We talk morning routines, conscious businesses, and vulnerability with Elle Evans.
Elle Evans Swimwear is an environmentally conscious company crafting beautiful, made-to-order creations straight out of a Melbourne studio. Elle Evans is a mother, a small business owner, and a self-confessed introvert, and she’s also a complete inspiration to anyone wanting to do a bit of good with their business.
What made you start Elle Evans Swimwear?
I always knew whatever business I started would have to have a sustainable/ethical element. I had spent years in the fashion industry watching just how wasteful the industry norms were. I wanted the pieces I created and the way I created them to have minimal effect on the world around me. I think I fell into swimwear because being in the ocean/by the beach has always felt so magical to me. I associate being in a bikini with pure happiness, and I couldn’t think of anything better than being able to create garments that bring people such joy.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I have a three year old so my morning usually starts with a voice in my ear saying “morning mumma, wanna run?!” No kid, no I really don’t. I’m not much of a “routine” person but on the days I’m working on Elle Evans after my mini and I walk round the corner to her kinder, I put my headphones in, choose a podcast and walk the long way home, trying to take in the nature around me, meditating on the changes in my environment. I use this as time for my brain to be free of to-do lists, calendars, emails I need to answer and orders I need to sew.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
More than anything else it’s money, and yes, I know how that sounds! But what I really mean is not being able to cut any corners to save money. You see using sustainable fabrics, ethical practices and a made-to-order production method means you have to (and want to) pay a fair price for every element of your business. You can’t save on the cheaper post satchels because they’re non-recyclable plastic and aren’t made ethically! You can’t use the cheap lining because there’s no way you can trace the supply-chain (plus it feels cheap and nasty)! As hard as all these things make it, ultimately it just reminds you again and again how un-ethical these “cheaper” options are, someone, somewhere is paying price even if it isn’t you.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Elle Evans Swimwear, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
Right now that person is me, designer, owner, and self-confessed sewing nerd. I sew all the samples, and the orders, in our small warehouse space at my home in Melbourne. While I can’t say I’m always paid well (the downsides of being a small business owner) I can assure you I have the very best working conditions you could ask for. All though I do joke that I have a sweatshop in summer because that tin-roofed warehouse heats up quick! Don’t worry, I give myself regular beach breaks throughout the hotter days.
Why did you pick the fabrics/ingredients you have chosen to work with?
Back when I start Elle Evans five years ago recycled fabrics were hard to find! I knew I wanted to print on the fabric I was going to use and that using dead-stock wasn’t a great option for consistency. So I pretty much just started googling. I was blown away by the ECONYL recycling process and the fact that it could also be recycled at the end of its lifetime as a garment was the cherry on top. I found an Australian supplier and immediately orders some swatches. The quality was better than I thought possible coming from “waste” and it printed beautifully, I’ve never looked back.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Be vulnerable.” Being vulnerable is tough, especially when you’re a young, introverted, female, small business owner in a field that is fast becoming extremely politically and socially charged. But being vulnerable is integral to what I do because if I did not allow myself to be vulnerable, to be open, responsive and receptive then I wouldn’t really be helping, would I? Forging ahead with an idea is great but if you can’t be open to critique, to roadblocks, to social and environmental realities… if you can’t be vulnerable, then what’s the point?
What’s next for you and Elle Evans Swimwear?
Short term, our new collection Moss is due to launch SO soon, I’m quietly proud of this collection and am so excited to get it out into the world. Long term, I would love to introduce a social justice element to the business. Being able to grow the company whilst giving someone an opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise had is the dream.
One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
Being the vulnerability advocate that I am I think everyone in the world should read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. We’d all be better people, for real. But in terms of a obsessively researched, thoroughly comprehensive explanation of this messed-up situation the fashion industry has gotten itself into, I highly recommend Claire Press’s Wardrobe Crisis.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
I’m sure so many of EME’s readers are well aware of all the great eco-warriors out there but the people I love the most are the ones who are out there being brutally honest about eco-fashion, zero-wast living and sustainability; Kate Hall of Ethically Kate, Chloe of Be Kind Coco, and Laura of Waste Free PHD.