A warm welcome to our latest edition of Our Featured Maker with an interview with the inspiring Sarah Stafford founder of Noma Swimwear and our latest maker to join Nurture Collective. Sarah tells all about her brand and how recycled fishing nets are the main fabric of her swimwear range! With plastic pollution and the ban on single-use plastic being one of the most talked about subjects of 2018 we were very excited to find out more.
What inspired you to start Noma Swimwear?
I didn’t really like the sun protection swimwear that I found on the high street for my own children, so I wondered if I could do better. It started as an idle holiday conversation in summer 2016, but a few weeks later I incorporated a company, and that’s when it became a real business.
Tell us more about the fabric and process used to make your swimwear range?
My swimwear fabric is made from 78% regenerated polyamide from ghost fishing nets and other post-consumer waste. (The other 22% is elastane, also known as Lycra, to give the fabric its stretch, and sadly the technology isn’t quite there yet for regenerating quality elastane). A polyamide is a form of nylon, which has been used for many years to make fishing nets. Its strength and durability make it perfect for fishing nets and fabric, but also terribly effective at trapping marine life and not degrading. It is estimated that there are 640,000 tonnes of
ghost gear (abandoned fishing material) in our oceans, and it makes up almost half (by weight) of all the plastic waste in our oceans.
How many swimming pieces you can make out of a fishing net, and how many nets are now recycled as a result of creating this new fabric?
Every year, 4 million tons of nylon is produced. That means we have so much in circulation, and it doesn’t degrade. Continued production of virgin nylon is not sustainable. Sustainability requires us to circularise our use of synthetic fibres (and fossil fuels generally). Now that we have the technology to take ghost nets, and other post-consumer nylon, and regenerate it into polyamide, the question should be ‘why aren’t all swimwear and sports brands using this fabric?’ The optimist in me thinks that they will be, eventually, through a combination of public pressure and tax on plastics or fossil fuels. I think recycled and recyclable synthetic fibres are the future for swimwear.
I set Noma Swimwear up as an environmentally-conscious swimwear brand. We’re growing quickly and taking advantage of the advances in technology that are happening right now in response to the ocean plastics crisis and climate change. I mentioned already that we have some exciting projects in the pipeline, meaning new product lines that meet our strict sustainability AND quality criteria. We aim to be the go-to brand for children’s sustainable swimwear and accessories.
Let’s talk about your chosen Nurture Collective Icons. Why did you want them, and which ones mean the most to you?
SUSTAINABLE: I have become more passionate about sustainability since I started this business. I’ve learned a lot about how damaging the fashion industry is, and how much it contributes to climate change. I don’t want to be the producer that pollutes, so I’m taking responsibility for the products that I sell and the packaging that it comes in. When you have finished with our swimwear (after passing it between siblings and friends), please send them back to Noma Swimwear. We are running a re-recycling initiative. We aim to make the lifecycle of our products entirely circular, and we are working with our yarn supplier and other industry partners to make this vision a reality.
RECYCLED: Using fabric that is largely recycled content is what sets us apart from other swimwear companies. It annoys me that not all sportswear companies are using this fabric, but, on the other hand, if they were, Noma Swimwear would not be anything special! That recycled fabric set the tone for the whole company: to provide the best possible sustainable options to consumers, but without compromising on quality, and we have some exciting projects in the pipeline that will build on this foundation – watch this space!
VEGAN: Ok, so with swimwear, it was never likely to be made from animal products. But our fabric is made from abandoned fishing nets that are being removed from the ocean where they kill and injure so much marine life (and if left in the sea would over time break down into smaller pieces and eventually microplastics), so I’m proud that our products can be said to be beneficial to marine life. For this reason, I’m promoting the vegan icon.
What is your favourite Inspirational Quote?
Which piece are you most proud of?
I’m going to say that I’m most proud of our swimming leggings because they are the one product that wasn’t really available to customers (in a sustainable or non-sustainable version) before we started selling them. If you’re serious about sun protection, these are brilliant and really comfortable.