The Saltwater Collective Turns Ocean Waste into Swimwear

Mar 8, 2019
3 minute read

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Scientists predict that plastic will outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. That’s because humans dump 8 million metric tons of plastic in the oceans each year. Imagine, every minute one garbage truck around the world dumps plastic into the oceans.

From this uncomfortable truth was born The Saltwater Collective, a swimwear label that uses ECONYL®, an infinitely recyclable nylon, that’s regenerated from ocean waste. We speak with Camilla James, the owner and designer of The Saltwater Collective about sustainable fashion, body positivity, and the trials and triumphs of being a fledgling entrepreneur.

Q1: Tell us about the mission for the business and the values that define your brand?

The Saltwater Collective is a sustainable swimwear brand. We are based in Toronto. And by sustainable I mean, we repurpose fishing nets abandoned in the ocean and nylon scraps recovered from landfills all around Europe. The nylon waste is transformed into this amazing fabric called ECONYL®, which I source from a company in Italy. Local seamstresses in Toronto then give final shape to my swimwear line. We are local, yet very global in our audience and our mission.

As a swimwear brand, I am very conscious that the message I send out to my customers reflects my values. I want women to embrace exactly who they are and how they are. In my opinion, confidence is what constitutes beauty. And it’s wrong that we don’t represent the diversity of the world we live in. I want to be a part of this change. Body positivity and environmental sustainability are the cornerstones of my brand.

Q2: What has been the market response to The Saltwater Collective?

I offer a product that you wouldn’t know from the first look that it was sustainable for the planet. Choosing sustainable fashion over clothing made from regular fabrics doesn’t mean a compromise on style or quality. Sustainability is sexy! And our swimwear is as good as any other great swimsuit.

Q3: How would you describe your feelings of being a business owner?

I took over the brand from the original owners and rebranded it entirely. I changed the product and expanded the purpose of the company. And yet, until very recently, I felt shy about the fact that I hadn’t founded the brand. There is a lot of encouragement around the word ‘founder’, and that made me question myself. Was I legitimate enough as a business owner because I hadn’t found it? That’s something I am trying to overcome.

Q4: As a female entrepreneur, what challenges do you navigate regularly?

I often go through moments of doubt or feel a lack of confidence. And I wonder, if this comes from my own thought, that I’m a female business owner? In the startup universe, I’m surrounded by all these technology companies. And it takes a lot for me to feel just as valid, and just as worth it as a business. I feel like I have something to prove. People are more likely discount me until I have succeeded. And that stops me from going after investment, because I’m afraid they’re not going to take me seriously.

Q5: What do you love about being your own boss? And what do you dislike about it?

I am responsible and accountable for my own success. That’s really motivating for me. There’s limitless potential for growth. The bar is set where I set it. It’s amazing to be able to create your own path and your future.

“I really love being my own boss because I get to pursue my vision entirely.”

Camilla James – The Saltwater Collective

But, I am a one-woman company. When a deal falls through or something doesn’t go according to plan, it’s tough not to have a partner for advice or to brainstorm with. Entrepreneurship can be very isolating.

Q6: Within the Canadian startup space, what kind of resources or support would you like to see as a female entrepreneur?

I would like to see an easier process to acquire funding for companies that aren’t in specific sectors like agriculture. From what I’ve seen so far, you have to be in very specific industries to get any type of financial grants. As a fashion business I’m environmentally sustainable, and I manufacture in Canada. But I don’t fall under any investment category. As a small business owner, I would like to see better access to funding

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