An environmental fashion pioneer tells HAYLEY NEWNHAM how her passion for the ocean led to her creating swimwear for real women.
Sustainability is the buzzword of the age, with an increasing number of consumers considering the impact that their individual consumption has on the world, the waste this creates, and what happens to products once they reach the end of life.
Helen Lofts, founder of Devon-based waterwear brand Davy J, says she had these same concerns long before other brands were opening their eyes to the gravity of the issues surrounding the fashion industry’s designs and supply chains. A circular economy advocate, economist, and wild swimming enthusiast, Helen is passionate about creating a less wasteful, more sustainable approach to business. It was thanks to these passions coupled with frustration with fashionable swimsuits that couldn’t keep up with her adventurous side that she came up with the concept for Davy J.
“I wanted to create swimwear that not only looks good but is practical,” says Helen. “Pieces that will survive a dive and stay on in the waves or handle chasing around kids at the beach.” This is something that has become particularly relevant for Helen now that she is navigating running a fast-growing apparel brand while juggling life with a new-born.
Named after Davy Jones Locker, an idiom for the bottom of the sea, the fledgling business was born in 2017. Developing the first collection from a nylon yarn that was 100 per cent regenerated from waste, Davy J was one of the first UK brands to champion and produce swimwear using a sustainable material of this kind. Chalking up numerous awards for sustainability and entrepreneurship, the business has grown from strength to strength and now boasts a loyal brand following with a string of celebrity ambassadors and partnerships with large retailers like John Lewis.
The environment is, and always has been, very much a core value of Davy J’s business strategy. Working with suppliers that uphold Davy J’s sustainable practices, the carbon life cycle of each style is taken into consideration. The impact of emission-heavy processes, such as yarn processing, fabric production, and dyeing, is reduced by vendors committed to innovative environmental policies.
For example, Davy J’s fabric mill only uses renewable energy, produces its own electricity internally (enough to light up 12 Eiffel Towers a year), and recycles 83 per cent of its water and 99 per cent of waste from production.
Based in an old waterfront sail loft in Plymouth, appropriately backing onto the Tamar River and surrounded by other independent marine industry businesses, the Davy J warehouse doubles up as a design studio and base for a small team dedicated to getting consumers kitted up in a swimsuit style to suit their body.
“Davy J is all about developing an authentic connection with the water and inspiring others to do the same,” explains Helen. “We want everyone who wears one of our suits to be able to feel confident and fabulous in the water.”
The brand frequently uses local women, rather than models, for campaign photoshoots, believing that this adds to its relatability as well as building community and connection, both with other women and the water itself.
“It’s not just about selling swimwear, it’s about a love for the ocean,” says Helen. As part of its mission, Davy J commits funds every year to support empowerment and conservation campaigns. Last year they ran a successful campaign with charity partner Coppafeel to promote breast cancer awareness and have ongoing support for other organisations such as Surfers Against Sewage.
With a belief that they are responsible for what they create, Davy J’s take back scheme asks customers to send their suits back for repair, upcycling, or regeneration of materials at the end of their life, and are always looking for new and innovative solutions to combat the 206,456 tonnes of textile waste that enters landfill each year in the UK. With this in mind, and building on the foundations of their Waste Collection, 2023 already looks set to be an exciting year for the brand, with the launch of their new ‘biodegradable’ swimsuit. Once at the end of its life (and only then) this suit will decompose into harmless organic matter and biogas in just five years.
“I’m proud of where Davy J has come but I’m mostly excited for where we are going; we are creating the ‘athleisure’ of waterwear and we know the potential is huge,” Helen concludes.
To find out more follow Davy J on Instagram @davyjs or explore the collection further at davyj.com
THE WASTE COLLECTION
Davy J’s main collection, entitled The Waste Collection, is made using ECONYL®, a 100 per cent nylon yarn regenerated from pre- and post-consumer waste, such as fishing nets and other nylon waste. In collaboration with The Healthy Seas Initiative, the waste used in the production of this yarn is collected by volunteer divers and fishing communities, and for every 100 Davy J suits sold, at least 18kg of waste is regenerated, of which 4.5kg is spent and ghost fishing nets.
The ECONYL® Regeneration system is a chemical and mechanical process that allows for the creation of regenerated yarn from waste, keeping the same purity and strength characteristics of nylon derived from virgin material. With this yarn, numerous textile products can be created, and not only does it provide a smart way to find a use and value for waste material that would otherwise remain wasted, but it also saves precious raw materials that are used in the production of virgin nylon.
The high quality of this yarn lends itself perfectly to the premium suits that Davy J create, with durability being an essential factor, not just for longevity of lifespan, but to ensure that each piece is able to perform at its best for the women using them.
Interested in being more sustainable? Follow our tips on eating, sourcing and buying sustainable seafood here.