Q&A with Emma Churchill of Emroce
In our latest Q&A, we spoke to Emma Churchill of small Italy-based, zero-waste swimwear brand Emroce, that sells consciously-made, reasonably-priced bikinis and swimsuits via its Etsy shop.
1. What led you to starting your swimwear brand? And why swimwear?
I was teaching surfing in Chile when the idea came to me of making a beachwear collection of some sort. I was thinking more of umbrellas and chairs because I thought that swimwear was impossible to make sustainable as it's all plastic. Then I came across the swimwear brand Auria, discovered that they were using Econyl's regenerated nylon and I got to it! I love swimming, fashion design and the planet, so designing zero waste swimwear is the perfect outlet for me.
If your swimwear doesn't work properly, it's a big distraction from the fun or relaxation you could be feeling. I would like everyone to enjoy the water as much as I do. Then maybe everyone will have more respect for it.
2. Why are ethics and sustainability important to you?
The wellness of our planet is important to me. Obviously we couldn't live without it so it seems crazy to me that people feel fine to pollute it. We don't go into someone's home, have a nice meal and then smash shit up so why are people ok to do that to the world that keeps us alive? Designers get to choose how things are made, what materials are used, where and who have made them. We can decide to design something that's ethical and good for the environment so why wouldn't we? I'm lucky that I work for myself and get to make these decisions.
3. How do you implement ethics and sustainability into your swimwear line?
Apart from the fabric which is made from recycled fishing nets all of the designs are zero waste. I get an idea of something I can make, I find the fit and then I tweak the pattern until it fits perfectly onto the width of the fabric (look at the layplan below). I make everything at home. I live in Italy and the fabric is made here too. I reuse paper for my patterns, I reuse bags for postage, I sell in shops locally and everything is kept to a minimum. No embroidery, beads or fancy tags just good fabric, function and fit.
4. Your price point is still very reasonable, how do you make this happen?
I'm in my first year of following my accounts so I've made an estimate of what I spend for the year and how much I sell. I hope it evens out at the end. Fancy swing tags, labels and bags have a lot to answer for. I've got a few overheads and I don't actually write my hours down for my pattern making as there's too many moments in there of staring into blankness. Plus once the pattern is made I'll use it for the rest of my life. The fact that the patterns are zero waste also means that I'm not throwing away money. It's sustainable and extremely economical. I would like to keep things affordable so that people don't have to think twice about choosing my swimwear over something not ethical.
5. When designing, who do you have in mind? And what are your inspirations?
When designing I have surfers in mind because if the swimwear works for them it will work for anyone.
There's a painting by Piet Mondrian 'Pier and Ocean' where he takes everything back to it's simplest form. This has always been an inspiration for me and it's one of the guidelines that I stick to in order to help me design sustainably. My university teachers Holly McQuillan and Jenn Whitty were big inspirations too as they have lead the way for sustainable fashion in New Zealand. I was just lucky enough to be their student.
6. What direction do you think the ethical fashion market needs to take next?
They need to be more honest. There's too many brands claiming to be ethical or sustainable when they're not.
7. Do you believe that the ethical fashion market is growing?
Absolutely! When I first started studying 10 years ago sustainable fashion was barely thought of. Now it's a common conversation. With movies like The True Cost and unfortunately the Rana Plaza disaster people are becoming more aware so they're making more informed choices about what they're buying. This is so important as consumer demand has a huge impact on production.
8. What is next for your line and you?
Well, after trying a few different methods of making sustainable fashion I feel I've really found my calling with swimwear so I will be doing this for the rest of my life. It's a great position to be in.
The next collection will be commenting on the refugee crisis. Here in Italy we see it first hand but I feel too segregated from the refugees even though I'm a foreigner here too and they're everywhere you look. I want to hear their stories and share them so that we can all understand why we need to be more inviting. I want to show the good things that their cultures are bringing here. The colours, patterns, textures. Milan is the fashion capital of the world. They should be extremely excited about all of the new influences that are coming in.