Founder Focus: Zanna van Dijk and Natalie Glaze of Stay Wild Swim
Stay Wild Swim is a luxury brand that uses regenerated ocean plastic from fishing nets, fabric scraps, and industrial plastics, to create stylish and luxury swimwear. Firm believers in there being no need to compromise on looking and feeling good when making sustainable choices, Stay Wild Swim is set to make waves in the swimwear industry, and has already been picked out by Selfridges as worthy of inclusion in their Bright New Things SS19 edit – a curated selection of emerging fashion designers that champion sustainability.
We caught up with lifetime ocean enthusiasts Natalie Glaze and Zanna van Dijk – the co-founders of Stay Wild Swim – about taking the plunge into the growing industry of sustainable swimwear, and finding balance whilst navigating the sometimes rough waters of start-up life.
What was your eureka moment?
Natalie: We were catching up over brunch and our love for the ocean and swimwear, and then the conversation turned to how we both we would love to launch a sustainable brand. It kind of snowballed and what started as a casual chat turned into a business very quickly. There was never an official plan or moment when the business came together. More of a…that’s a great idea, why don’t we test it out and make it up as we go along kind of vibe. Sometimes the best plan is one where you just dive right in and hope for the best, right?
What would be your elevator pitch?
Natalie: We saw a gap in the market for beautiful, timeless sustainable swimwear which puts the planet and people first but also flatters every woman. We create our pieces from regenerated ocean plastic and craft them here in London making sure every element of what we do is as sustainable and ethical as possible. From our factory, our material, packaging, right down to our biodegradable hygiene liners, sustainability is at the heart of what we do.
We also use social media in a unique and innovative way, allowing our consumer to help shape our products, colours, naming and modelling our collections. This means we create products that people actually want and there is a demand for. We want to make a positive change within the fashion industry and show you can create stylish, timeless pieces that put the planet first.
Since launching a year ago, we have created a community of over 28,000 people, created sell-out designs, been stocked in Selfridges as part of their Bright New Things initiative, exhibited at London Fashion Week as part of their Positive Fashion Exhibition – to name a few highlights – and are rapidly expanding our brand worldwide. We have huge plans and goals for Stay Wild and this is just the beginning.
How did you test your idea?
Zanna: We launched in a bit of an unconventional way, we started our social media account first before any product. We used our Instagram to talk about our idea, discuss the brand, sharing its development and allowing the said audience to contribute their thoughts and feedback prior to our launch. This allowed an insight into start-up life and created a deep connection with them, meaning we could take on board their responses. Our audience has always had active participation in the building of our brand – from naming collections, to helping choose colours, designs and modelling for us with open casting calls.
Yes, we were probably a little naive running straight into announcing our brand and hoping for the best without testing the idea lots before – however, this backward approach paid off and we were extremely lucky that our first collection was a sell-out success thanks to this strong social media marketing on our part.
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business on their own? Do you have a mentor or are you one?
Zanna: It can be easy to put off launching your own business by telling yourself that you just need a few more weeks, months or years to gain knowledge or experience. Our main advice would be that there is never the perfect time and you will never know everything – you learn on the job and you fit your life around the business. Just get started and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, learn, grow and develop. Your brand will evolve as you do. Just start!
What’s your plan B?
Zanna: We both have other businesses and jobs which we pursue alongside Stay Wild, which act as a safety net and provide much-needed reassurance. These jobs (blogging and social media consultancy) also support us financially and takes the pressure off slightly. However, we both believe in Stay Wild so much and are passionate about its growth and success for us – it’s the number one plan.
What is the most worthwhile investment (time, energy, money) that you have made? What one failure are you glad you experienced?
Natalie: Setting up a business means a huge investment of your time and energy – but it’s such a worthwhile and crucial investment to make. To make any businesses a success and get an idea off the ground you need to be willing to put everything in, you can’t ‘half-arse’ it sadly. But, it is so worth it to see your idea and brand grow and evolve. We are constantly failing and evolving and are very honest that we don’t know everything and are making it up as we go along – each time we make a mistake, we learn and can do things better and more efficiently next time.
What is coming up for Stay Wild?
Natalie: This year we have just dipped our toe in the water and have almost used it as our market testing year, so next year is a big one for us – got some very exciting plans in the pipeline.
In terms of products, we are working on some more sustainable accessories including an eco beach bag, launching to compliment our reusable water bottles – we are so excited to launch this to the world! We add our collection of swimwear piece by piece, instead of dropping collections, so that we have less wastage and promote a slower and more conscious way of consuming. And so, we will be slowly adding designs as and when they are needed and have some beautiful designs in the making. Maybe a menswear line even, who knows…
The overall goal for us is to create a positive change in the fashion industry, showing a slower, less wasteful, and more mindful, way of doing things is the best way.
What is the book you would recommend that everyone reads and why?
Zanna: The one book we would recommend is What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School. It is a super practical, informative and easy to digest read full of insider tips and tricks. Of course, as with any book, you have to take it with a pinch of salt and adapt it to your specific scenario, but it would be helpful for any business owner.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
Natalie: Balance in startup life is often tricky and we will be the first to admit we haven’t got it nailed. However it’s important you do switch off and learn to take time out, otherwise, you will burn out. For us, it’s finding what helps us switch off – whether that is reading, exercising or cooking – and implementing that every day. We both make sure we take time to see our friends and family a lot as well – you have to surround yourself with people who support and love you.