In conversation with Kaylee, founder of sustainable swimwear brand JUA June
Tell our readers who you are in your own words.
My name is Kaylee, I am 26 years old and I am from the Netherlands although I live in England at the moment. I am a capricorn and I am the founder of sustainable swimwear brand JUA June and I have studied media and communications in the Netherlands and got my masters degree in marketing communications in England. I love cooking and sports, and when there are no lockdowns going out for dinner or drinks with my friends.
What is your first memory of fashion?
My mom actually studied fashion, so my earliest fashion memory would be of her behind the sewing machine. She would often make clothes for my brother and I, especially for themed parties or events, or for example our Christmas dinner. She would get magazines with patterns in them and we had a small fabric shop near our house, or we would go to the market where I could pick my own fabrics. I love these memories because it was bonding time with my mom but also allowed us to be creative and play with different textures and fabrics. If people would then tell me they liked my clothes I was so proud to say my mom made them!
Among all the designs you have created so far, which one embodies your personality the most?
It's difficult to say because what I like to wear or feel confident in depends on my mood! All of the designs fit my personality, I think our Kai bra style top and Wai high rise, cheeky bottoms are my favorite at the moment because it’s sexy but classy which makes me feel confident when I wear it. I also love the fit of the bottoms because it highlights the right areas of your body. Because I am mixed raced I tan quickly which is why I never used to wear a lot of swimsuits, but lately I love swimsuits! The Makai swimsuit is one of my favourites too as it is a bit more fun and playful with the cut out details and I also love the semi-bandeau style top. I think we have a good mix of styles that are sexy or sporty and styles that provide more coverage and support as well as cheeky items.
What gives you confidence?
I think if you feel good you look good which shows confidence. I am lucky to be surrounded by people with good energy and who are supportive of me and my business. When you get good feedback or compliments about your work or your appearance it gives you a massive boost and a feeling of being on the right track.
Who is the one voice that has inspired you the most in your personal life and your career?
My fiance, he is the most dedicated person I know. He always wants to do better and achieve more, and if he can do the smallest thing that could help make a difference he will, which I love about him. He motivates me to bring out the best in myself and pushes me to do better and take risks.
What are your upcoming projects and collections for this year?
Because we are a sustainable brand creating items that are made to last, we don’t follow the traditional fashion calendar of releasing 4-6 collections a year. Instead, we aim to create timeless pieces of long lasting quality, so it is a combination of style and sustainability. We launch new complete collections for the summer season, and in the months between we can launch variations of our current items, for example a design in a different fabric or colour. What I want to focus on this year is extending our collection to even more sizes and body shapes so we can be as inclusive as possible. For the future I would love to expand to kids collections and add beach accessories.
Why did you decide to design swimwear? What inspired you to embark on a career in this industry?
Because I felt that something was missing in the swimwear industry. I felt that swimwear that was trendy was often of bad quality and would only last one season, and the difference in price with designer brands was simply too big. I wanted to create swimwear that was both stylish as well as of good quality, at a fair price point. Then I started developing the ideas more and how we could use design to celebrate the female body. When I learned about sustainable fabrics I knew I was on the right path as I could combine fashion with raising awareness for the environment. I especially loved the fact that by using these fabrics we would contribute to reducing waste problems and recycling waste into beautiful new swimwear.
As the theme of our Spring & Summer season is ELEMENTS and it is about sustainability, nature. Tell us about your perspective on sustainability and environment.
Sustainability is the core of my business so it means a lot to me. I think we have a responsibility to try and protect the environment and preserve it for future generations. I am glad there is more awareness now for climate change and loss of wildlife, but we are nowhere near the target necessary to prevent irreversible damage. I think it is amazing to see that every year there are more initiatives relating to sustainability, whether it is new eco friendly materials, machines or clean up devices or charities, it is clear that people are becoming more aware and want to do something to help. Every little change can make a big impact so whether you want to skip eating meat once a week or buy from sustainable businesses, every little bit helps.
Tell us about your recently launched swimwear collection made of plastic bottles.
This year we have introduced a new fabric into our collection. It is a beautiful, innovative rib fabric made of 100% recycled yarn from plastic bottles and waste of the Mediterranean Sea. This way we can combine sustainability and aesthetics and source local materials. We have also introduced new tops and bottoms, and I think we now have a good range of different styles. We aim to design pieces that would fit different styles, personalities and body types. We have classic triangle shape tops with a twist without padding, bra style tops with cups for more support and a sporty high neck top, as well as sexier plunge swimsuits and playful cut out styles.
What made you tap into sustainable fashion?
I have always loved fashion but I never really realised how bad it is for the environment in terms of waste, toxic chemicals and excessive stock that gets destroyed or put into landfill. That is why I wanted to do it differently and bring positive change with my products. Fashion should not cost the earth and I think the sustainable way is the way forward for the future. I also think that as brands are discovering sustainable materials, it was the right time for us to launch to still be one of the first brands offering this so we are not following a trend but leading with innovative fabrics.
What is the change you want to see in the world (and thus the reason why you started JUA June)?
I started JUA June because I wanted to combine my passion for fashion and love for nature. In the future I hope that running a business sustainability is the norm and not an exception. Don’t get me wrong- I am not saying everyone should turn into an eco-warrior, I am not myself either, but every small change makes a huge difference and being more aware of what we consume and at what cost will help revert these issues of for example plastic pollution. It should not be acceptable to dump tonnes of plastic in the ocean or to bury or burn waste and the sooner we find solutions for these problems or ways to prevent it the better so we can change our ways.
What would you say to young women (like yourself) to convince them to buy sustainable products moving forward? i.e. why is it worth the investment?
It is worth the investment because even though you might pay a bit more for an item, it will last a lot longer so in the long term it will save you money. You don’t have to buy a new swimsuit every year, and the quality will last longer. Cheaper, non sustainable items often loose its elasticity and stretch, fade colour or the fabric get damaged after you’ve only worn it on holiday for a few days. Our fabric for example is quite thick but has an amazing stretch to it, and features an innovative protection layer against chlorine and lotion damage which contributes to the long lasting quality. Also, cheap is never really cheap, there is always someone or something paying a price. I would mainly advise to become more aware of what you are buying, who made your product and what is it made from. If you start educating yourself on these concepts you will learn more about the production processes and materials and this will explain and justify the price and thus why it is worth investing in.