Think Love Live, Eco-fashion bikinis & yoga wear made out of recycled plastic bottles and some incredible sustainable materials. They stand for the belief that fashion should return to its original roots, which is the appreciation of design, textiles and creativity. Their mission is to educate people on how damaging the single-use plastic bottles are for our environment. Also, they wish they could one day do the entire production process in Australia. Hands up anybody?
We had a coffee with Anna, a social entrepreneur who is running an ethical brand of eco-fashion bikinis & yoga wear called Think > Love > Live. The brand was founded locally on the sunny Gold Coast in Australia, where going for a swim and practising some yoga in front of the beach is a MUST.
During the interview we felt her open heart and honesty: she would love to see many other like-minded social entrepreneurs to grow worldwide. That’s why she shared everything about producing bikinis made out of recycled plastic bottles, and also about the most sustainable materials on the planet.
You can choose to listen to watch this video, but also make sure you read the full interview. But do it because what you are about to discover is precious information!
If you want to listen to the podcast interview instead of the long reading, just click here!
Anna, what was the tipping point to decide to create the collection of swim and yoga wear made out of some recycled and innovative materials?
The brand was actually started a couple of years ago by an acquaintance of mine, Pip Andreas. She was really horrified by the amount of waste the fashion industry, the textiles how was polluting the water in many ways, especially the plastic amount in the ocean. She started this all by herself, and it was a hard slog for two years.
And synchronistically, her and I met at an event organised in Bond University, here on the Gold Coast. I was there with someone else looking into crowdfunding and working on another project, but there she was telling me about her brand and how she was ready to move on; she wanted to do something different but was really wanting or hoping that someone could take it over. And yes, that was me!!
So the journey began five months ago, where I brought in another person called Elissa Coxen and together we worked with Pip to transition the label to myself.
My background is a social worker, so I have always been politically and socially active; but in the past couple of years, living near the beach and just seeing the absolute waste with single-use plastic… it started to become more and more troubling to me. At that moment, I met Pip it all sort of aligned.
How has been the reactions of the people when you explain to them they are wearing fashion made out of plastic?
So the swimwear is made out of recycled plastic bottles, and the yoga activewear is made out of two different fibres. I guess, the biggest issue is when people hear about the swimwear they are like “OMG is it really hard, is it really tough?”. What people don’t realise is that most swimwear is made out of polyester and they make more plastic to create the polyester; this means that all that we are doing different is using recycled plastic to turn that into swimwear… So there are mixed reactions, but when they feel the product it’s the same as the bikinis they put on their body every single day.
And what about the yoga wear, what is it made out of?
The activewear is made out of two very innovative materials. One is Lyocell, which is made out of wood pulp from sustainable tree farms. The second material is Sorona, which is also a fibre made by Dupont. They are a really innovative company that came up with creative solutions to environmental issues. Sorona is a non-edible plant glucose starch extract. So, it’s pretty complicated, but combining those two fibres together, it creates a pair of activewear that is nearly a 100% biodegradable. And incredibly soft, and actually works to protect the environment.
When your clients buy, Think Love Live products, have you ever had a chance to talk to them to see their reactions? Do they feel proud of contributing to the world by purchasing more ethical clothing?
Yes, absolutely. When we have done some markets, when I have done some face to face sales, even when I have been communicating online to other stores, that is one of the key reasons why people buy the products. The price is good, but also they can contribute to a movement. Because it’s not just about clothing label, but of a better way to create clothes. So yes, people are always super excited.
You have launched on the Gold Coast, which is a pretty small community. How has been the reactions of the locals when you launched the brand Think Love Live?
There’s been a lot of buzz around it, and particularly now where we have launched our new website. We feel that people want to be supportive of eco businesses on the Gold Coast. We are a local business; we want to make it Australian, we want to make it global! And there’s always been support for this brand. It’s all about getting the message out to there to the wider community.
And also, were they aware it was possible to create fashion made out of this recycled material?
I think some people are, but not as many people… We are about to enter into an exciting venture with a non-profit here on the Gold Coast. We will sponsor and give back some money when the people buy some swim and activewear. And that non-profit its been started by two 16-years-old girls; they are going to the schools educating about plastic use. Talking with them, they say that the young generation, really young, know the problems with the textile industry and plastic. I guess, it’s about educating people from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, as we are not so aware! We’ve been part of the fast fashion movement, we have created the fast fashion movement. We have been the problem, whereas the younger generation they actually want change.
How does social entrepreneurship look like for you, as it seems an unexplored field here on the Gold Coast?
I think the Gold Coast is starting to become a place where we are having more impact on social impact businesses. We are a thriving small business community anyway, but it’s also about having these social entrepreneurship values as well.
So what I think it’s happening on the Gold Coast is that there’s a lot of small businesses coming to the forefront with the social entrepreneurship values and charters. I think we are just one of many, and going to events put on by Bond University, the F**ck-up Nights… You get to mingle with people that are trying to make a difference in the world.
And it’s as well about connecting with other businesses; through those events, I’ve connected with a non-profit organisation, and we have both the same values, the educating… We are selling a product, but we want to bring both of those together.
