a comfy, flattering bikini that stuck in the surf. Encompassing the eco-friendly element was never a point on which I was willing to compromise. If I was going to make swimwear, it had to be sustainable.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel and surf all over the world and teach surfing in France, Spain and Morocco. These places are incredible, but the saddest thing is there you see so much pollution and plastic waste floating in the ocean wherever you go. The ocean is very close to my heart and I want to get us to wake up, change our consumer habits and make more eco-conscious choices on a daily basis.
SB: I love the tagline – Say no to nip slip! Did the desire for a well-fitting bikini come from many personal experiences?
Emily: I've had more than my fair share of embarrassing moments when teaching surfing and having one nip peeking out whilst giving surf instructions on the beach or in the waves. I’ve also had countless occasions of indecent exposure whilst actually surfing, duck diving and wiping out.
SB: Did you get much input from others when you were designing the pieces? Has there been much trial and error?
Emily: I had some really solid initial ideas, but the final products have evolved as a result of trial, error and external feedback from other girls. I’m a perfectionist, so the prototyping stage has been pretty long and expensive, but it’s been worth it! I’ve come out with designs that both I and girls all over the world are stoked on.
I’m always wanting other girls feedback and opinions so that I can produce the best bikinis and one-pieces out there for girls like me who can’t sit still longer than 5 minutes.
SB: How eco is the fabric you use? – in our experience, there is some ambiguity about this term.
Emily: The material I buy is made in Italy so it hasn’t been shipped half way across the planet. Yay for lower carbon emissions! The composition is 78% ECONYL® recycled nylon yarn (also made in Italy) and 22% Lycra ultra life which is awesome for durability.
ECONYL® collect nylon waste in the form of fishing nets, from all over the world and via different initiatives such as Healthy Seas and Net-Works™ .
I also want to create a buy-back system, whereby my customers can send back their swimsuits once they’re finished with them and we can recycle the pieces ourselves here at HangZen. These lovely returning customers can then have a special discount on their next purchase with us! I want to get as close to a closed circuit/circular economy as possible. Minimal waste and maximum enjoyment from the products!
SB: Where are your bikinis and one-pieces put together?
Emily: I am having my first collection made right here in South Devon, England, United Kingdom! I don’t ever intend on manufacturing my products outside of Europe. I want the carbon footprint and wastage to be as low as possible.
SB: You recently embarked on a crowdfunding campaign, but you just missed out on reaching your target. Do you have any plans to relaunch your campaign?
Emily: The crowdfunder flopped, but the launch party in Courchevel at Waikiki Apres Ski bar was pretty fun. Every cloud has a silver lining, right? In all honesty, it was a big knock for me. I really thought it would work and it didn’t because I didn’t know WTF I was doing. I wanted to give up, scream, cry, throw myself/laptop/phone/everything moderately important off the mountain. I learned a lot. I wasn’t prepared and I definitely want to run another crowdfunding campaign. I’m a resilient little limpet, I will do it again and I will succeed, that’s for sure.
SB: In a nutshell, why do you think there are not many real functional bikinis out there, given all the money and companies involved in the industry?
Emily: I like to quote Will Farrell from Zoolander “That Hansel's so hot right now”. A) Because Will Farrell is brilliant and B) Because in that one line he epitomises the fashion industry. The big boys have a wealth of industry experience, at the cost of innovation, seeing as they aren’t the ones using the bikinis. We are. And we’re so hot right now.
SB: If we wanted to buy one, where would we get a HangZen Bikini, which is your favourite model to use in pumping surf?
Emily: The bikinis will be available to buy from July 2018 via my website www.hangzenclothing.co.uk as well as at various pop-up shop events in France, Spain and Portugal this summer at surf camps near you. In terms of which style is the most sturdy, I would have to say the Plastic Fantastic One-piece for ultimate stickability. But I’ve surfed in all the styles and they’re all sick.
SB: Thanks Emily for sparing us the time, and for being so honest and open. Hangzen ticks all the boxes; genuinely eco, made in the UK, with fabric sourced from Italy. Minimal carbon footprint. No sweatshops, no big fat CEO's puffing on cigars, just Emily and her fabulous team. Not only this but the best part (for me), you can buy the tops and bottoms separately! Hurray, I no longer have to squeeze into too small bottoms or fall out of overly generous tops - with Emily's foresight and experience you can purchase the right style and size for your figure. Win, win win!
Editors Note: We are going to do our best to get hold of one of the new range of HangZen bikinis and actually get it in the water surfing. Stay tuned for the review coming soon.