How one small business is making an environmental sea change with thoughtfully crafted swimwear.
Nearly invisible, a fishing net drifts within the dark waters off the western shores of Vancouver Island. As a Pacific gray whale powers through the water chasing swarms of krill, a pectoral fin becomes entangled in the fibrous mesh. The large animal struggles to get free and, after much thrashing about, succeeds in shedding the net. This time. Unfortunately the entanglement of whales, and many other sea creatures, is not a rare occurrence. Lost and abandoned fishing gear accounts for 10 percent of all marine litter, and has a devastating effect around the globe. Millions of seabirds, seals, turtles, and whales are injured and killed by lost and abandoned fishing gear, commonly referred to as ghost gear.
According to World Animal Protection, 640,000 metric tons of ghost gear is lost in oceans every year. That adds up, and lost gear is known to travel great distances. Ghost gear can, and will, continue fishing our oceans for decades, making adverse environmental and economic impacts unless solutions are found and action is taken.
Viable actions have begun to surface with the removal of deadly, derelict fishing gear from oceans. Lost nets are collected and repurposed in many ways, adding value to what is otherwise viewed as trash. Waste fishing nets are regenerated into high-quality yarn and fashioned into sustainable textiles that are finding their way onto the bodies of women around the globe.
Loka Swimwear is a small Australian/Canadian-owned swimwear company making a splash with their eco-conscious product designed with the future in mind. It’s been a long swim for Loka, but they emerged with a company and product they are proud of.
It all began with Julie Triska and fellow Canadian April Vokey back in 2015. Vokey is an internationally renowned angler, a guide, and a conservationist who splits her time between Australia and Canada. Triska is a chef, and the two met while working at a BC fishing lodge.
Sharing a passion for responsible citizenship, integrity in business, and environmental accountability, they built Loka on the principle that business impacts and serves more than just profits. Using a copy of “The Responsible Company” as their guide, they set out to construct a globally responsible company well before the first swimsuit design was put to paper.
They began with the process of becoming a Certified B Corporation, and then started the search for like-minded people to help bring their product to life. Triska and Vokey traveled to Sri Lanka to inspect a potential factory before settling on one located in Bali. According to Certified B Corporation, they require companies to “meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.”
B Corp performance standards are comprehensive and verified. The factory Loka uses must comply, and Triska travels there regularly make sure that standards are met. In fact, Loka has sewn their social and economic integrity right into their legal DNA, ensuring that the impact of their decisions is considered for both stakeholders and shareholders. They are proud to be 1% for the Planet members, and continuously look for ways to improve their operation, raise standards in the fashion industry, and lighten their footprint.
In 2016, Vokey approached Jessica Dayton (another Canadian turned Australian) to join the team as head designer. With an extensive background in fashion design, and propelled by her devotion to surfing and clean oceans, Dayton was keen to get started.
Loka’s line of swimwear is small but fierce. Inspired by the beauty and strength of nature, the swimsuits are stylish and thoughtfully designed. Constructed with an Italian blend of 78 percent ECONYL© regenerated nylon and 22 percent LYCRA© XTRA LIFE, their swimsuits are soft, durable, and eco-conscious. They also stand up to travel, chlorine, and sun creams.
The regenerated nylon is made from salvaged fishing nets collected and sent to the ECONYL© waste treatment centre in Slovenia. The nylon is then treated, depolymerized, polymerized, transformed into textile yarn, and re-commercialized into garments like Loka’s swimwear.
The environment is infinitely and intricately interconnected. We rely on our oceans as a source of food, recreation, and natural beauty, and yet we continue to pollute them. Sustainable solutions will save the lives of millions of marine animals and will create safer, cleaner oceans for future generations. Sustainable solutions are always an option if you stop to think about your purchasing power, and the ability it has to make waves in a sea of change.