Original article posted on Bikini.com
In a fashion world that's making eco-friendly trendy and cool, many brands have jumped aboard, but a unique few execute from core values to align with this messaging every step of the way. That's why game changers like Lisa Jackson, creator of Amara — a sustainable swimwear line that leads in eco-luxe — isn't afraid to get transparent with us below. Her shifts and plans gear up for a brighter fashion future — and it's not easy. Here's how she's doing it.
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BIKINI: Why was it important for you to start an eco-conscious brand?
Lisa Jackson: I’ve always had a strong belief about how we should be as humans on this planet, but I see the way this world is going. I feel like I'm a conscious being, and for me, it's important to leave a positive impact. I had my fashion brand that had nothing to do with sustainability, yet I had my same mindful beliefs. If you were to go through my personal Facebook posts and see the person that I truly am and what I believe in, you’d see that I was totally contradicting what my brand was actually portraying. I love aesthetics and being involved in the fashion industry, but for a long time, I questioned how that aligned with my core beliefs. It wasn't aligning for me. I thought that my creative side and my activist side had to be separate to be a part of the fashion world. I finally realized that I could merge those two sides together when I discovered Patagonia and their brand ethos. A brand that is beautiful, engaging, and that people want to get involved with, that still has a positive message. Maybe those people attracted to the brand for it’s aesthetic aren’t necessarily eco-conscious, or specifically looking for eco-friendly brands, but what better way than to teach them something new and help them to think differently.
BIKINI: Was there a specific idea that triggered this merging of sustainability and fashion?
LJ: I was already using an Italian fabric mill that introduced the recycled fabric options. That’s really what made the change in the direction of the brand. Finding out there is no difference in the cost, I question why we don't stop producing fabrics made from new fibers and only produce these recycled options if the technology already exists. The brand message had a lot of that engraved, but it was really my time in Tulum that pushed everything even further. I started living in this tropical environment and seeing the environmental devastation firsthand — also, seeing all these businesses that are claiming to be eco-friendly but not really following through on their mission. It was submerging myself in this environment that really started to make me feel strong about what I was trying to accomplish. Slowly over the past two to three years, I’ve been building towards the most eco-friendly brand that could exist. I really ask myself every step of the way [and in] every aspect how can we do the best for everyone involved.
BIKINI: What other parts of the business are sustainable and eco-friendly?
LJ: We’re in the final days of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build a sustainable boutique in Tulum. Our boutique will be built from an upcycled shipping container, run on solar power, complete with vintage decor to reflect our sustainable values. I also moved my production down here to Tulum to help local women by creating livable wage jobs for the people that are the core of the community — the Mayan people that have provided so much richness in my life. It's about giving back to them as well. Even in small details like our packaging; the hangtag is made with seed paper, so instead of wasting paper and throwing it out when you get your bikini, you can have a flower pot and have beauty spring from that. The shopping bags from the store are fashion-forward and not plastered with branding. They're actually something that people want to use; it's not something you’ll just toss out and send to a landfill. I want to eliminate as much waste as possible. Also, getting rid of plastic packaging and instead, using a reusable bag that you can use to put your wet bikini in after the beach. Making sure every byproduct of our business has a purpose or use.
BIKINI: Can you talk about your previous retail space and how you've decided to run on green energy instead?
LJ: People don’t realize that there's no electrical grid on the beach of Tulum. It gives businesses two options: you can go the sustainable route and use solar and wind power, or opt for a generator. In the short-term, generators are less expensive, but long-term, it’s just not worth the devastation; I don’t understand why more people aren’t opting for solar, especially with so much money coming through Tulum. It's very disappointing. I found out that my retail space was running on diesel generators when the shop suddenly had no power running one day. I called the landlord, and he said the gas must be out of the generator. He later showed me the generators which are these massive things the size of a car running in a back shed, burning constantly. I was embarrassed to know that my boutique was running on generators; I knew it wasn’t going to be a long-term solution for me. It didn’t resonate with the brand’s core values, so I had to make a change.
BIKINI: Is that what inspires your Kickstarter campaign?
LJ: Yes, I found the perfect location for the store, surrounded by jungle, but it would require us to build a structure. I thought to myself, if I’m going to build something, then I'm going to do it the right way. The whole roof will be covered with 16 solar panels, enough to run AC to create a comfortable environment and [to accomodate] all other electrical needs. I'm not giving up; it’s happening — going green and not cutting corners. It's a promise I've made to keep: becoming eco-friendly every step of the way.
BIKINI: Nowadays we see many brands claiming to be eco-friendly, even though they are not. How can you be transparent enough to your customers so that they can trust your brand?
LJ: I'm happy to be honest and transparent throughout the whole process; there’s nothing to hide here. The next phase of the plan, we'll have a showroom and a workspace in the back and offer full transparent walk-throughs where people can see the creation process and talk to the women who are making the pieces.
We also have to go through a process to even be able to claim that we actually use our recycled fabric. The mill is fully transparent about everything. There’s a wealth of information on how they’re collecting trash from the ocean and turning it into swimwear fibers. We provide links to all of this for people to learn about it.