Because you don’t need to do everything! You can partner with other organisations. And I would say this is something that a lot of social entrepreneurs are doing, and that’s a beautiful way of collaborating.
Yes, it’s time of change the culture of business and being non-competitive, and say “we all can work together, we all have products, or messages, or movements that we can work together around”. It’s more about collaboration!
This might be a more complicated question, but when you are producing a bikini would you be able to say how much plastic are you recycling?
So the information from Repreve (the U.S. company that creates the recycled fibre) gives us some rough ideas about what they use. Seven plastic bottles can make a pair of pants. So roughly it could be between three to five plastic bottles for a bikini. Five recycled plastic bottles can help to create a t-shirt. And 42 can help produce seats in the car. No-one knows a 100% because we are not a big enough brand to get that data, but that something hopefully we will be able to.
Also Repreve with the fibre they are selling to various brands, they say that around 630 million plastic bottles have reclaimed by them, which at the same time helps to save loads of different areas (like drinking water, pine forests…). Repreve is the premier fabric in the world, and that’s how we turned to source the material from them.
Could you explain to us the process of producing a bikini?
It’s complicated, but the fibre is sourced from the U.S., where they crush the plastic and turn it into pallets. Then they send it to a factory in China, which then becomes it into yarn, the final material that can be made into bikinis. So it is a complicated process and, I guess because the race of fast fashion and the loss of manufacturing in western countries, all that sort of fibre is still being sent to China to turn into yarn.
And China is doing a fantastic job, but we would love to have the ability to do it here in Australia, and the U.S. would also want the same! So hopefully, there’s innovation down the track. Then, once we have that yarn, a small factory in Thailand turns it into swimwear.
The next stage and the upcoming collection is that I have all that yarn, that can be turned into swimwear here on the Gold Coast. I have to say it’s been difficult at times, because of the complex nature of the fashion industry and the race of fast fashion is taking away things from the small niche of the women that used to sew and do all of that, but hopefully, that comes back.
And what about the yoga wear?
The yoga-wear it’s got the fabulous Lyocell and Sorona, produced by an Austrian company. They also send that to China to be woven, and then Chinese factories send that to Thailand, to the same people that make the swimwear.
And it’s all made fairtrade?
Yes, absolutely fairtrade! Pip got to meet the workers. It was a pretty good place that she found, and not many people actually go and see where their clothes are being made. So that was credit to her to have done that because she can say “I know exactly from start to finish where everything is done”.
What is your vision, how do you see Think Love Live brand evolving in the next 5 years?
So the next stage for Think Love Live is to design and make the swimwear here on the Gold Coast. The second part is announcing the collaboration with a non-profit, sponsoring and doing events with them. Because it’s not just about us creating swimwear, but also creating a change. In term of 5 years… I am only a year person! So year to year, let’s see how we go, let’s see if we can create swimwear that is functional for people and pretty but not putting to much damage to the environment.
You are starting locally, would you love to see this through the entire country?
Absolutely! I’d love to see more and more businesses be created locally. I’d love to be able to have the whole ability to collect the plastic bottles, to turn them into the fibre, then turn it into yarn… surely we can do that in Australia. And in terms of recycled plastic, you can do so many things: tables, chairs, sunglasses…
Could you share with us some of the mistakes done along the way, something that has been meaningful on your entrepreneurial learning curve?
The first mistake is that I don’t know anything about fashion (laughs!). So I am not a designer, not in retail… I just fell in love with the idea of using recycled plastic and using more natural fibres to make clothes. So that’s great, but that’s also a mistake because that has taken me a lot longer to learn and to catch-up. And there’s been mistakes along the way, just simple ones like with relaunch of our website… just knowing what to do. I am from a very different background!
Is this new world exciting for you?
Yes, it is very exciting! We as humans are constantly learning so, for me to learn about this and to engage people and get them to help me… And that’s the biggest thing! I am not doing this by myself. I am calling in favours; I am getting other people to help me… I am looking silly; I am asking the silly questions.
If you could advise other social entrepreneurs on starting a business locally, what would you say to them?
Call in favours, get yourself mentors. Look around at the small business and entrepreneurship community; get involved with them as well. And just put your hand up for help. Be vulnerable, show people that you are struggling and someone will always be there to help.
If you could write a message on a big wall that the entire world could read, what would it say?
I would say, I believe in living with heart. I believe we can all be kinder to ourselves, each other and the earth if we only choose to Think Love Live.
Where can we find you? Where can we buy your beautiful bikinis and the lovely yoga wear?
So our new website is just dropped, www.thinklovelive.com. You can buy directly from there, you can find us on Instagram, on Facebook and Pinterest. And we now got four stockists as well, three in Queensland and one in New South Wales. So hopefully expanding in the future!
And how can a stockist sell your products?
Easy! They just need to contact us, go to our website, ring me up, send me an email. Anytime I am available!!!
Thanks so much Anna for the interview, we have learned so much about innovative materials today and looking forward to sharing it with the Ourgoodbrands community!
Thank you, I appreciate that!!
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