Sustainable, local swimwear for women and little humans.
Introducing Estive Swim
Susi Birdhawk is an Adelaide-based fashion designer from New Zealand working within a niche: modern recycled swimwear for women and babies.
Her tenure in Adelaide (so far) is short. Susi has been in Adelaide for just 5 years, after moving from her home town of Wellington, New Zealand to be with her husband.
But her time working with swimwear is not short. It was in Wellington that she studied fashion design and began working as an independent designer.
“I started making swimwear about 10 years ago back in New Zealand,” says Susi. “I had a vintage inspired swimwear label, where I was making 1950s-style one pieces. And then about two years ago, I felt like doing something a bit different. That’s when I made Estive and decided to do more modern designs.”
Her passion for swimwear evolved through her studies, after a particular teacher left a strong impression.
“When I was studying fashion design I never really intended to go into swimwear,” she says. “I was just interested in all general fashion. But I had this amazing, bright, colourful lecturer who took us for swimwear and lingerie and she was really inspiring. I just fell in love with swimwear and it’s sort of been ongoing.”
Part of the focus on swim comes from that ongoing struggle that many can relate to – finding bathers that make you feel good.
“I always had trouble finding swimwear that fit well, and just always… it’s quite fun to be able to create shapes, and it’s quite challenging to work with the fabric, but I really love the challenge,” says Susi.
“I really like the shape of the higher waisted style [of bather bottoms]. I find that I can never find a high waist styles that are high enough, so I designed them to sit a little bit higher in the waist. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I always like it to cover just higher in the waist. I made the waist and the legs just a little bit bigger so that it doesn’t cut in so much.”
Creating her current designs hasn’t been a speedy process, and Susi says it is still a work in progress.
“It’s probably taken me three years to design my patterns because I keep reviewing it to find the right shape,” she says.
“At the moment they’re quite simple, but next year I’m looking to do a more structural collection – having things you can adjust, like straps or strapless options, like adjustable straps and tops with underwire or soft cups.”
But what will stay the same is the sustainable nature of the fabric – a business choice Susi says is natural for her. Much of the Estive swimwear is made of recycled nylon, and another portion from repurposed un-used fabrics from larger fashion businesses like Seafolly and Zimmermann, who would otherwise waste the end of a fabric roll.
“I’m using the recycled nylon. It’s made of fishing nets and ex industry nylon, like old carpets made with nylon, that is regenerated back into materials,” says Susi. “It’s very exciting what’s available now. There’s so much wastage in the fashion industry, it’s so nice to recycle what we’ve got.
“I hope to use more of it next year. I think it’s amazing the way that textiles are changing and what’s available. And it’s so exciting that there are more sustainable options and they’re becoming more accessible too.
“I feel like why not? If you can use a sustainable option and quality is just as good.”
Susi’s also creates a baby range, which is born of the same ‘why not?’ ethos.
After her daughter, Lee-Loo, was born in May this year, she was inspired to try something a little different.
“I’ve been working from home with her. She kind of inspired me to have a go at making baby swim suits, and I just fell in love with making them, they were so much fun,” Susi says.
“I just recently did the Bowerbird Design Market and it was a bit of an experiment to see if people were interested. A lot of people came over just to look at the baby swimsuits I think because they were just so tiny.”
And so it is in her home studio that Susi will continue to do what she loves on a small scale – look after her daughter, design and make comfortable and flattering bathers, and to flex her creativity with a mini-me range.