natasha tonic - the swimwear revolution
writer: emma ranne
pictures: emma ranne
You know those dream like moments, where you can’t stop smiling because you feel like you're exactly at the right place, at the right time, in the right company?
I had this feeling when I found myself a 1-hour-drive away from Down Town LA sipping a cocktail at a tiny beach bar, while chatting about sustainable fashion with an incredibly inspiring soul at her favorite beach.
I first came across Natasha’s work on Instagram and was soon captivated by the beautiful minimalistic style when it comes to her design. Soon we were planning a meeting via DMs as I was about to visit LA and eager to learn more about the sustainable fashion scene.
Natasha is the dreamer, designer and doer behind sustainable swimwear brand Natasha Tonić. Natasha’s swimwear launched in August 2017 with the intention to change women’s swimwear for the better, by shifting away from icky and sweaty polyester, that’s not only bad for your skin but also bad for our planet. The ultimately comfortable and soft swimmers of Natasha are made from a unique natural hemp fiber that is anti-microbial, UV resistant, durable and a healthier choice for your body.
How is it to work in the sustainable fashion scene as a designer? Why is hemp fabric a great material for swimmers and how do you even come up with an idea like that? I'll let Natasha tell you more.
Could you please introduce yourself shortly?
I’m Natasha, I’m from Belgrade, Serbia but I’m half Croatian. These days I live in LA and since summer 2017 I’ve been working on my sustainable swimwear line Natasha Tonić.
what inspired you to start your business?
I wanted to create something that’s not polluting our skin, as we wear our swimwear so close to our body. I also wanted it to be something that you could wear more than just for one season.
Swimwear has been made out of polyester for a long time, but I always believed it would be possible to use a natural fiber instead. When I was still working for my previous brand I ran into hemp fabric. I learned how durable hemp is as a material. If you think about it, they make ropes to tie the boat with from hemp. If it can keep the boat from escaping with the waves of the ocean, than why can’t it survive being a bikini?
Later I was working with this fabric blend from organic cotton, hemp and four precent lycra. When working with it, I always wondered whether that could survive in the ocean. Then I had a kid and had time to research it. I really tried it out: I swam, didn’t rinse it and hung it out in the sun to dry. I put it in chlorine water. I tested for quite some time but it became clear to me that this blend worked better in swimming conditions, than polyester which I used to wear in the past.
did you always want to become an entrepeneur?
From when I was a little kid I wanted to become a designer, but being in Serbia everybody thought that was crazy. Everyone was like ’’how are you gonna do that?’’, and so I gave up on the idea. But it was still something I always wanted to do. My father was an entrepreneur so I kinda grew into that idea of doing your own work and figuring out your own thing to find your own spot in this world. Eventually I just decided to do what I had always wanted to do. I picked the best out of all of it and put it together.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
It’s amazing (bursts out in laughing). A typical work day for me is to wake up and drive to work. Sometimes I go by bicycle (I try to do more of that) and I just listen to the most amazing music. I love the indie music scene and to discover new tunes. When I get to work after I’ve obviously got a coffee, I just work with no music and organize what I need to do during the day. I don't always stick to the plan as that doesn't fit my nature but I just make sure I finish everything that I had in mind. Sometimes I don’t, but it’s fine. If I'm doing creative work and designing I need a 100% focus just on that. If I do marketing I just focus on that. Or than I work on the sales. I can’t do it all at the same time. I’m either creative or business and there’s no in between. When I create I just create and don't think of any mails or such, and if I do business I’m a 100% business and zero creative.
What is it like to work in sustainable fashion? What does it mean to you?
I think it’s great because the sustainable fashion scene draws you to be even more sustainable. You know right now we’re doing an interview and drinking from plastic straws, which you know is not sustainable at all. Being in the scene makes you more conscious and aware of these things. It also gives you more feelings of guilt, but it’s ok as it’s a part of it. I think people should just try to do the best that they can. I think we shouldn’t feel guilty of the tings we sometimes do here and there as sometimes we can’t even fully control it ourselves. It’s almost impossible in this world to be 100% sustainable so it’s about the idea of just trying to do the best you can. If everyone in the world did their best or even a little bit, it could make a huge change and that’s what my message is about.
But back to the fashion scene. When you're working in the sustainable fashion scene you get inspired by each other. You understand that in the end of the day it’s not about competition. It’s about really changing the things in the world for the better. It’s nice to to see what other people are doing, and to feel like the other’s are interested and value the same tings as you do in their work.
Still the business side comes in, but that’s not what I stand for. I don't want to be the ugly side of the fashion scene which I feel like is unnecessary. Fashion is supposed to be this beautiful creative thing, instead of an ugly game. That’s what I like about the sustainable fashion scene. People being pure and honest, and there’s this collaborative spirit.
Could you tell us a little more about hemp as a material.
What makes it special and how did you come across it?
I came across hemp by accident. I was just researching things. As I’m half Croatian I’ve always been around the boats and the ropes that tie the boats to the shore, and I remember wondering what the strong ropes were made out of . When in LA I ran into this amazing place that sold hemp based fabric and ropes. And from there the idea just started to develop in my head.
I later learned that hemp is besides being super durable also UV resistant. I knew it would survive in the sea, but I didn't know how it would work in chlorine but it did.
In the fabric used for my swimwear the hemp is mixed with organic cotton. Cotton is not durable in water on its own, but for some reason in this mix it worked out really well. The fabric feels soft on the body but yet it’s very durable.
I was scared to sell something that wouldn't really work, so I put a lot of work in the development. What I loved the most about this blend was it was natural, and I always think natural is better. I never liked polyester, because it makes you sweat and attracts bacteria. It is just bad and uncomfortable.
So all together it made sense. I felt it was a tiny miracle that I had found.
Besides loving the thought behind your brand I also really love the visual aspects of it.
What sparks the inspiration for your designs?
I always like to think about practicality in my designs. I also want my pieces to be good for the nature. Something that has always been inspiring me is the timeless look of Calvin Klein back in the 90s. You know the time of Kate Moss. Already as a kid I was inspired by how it was all about the shapes, the simplicity and the practicality of the clothing. That’s why the style still stands the time.
In my designs for Natasha Tonic it was all about the clean lines and the shapes and that simple connection to the nature. I wanted to make it different (as most opt for the 70s style) and I chose cool tones like pale blue and black instead of those warm golden tones which are very typical for California.
You can wear the swimwear with so may different clothes and it’s easy to just pull out of the closet and combine. My vision is that you can travel and wear the swimsuit on the airplane with a pair of trousers, then you go straight to the beach and you’re ready for a dip in the ocean. After the beach there’s yoga and you can still wear it. It would work like a body suit that you can simply combine with a pair of shorts. I love the functionality of it ,which is possible since it is made out of hemp fabric.
Any tips for someone dreaming of shifting their career towards sustainable fashion design?
My tip is that you should want to do it for the right reasons. That will keep you going. It is way more challenging than regular fashion design. Every step counts and there are many people that still don’t believe in it. Don’t give up on the first challenges. Don’t get discouraged. Do a lot of research, try to educate yourself as much as you can. And just don’t stop.
check out natasha's amazing work at: www.natashatonic.com