Summer is approaching, and with it my desire to dress sustainably has not diminished. Finding ethical swimwear can to vintage and other eco-swimwear categories, but I wanted to dig up a few Made In Britain brands. Knowing the journey of our clothing is becoming increasingly important to the conscious consumer, and when brands manufacture domestically it becomes easier to answer the all important #WhoMadeYourClothes question whilst supporting smaller, independent brands in the process. I recently came across British luxury swimwear and self proclaimed designer of ‘divewear’, ToDiveFor.
Designed and made in Britain, and inspired by ocean adventures, ToDiveFor is the brainchild of Kate Scott, a keen ocean enthusiast. In a bid to shift towards more sustainable practises and increase the quality of the brands’ pieces, the brand uses Lycra® Xtra LifeTM with Econyl®, an upcycled new techno-fabric made with 100% regenerated polyamide fiber from post-consumer materials. The material is constructed based on sustainable chemistry through a process which transforms the waste nylon and polyester typically found in carpets, clothing and fishing nets back into virgin raw material without any loss of quality. The resulting material ToDiveFor uses is twice as resistant to the degradative effects of chlorine and suntan lotion, helping to increase the quality (lycra fiber breakage can cause swimwear to fall apart quickly), whereas Xtra Life LYCRA® Fiber showed no significant damage even after 240 hours of exposure.
The story goes that whilst hovering six meters underwater a Maldivian reef, Scott grew bored with the heavy black wetsuits and plain rashies openly available – according to the founder these options were predictably dull. I interviewed Scott about the British brand trying to inject colour and originality into luxury swimwear for like-minded ocean lovers in the luxury swimwear market.
– Tell us about the vision for your brand?
Each new dive I’m in awe of the immense diversity of marine life and the endless displays of form, pattern and pigment – it’s a timeless landscape that is also constantly changing. This is my inspiration for ToDiveFor – creating functional pieces that are crafted with quality and endurance, but are also unique and adaptable.
Our dive apparel pieces are cut for purpose, but are also shaped and printed for beauty and fun. Right now we’re developing our ‘Curve’ range to compliment our designs to curvier bodies. Last season we launched our RESORT range to create pieces that can be matched across our printed pieces, creating different looks from existing pieces.
– Where do you make your fashion and why do you think it is important for designers to be clued up when it comes to who makes their clothes and where?
In world of fast-fashion, it’s common for the designer to be distanced from the maker and for brands to look for options to compete in price and flexibility. It’s now the norm for clothing brands to produce their lines through complicated and often distant supply chains, with limited visibility about who and what is involved in the manufacturing process. Since the beginning, ToDiveFor has manufactured all it’s pieces at the same select producers in the UK. Whilst this brings additional cost to our brand, I know who makes our lines and how they are made.
Our manufacturers are effectively our co-creators, enabling ToDiveFor designs to come into being – for me, it’s essential that everyone involved in delivering our collections is ethically employed in a skills-driven company. We also have a rich history of manufacturing skill in the UK and using local, known factories gives me much greater control of the product quality and design specifications that are inherent in ToDiveFor’s brand.
– What more do you think customers are looking for these days beyond good design? Or do you think that design is really all that matters?
Today, we have access to so many material things at the swipe of gadget. As a result, I think people are increasingly looking for well-designed and unique items. For me, good design is about successfully combining functionality and purpose with originality and aesthetics. This is really what we’re striving for at ToDiveFor (TDF) – swim and dive apparel that is designed to protect from the sun, sea and surf, whilst also being daring, creative and fun to wear.
We are working with the wonderful photographer @suahuatica ~ he finds these incredible locations to shoot our bikinis! Want to see more of his #todivefor photos check out our NEW Instagram page @todivefor_swimwear @elaena_mcdon #bikini #bikinimodel #ocean #droneview #drone #waves #cyprus #bikiniphotoshoot #locationshoot
– How do you ensure quality with your brand?
Quality and durability of each swim or dive apparel is essential to the ToDiveFor ethos. As a result, we put a lot of focus into where we source our material and how it is manufactured. All our Lycra is sourced from a small number of Italian suppliers. Likewise, all our collections are made by traditional, small-scale manufacturers in the UK. We’ve worked with these partners since the beginning and they know our brand purpose.
As result we collaborate well to ensure quality is always prioritised, even through design changes or troubleshooting – as is inevitable through any production process. We’re also strongly focused on integrating new material into our designs that are manufactured with less environmental impact. Having witnessed the extent of plastic pollution on marine habitats through dive trips abroad, I’m accutely aware that as an apparel designer, we have a responsibility to shape a more sustainable clothing and textile industry.
This ethos of responsible design extends to the smaller details also – whilst we’ve always tried to use recyclable shipment material, we recently changed our customer packaging to reduce the quantity required and utilise materials that were more evidently re-usable or recycle for our followers, encouraging them to reduce waste where possible.
– How can we/how do you encourage customers to look at independent brands like yourself instead of just focusing on the high street or well-known ones?
I think there’s a growing interest for independent, unique and well-crafted design – the challenge is gaining visibility and maintaining brand identity in amongst the larger high street names. It’s often the smaller brands bringing novel ideas and new creativity the fashion and design space, but this is easily adopted by larger brands that are able to replicate a piece at a lower price.
For us, our focus is maintaining quality and purpose of the ToDiveFor brand around our roots in diving and watersports and the technical design needed for this. We have a relatively small product base allowing us to focus on carefully designed and selected prints that are unique to TDF. We also work really hard to make sure ToDiveFor followers get the best possible experience with us. We’re always available to talk with our customers and make a big effort to help them if needed.
– How do you approach sustainability/transparency within your brand?
We’ve worked with the same suppliers and makers since our first collection and we have good traceability of our material inputs and manufacturing processes. We’re always looking to improve through incorporating new materials that are aligned with our ethos for long-lasting and recycled fabrics and packaging, without compromising on product quality.
I think it’s increasingly important to provide visibility to customers, to help them understand brand differences and make purchasing choices accordingly. As a result, we communicate with our customers directly and openly to answer any questions they have about TDF apparel and how its made.
– Why is it important that designers support British brands?
Britain has a long and rich history of creative textile design as well as skilled makers and crafters. Maintaining and reviving this supports both local skill and economy, as well as a increasing public knowledge for how garments are made. Whilst certain British designers have been a huge inspiration to me, what really interests me is supporting good design creativity and manufacturing techniques, wherever that might be in world.
Find out more about ToDiveFor online.