Geneviève Andre de la Porte is using a sustainability-minded business approach she learned while working in the food industry and applying it to swimwear. Her label, Zonarch, is out today.
The Belgian designer, who studied international business in California, was influenced by her experience in marketing at American superfood company Sambazon, which produces and sells foods and drinks made using organic açaí harvested by family farmers in the Amazon. Led by founders Jeremy Black, Ryan Black and Edmund Nichols, the company is Fair Trade Certified and works to protect the biodiversity of the rainforest, while giving back to local communities in the Amazon by building health care centers and schools.
With Zonarch, which has been four years in the making, Andre de la Porte plans to divide 3 percent of the brand’s yearly revenue equally among nonprofit organizations One Percent for the Planet, the American Civil Liberties Union and Room to Read, which works to improve literacy and gender equality in education.
As a business’ revenue grows, its “commitment to serving” the public should also grow, said Andre de la Porte: “There’s a cost to everything that we do. That has to be lowered through awareness and also through our actions. If we produce something, there’s a real cost to that.”
Before Sambazon, Andre de la Porte worked at e-commerce swimwear brand Mikoh. Design and swimwear have always been passions of hers, she said, and she applied learnings from her experiences working at each company while creating Zonarch.
“Success for me is not selling a product at a high price, which actually is quite low in terms of cost of production,” she said of the category. “In swimwear, it’s very common for brands to charge about 10 times their cost. It’s extremely high. There’s a lot of room there…even to up the quality of the items and do it in the USA, which is significantly more expensive than doing it overseas, and still having a very fair pricing structure.”
Made in Los Angeles, Zonarch items are produced in a factory experienced working with couture and employing about 20 seamstresses.
“I think it’s the best value you can get on the market,” she said of the brand, sharing a sales projection of $400,000 to $500,000 for its first 12 months. “It’s also something that feels right and fair and honest.”
Andre de la Porte said she’s offering consumers a luxury and sustainable women’s line at 40 to 50 percent less than competitors, with luxury swimwear one-pieces costing an average of $263. Still, “to make something with less cost to the environment and the people, that means that it is going to cost more, for both me as the producer as well as the consumer,” she added.
Sold direct-to-consumer at zonarch.com, Zonarch’s swimwear tops range in price from $79 to $98, while bottoms cost $70, and one-pieces are available between $124 to $174. The line uses biodegradable, recyclable, organic and natural materials.
“It’s super soft,” Andre de la Porte said of the regen nylon used, made entirely from post-consumer waste. “I like that it has a compression feel to it. It feels very high quality, buttery soft. It smooths your skin beautifully, sort of lays on your body as a second layer which is great.”
A men’s swimwear line is in the works, she said. She’s also working on making her women’s more size inclusive. Currently available up to size XL (a U.S. size 12/14), Andre de la Porte is creating designs for sizes up to “triple XL.” She spent considerable time trying the designs on women of all shapes and sizes to get them right, she said: “It’s very time consuming and takes a lot of resources, but I needed that validation.”
Andre de la Porte will use her company’s site to highlight other sustainability-minded brands and showcase her “vision” for the company.
It’s to “reinvent the way that we holiday,” she continued. “That means that I’m trying to bring more conscious, mindful consumption to both travel and day-to-day.…Taking a holiday, which has nothing to do with getting on a yacht and going on this Caribbean adventure, it’s about finding that stillness in your everyday life.”