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Behind the brand: Meet the CEO of the swimwear brand championing sustainability and diversity

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Deakin and Blue is a sustainable swimwear brand that boasts celebrity fans such as journalist, author and mental health campaigner Bryony Gordon. It also won the Blue Patch category at the Sustainable Innovation Awards last year.

Since the brand's launch in 2017, it has gone from strength to strength - founder and CEO Rosie Cook talks us through the story behind the brand.

Image courtesy of Deakin & Blue

Starting a brand...

So what inspired Rosie to start Deakin & Blue? It turns out it was because of her own personal struggle to find a swimsuit to use for *actually swimming*. She says; "A few years ago I was struggling to find a swimsuit for my weekly swim. I realised that swimwear was either pretty but flimsy for holidays or sporty but boring for exercise, with nothing in between."

Her own journey finding the perfect swimwear, lead Rosie into research where she discovered some shocking statistics; "Research shows that 500,000 women have given up swimming and 1 in 2 mums have stopped taking their child to learn to swim because of body image concerns - it occurred to me that there was a huge gap for stylish swimwear that didn’t compromise on fit or support. I know that lots of women worry about what they look like in their bikini or swimsuit and so I wanted to create a brand that helped women to feel incredible in their swimwear, whatever their shape or size."

Image courtesy of Deakin & Blue

Making women feel comfortable in their own skin...

This importance for making women feel good, goes right through to the brand's main ethos. "We are all about designing swimwear that women feel incredible in and that informs everything we do: from our product design (intelligent, flattering), our fabrics (ours are Spanx-like but comfier!), our sizing (based on bust size as well as dress size), our use of language (because who feels good buying a “large”) and our choice of models (a range of women with different body shapes and sizes)."

Rosie's right about the language used on site, rather than the usual small, medium and large jargon - you choose your size based on a muse. The Hepburn is for those with AA-B cup, The Monroe for C-E and The Hendricks for F-HH. Who wouldn't feel better asking for a Monroe rather than a size large? 

"Many women feel uncomfortable or self-conscious in their swimwear and, like lingerie, the way your swimwear fits you is absolutely fundamental to how you feel in it. At Deakin and Blue, we know that no two size 12s are the same, and so we have developed three curve sizes for every dress size to allow customers to select any piece from our collection to best suit their body shape – whether they are more athletic or curvier. We also offer a wide range of dress sizes – from size 8 to size 20 – which we hope makes our brand even more accessible to a wider range of women."  

Image courtesy of Deakin & Blue

Sustainability in their DNA...

Like all of the brands in our behind the brand series, a huge part of Deakin & Blue is, of course, sustainability. Their swimwear is made from repurposed fishing nets and other types of plastic which means not only are they stylish AND comfortable - they're good for the planet too!

How important was sustainability for Rosie when she created the brand? "Sustainability is in our DNA and we are proud to be a business which makes a positive environmental, social and ethical impact. All our swimwear is made from ECONYL® - a 100% regenerated nylon fibre made from post-consumer waste such as old fishing nets and industrial plastic."

The beliefs of the brand also align with Fashion Revolution, Rosie explains; "We also believe in knowing #whomadeyourclothes - all our pieces are made in a small London factory where we know every seamstress by [their] first name."

It's not just the products that are eco-friendly either, Rosie makes sure that the packaging the swimwear is sent in is kind to the planet too. "When it comes to picking suppliers and manufacturers we work with Oeko-Tex® certified companies and have sourced 100% reusable and recyclable packaging materials to avoid harming the environment. Even our tissue paper uses soy-based ink and is printed on acid-free FSC® certified paper."

As Bryony Gordon says; "I have found a bikini that keeps my boobs in *and* is made out of recycled fishing nets. WHAT MORE COULD A WOMAN WANT?"

Image courtesy of Deakin & Blue

A growing interest in caring for the planet...

It's clear that sustainability is a huge part of Deakin & Blue, but has this always been the way for Rosie - or can she pinpoint a particular turning point where her beliefs changed? "Like many consumers I’ve become increasingly aware of the impact of my fashion purchasing behaviour over the last few years and have definitely become someone that buys once (and well) and who has a smaller, capsule wardrobe filled with versatile pieces that work for my year in, year out and from season to season.

"That said, starting Deakin and Blue definitely marked a significant turning point for me as it showed me the impact of fast fashion on the planet and the people involved in making our clothes. As I’ve made more environmentally and socially driven decisions for my business it has also informed my own decision making as a consumer – so now I always look at where my clothes are made, what they’re made of, whether a brand discloses anything about its production processes and what the packaging they use to deliver my pieces."

Deakin & Blue founder and CEO Rosie Cook // Image courtesy of Rosie Cook

A different career path...

For Rosie, she didn't study fashion at university and Deakin & Blue wasn't something she'd planned from her childhood. "I’ve always loved fashion as a consumer but building my career in the fashion industry was actually more a conspiracy of circumstance. I started my career in Consulting in the City and it was only when I struggled to find a swimsuit for my weekly swim that I made the decision to move industries and role to start Deakin and Blue. In many ways, I don’t have a traditional fashion background (I studied English at University) and initially lacked experience so it has been a steep learning curve, but actually, I think coming to the industry as an outsider has allowed me to ask the “stupid” questions and to challenge the way things are done- so it’s been a huge benefit as much as a challenge."

Finally, what advice does Rosie have for students who want to break into the fashion industry? "Find a brand you can go and get some work experience with. The smaller the better as you will get exposure to multiple areas of the business – across design, production, merchandising and more. There are also lots of events to learn more about the industry and the brands working within it, so go along and ask your questions – some of our most useful connections have come from seemingly random and chance encounters at events!"

To read more of our 'Behind the brand' series click here.

Lead image courtesy of Deakin & Blue




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