With the temperature slowly starting to rise and the summer only a couple of short months away, it feels about time to start thinking about what to wear to the beach. As part of Fashion Revolution Week, I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet with a maker who is conscious of her impact on the environment, passionate about her craft, and involved in various community based projects to help improve the life of people and the planet.
Marcela, the founder of swimwear brand Lunamar for the Planet, creates handmade bracelets, and swimwear in bright beautiful colors in unique silhouettes with love and intention.
The mission of her brand extends far beyond providing her customers with quality, handmade swimsuits; her ultimate goal is to raise awareness and opportunities for programs related to ocean conservation, reforestation, endangered species protection, sustainable practice education and youth empowerment.
Marcela has been passionate about conservation since she was young, and realizes that the need to address all of those issues have never been more urgent than they are now. Which is why she has elected to donate 15% of her swim sales and 25% of her bracelet sales to three organizations she is passionate about.
She makes efforts to be as transparent as possible with respect to her charitable donations and provides in-depth information about the three organizations Lunamar is working with on her website. The three organizations are:
Barefoot Conservation Project in Raja-Ampat, Indoneisa
The Natural Balance Project in Colombia, South America
Kijabe Environment Volunteer Project (Kenvo) in Kenya, Africa
I caught up with Marcela to learn a bit more about Lunamar, her love of travel, her inspiration behind the brand, and her commitment to the three organizations listed above.
1. Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to start your own swim brand?
I was born in Colombia but left at the age of 16 to wander around the globe. I grew up swimming competitively and did my first scuba dive at 15, falling instantly in love with it. After traveling and diving for years, decided to stop in Thailand for a while to work certifying people to go on underwater adventures. From spending more time underwater than on land, and wearing bikinis all day long I was drawn to create my own personal swimwear since I found everything to be both low quality and very uncomfortable. After always getting great feedback on my pieces the idea of creating my own line came to mind.
2.Have you always felt connected to the environment and social issues or is this something that developed over time through your love of travel?
Yes, absolutely! It had always been my dream to create an organization where I could create a positive impact towards the Earth and the community, but being a gypsy traveler made it hard to commit to stay in one place. With Lunamar I realized I could combined my passions of creating handmade pieces while helping the planet.
3. I love how a portion of your proceeds from your suits and bracelets go to charities – why was that important to you and how did you decide where the money would go?
My dream was always to start a cause to help the planet while working with the community through education.
After seeing that with the pieces I create I could make that happen maybe not through my own projects, but at least being able to support others already doing it, I didn’t hesitate once. I learned through my travels that helping out towards good causes is what brings me the most joy! I started supporting ocean conservation, but after expanding and allowing myself to dream bigger I said to myself “what the heck, let’s do it”.
I researched, asked friends, read about tons of projects around the world and realized that I want it to spread the love to every corner of the world. I love trees and forest and I truly believe that the youth have the key to change the perception humanity has towards the planet, so being able to incorporate all this together was what simply made sense to me.
4. Where are your suits produced ? Are you making them yourself or do you have employees? If you do have employees could you explain what facility they work out of and what type of relationship you have with them?
Yes, everything has been made in Colombia in an lovely private work space. I create all the designs and make all the cuts and finishing details by hand, while having a lovely lady called Beatriz help me with the machines. She used to work for the most recognized swimwear label from Latin America and now has her own independent work space. For my next collection I would like to explore other areas, but I would probably keep using the Colombian fabrics given their quality, but nothing is set in stone in detail for the next collection.
5. Can you explain your involvement in the non-profit organizations in Africa, Latin America, and Asia and how you work with them in various capacities?
Everything got serious with the second swimwear collection back in 2013.
For each bikini 15% was destined to help out the Coral Triangle (aka: the Amazon of the Ocean). The donations were supporting the ocean conservation program through education, sustainable fishing practices, reef monitoring and waste management. After seeing the success of this collection the idea of expanding came to mind.
Lunamar for the Planet was brought to life only two months ago in February 2016 after a year of hard work and research. We also introduced bracelets (handmade by myself) to the line and for every piece 25% will to the charity which includes ocean conservation, youth empowerment, and reforestation.
Our goal is to be as clear, focused and honest about how we support these three causes and creating real positive impacts in their programs. We are planning to be highly involved and that way we will be able to show all our supporters the change that was made thanks to all their help. We are still taking baby steps, but are highly focused and committed with the ultimate dream of being able to go with the team to take all the donations in person and witnessed the positive growth while volunteering our helping out as much as we can for these programs.
6. Do you feel as though the desire to buy local, sustainable, and/or ethically made products is becoming more mainstream?
Definitely, but I also think the “go green/ethical” idea is being highly mistreated to portray a sustainable business all for marketing reasons.
I have always been aware of this and never miss out on reading the labels or looking more into what is being marketed.
By doing so I have noticed how so many brands claim to help out charities when only 1% is being donated to big organizations where more than 90% goes to administration, leaving a very small percentage for the actual cause.
Another example is China selling fake recycled fabrics at much affordable price so brands can claim they use sustainable fabrics. All of these makes me much more aware of the ethics and choices I want to follow with Lunamar for the Planet.
7. What does shopping responsibly mean to you?
Asking myself these questions:
- Did I Read the labels?
- Where was the product made?
- Who made the product?
- What were the working conditions of the place the product was made?
- Am I supporting a local/small brand or a big monopoly?
- Am I willing to pay more for a good quality ethical product rather than buying cheap?
8. What are some tips you would give to someone who wants to make more responsible shopping choices but doesn’t know what to look for or where to star
Asking themselves the questions above and only going ahead when they feel the answers give them peace of mind.
9.What’s next for you and Lunamar?
Hmm, haha good question! What’s not next? Since opening the site only two months ago the feedback and support has been simply amazing. All these leading to invite people to the team, to stay more focused, and to allow me to come up with more ideas on how to help more.
We also have a campaign inviting people to #saynotowaste, so there are a few cool things coming soon on that side of things. There is also the big project of a next swimwear collection, and few collaborations with other ethical brands.
10. Well, we can’t wait to see what’s next! Finally, since you’re so well traveled – and I know this is a tough question – but what is your favorite place in the world?
Hmm, hard one! I love the ocean and good food so I would have to go for South East Asia. Where exactly? I don’t know.. I would say Philippines would be my most favorite , but their food is not great, so then I can jump to Indo or Thailand to get that fix. I also need to explore more of Africa, so I’m sure my answer to this would change once I get to do that.
Check out Lunamar on Instagram