Gettin’ salty with Salt Gypsy founder, Danielle Clayton.
Before she was the founder of an epic Australian surfwear and surfboard company, Danielle Clayton was working as a surf guide in the Maldives (yeah, we were jealous, too). During this time, Danielle found it hard to find a pair of surf leggings that checked all of her boxes: simple, sustainable, and suitable for the swells. So, Danielle created her own, and boy did she do it well.
What made you start Salt Gypsy?
Simple – I needed a product for myself that simply did not exist in the marketplace: surf leggings. Turns out they’re one of the most practical things to surf in and 6000+ other women think so, too!
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
A double-shot flat white straight out of bed and if I can squeeze in a walk or quick surf between daycare drop-off and sitting down at the computer by 9am then…winning.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
Lack of capital to do all the things! We are a small, self-funded business and it can be expensive or feel out of reach to donate product, money or time to social causes or invest in ethical business operations you believe in when the reality is you need to feed yourself and pay your rent, like, last week. National and international certifications and accreditations can be really costly in both time and money. With that said, I’ve learned to view barriers as opportunities to think outside the box and find a way to do or achieve what you set you mind to. It might just take longer but everything is figureoutable and a work in progress.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Salt Gypsy, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
I grew up in New Zealand with the “Buy NZ Made” campaign and went to design school in my twenties so it’s in my cultural DNA to support local designers and businesses where and when you can. When it came time to develop my original surf leggings into a bonafide business, finding good crew to work with was always front of mind. And full disclosure – I started off manufacturing in Bali at a time when “everyone” was producing in Indonesia and I was literally driving around the streets of Kuta and Denpasar sourcing swimwear factories. It was challenging but I was able to see a variety of working conditions and met some really great factory owners, employees and independent tailors. Then, in 2015, after three years of producing over there, I had a production blue with a large factory I had been working with for over a year which resulted in handbraking the business to restructure my supply chain and really ask the questions of what does the best quality product look like, where do I get it made, what superior materials can I source and who will make it? The result of that deep questioning was moving back to Australia and re-establishing our supply chain domestically. My experience manufacturing in Australia has been predominantly with an ageing female workforce and one of the biggest problems my manufacturer has at the moment, aside from pandemic-induced disruptions to staffing, is a lack of younger machinists coming up through the ranks. She mostly hires or outsources to veterans of the Australian stretchwear industry, herself included. The advantage of this is working with highly competent older women, trusting the quality of their work and learning so much from their experience. We’re able to work more collaboratively and I rely on their expertise when making edits to our patterns. Our local screenprinter in Northern NSW is also a woman-owned and operated business and I’m stoked to have two main suppliers be other women in business and keep where we keep the money flow moving through each of our businesses which keeps us all employed and doing what we love.
Why did you pick the fabrics you have chosen to work with?
It’s a no-brainer – when I traced Outerknown’s transparent supply chain online back in 2015 and came across their use of ECONYL® yarn in Italian stretch fabrics it became very clear, very quickly that this was a superior and longer-lasting fabric than it’s cheaper, generic counterparts. Why wouldn’t you want to use a superior quality product? It’s great to see most surf, swim and fashion brands have caught up in the last 2-3 years.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Girls can do anything.” From my young solo mum in 1983 who instilled in her then three year old (me).
What’s next for you and Salt Gypsy?
Crikey where do we begin! Navigating our current growth by onboarding talented legends to help me keep shifting the needle and disrupting the status quo in women’s surf culture.
One book everyone should read? Why?
“Good Is The New Cool: The Principles of Purpose,” by Afdhel Aziz and Bobby Jones. Because “it’s time to reboot capitalism.”
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
So many! We have a flourishing of independent women’s surf brands which is so great to see. Go hunt them down.