How many swimsuit brands do you know that bring with them a story, but also healthy principles on which to build their brand image? Now in Rio‘s mission is to create functional, but also beautiful, swimsuits that build the self-confidence of whoever wears them. We will get acquainted with the story of the Now in Rio brand, through the interview we did with Yvonne, the founder of this business, who happily answered the questions in this interview.
1. This swimwear brand was designed out of a need, ending up turning into a true story that differentiates itself in the market. Where did the interest in ethical and sustainable practices applied to your business model come from?
I know that this might sound a little cheesy, but I always wanted to make a difference in the world. In University, I studied international development and when I finished my Masters I really fell in love with the concept of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship is interesting to me because it’s a sustainable business model. People make money, but at the same time they don’t hurt the environment or the people – it is a win-win for everyone involved, which I think is absolutely fantastic.
I actually applied to work for a social entrepreneurship / travel company back in 2013. It is called Awamaki and they are helping rural Andean women’s associations launch successful small businesses creating authentic, high-quality products and experiences. I didn’t get the job, but I was inspired. I knew that this was something I wanted to do in my life. I wanted to create a social enterprise – I wanted to make a difference.
That is one of the reasons I decided to do a PhD in community tourism and business development. I wanted to research the potential of tourism in helping communities earn money that could potentially help lift them out of poverty.
In everything that I have done, ever since I was a child, I knew that I wanted to make a positive impact in the world. That’s why I studied development, community tourism and why I decided to launch my own sustainable swimsuit company. I believe that we can do better and I believe we should be part of the change that we want to see in the world.
2. Can you describe your ethos in 5 words?
Our vision: help women embrace the carioca spirit — live in the moment, set yourself free, allow yourself to be captivated by the joy of living, and feel limitless on your unique journey.
Our mission: To create timeless & contemporary swimwear silhouettes with the finest sustainable fabrics that inspire the empowering celebration of confidence, curiosity, and adventure. Now in Rio is produced sustainably — with respect to people and the planet. Our core values: inclusivity, empowerment, sustainability, transparency.
3. What about you as a leader?
My values as a leader? I believe leaders should be empathetic, kind and understanding. I think we are entering into a new era of work. COVID changed many things, but as a millennial myself I have realized that people not only want to work for companies that are making a difference, but who also value their employees.
As a leader, I want to start a movement. I want to make a difference. I want to build a strong team of individuals that share my passion. That also want to join Now in Rio Swim because they believe in our mission and our values. There is nothing more important than to have people on your team that believe in the same things that you believe in.
4. Because self-confidence is such a sensitive concept, how should a woman feel when wearing a swimsuit from Now in Rio Swim?
I want women to feel FREE! Let’s be honest, I am not a size 0, I have curves and I love to be active. I am the type of woman that runs into the ocean, I do cartwheels on the beach and yet I want to look good. That’s why I created Now in Rio Swim.
I had my own issues with swimsuits, but then when I started to talk to other women, I realized that they shared my issues. Women were telling me that they needed swimsuits that were more supportive, that had better coverage, that would cover their stomachs, that would feel good and look good.
And creating these swimsuits was not an easy task! It took 6 revisions and over 8 months to perfect these pieces. I also took every single pieces with me into the ocean and I tested everything to make sure that they performed well. What is the point of having a beautiful swimsuit if it doesn’t support you when you need it?
There was a lot of thought put into every single piece so that women who wear Now in Rio Swim feel and look beautiful.
5. Can you tell us more about the details of the Econyl material and whether there are significant differences between it and other materials common to swimwear, but which do not respect manufacturing ethics?
Yes, definitely! We just wrote an article about how to spot a truly sustainable swimwear brand. you can find it here.
Swimwear is made out of synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester – in other words, plastic. As you probably know plastic is not biodegradable, and in reality, there is really no need to extract virgin plastic to make new swimsuits. There is plenty of it around already. Companies, like Aquafil, which makes ECONYL, take material that would otherwise end up in landfill or floating around in the ocean and transform it into a new fabric, which is used to create your new favourite sustainable bikini. While it’s not a perfect solution by any means, it’s a fantastic way of reusing and repurposing already existing material.
ECONYL® transforms nylon waste rescued from the ocean and landfills. The quality of the fabric is exactly the same as brand new nylon and it can be continuously remade and recycled. For every 10,00 tons of ECONYL® raw material, they are able to save 70,000 barrels of crude oil and avoid 65,100 tonnes of CO2 eq. emissions.
Now in Rio swim is actually made from Renew Cult Fabric, a sustainable fabric made of a ECONYL®. We choose this particular fabric because it is high performance, compact, non see-through, and super elastic, it ensures a perfect fit under any circumstances and follows the body every move.
It is also importance to note that sustainability is the only thing that is important. Knowing where the material of your swimsuit comes from is important. But so is how it was made. It makes little sense to talk about a “sustainable” swimsuit if it was made under poor conditions in a sweatshop exploiting workers, right? The word “sustainable” doesn’t necessarily take these things into account. This means that a brand could market their swimsuit as “sustainable” without guarantee of acceptable conditions during the fabrication process. This is where the word ethical can be useful.
When buying sustainable swimwear, you want to know: who made it? Under what conditions? With what material? Where in the world? These things will let you know if the brand in question is actually a conscious brand and not just practicing greenwashing to get your business.
6. Society sometimes imposes toxic images of female beauty standards. This is not the case here. How does the image promoted by the Now in Rio brand manage to shape such a happy, sensitive, relaxed, and mysterious woman?
Now in Rio Swim is create by and for real women. Since the beginning, I wanted our brand to be real. To show emotions and movement and happy faces. To have different types, sizes and ages of women. That is our mission.
We have been very much inspired by a Canadian brand called Knix, they are shaping the way of the new generation of advertising for women.
7. Could the carioca style that you promote change the lifestyle of the most hard-working people, with a stressful schedule?
Yes, definitely. Let’s talk about the Carioca style of living and what that entails. The city of Rio exudes an inimitable charm that comes from a happy and positive take on life. Rio’s fun, cheeky, and easy-going lifestyle is what keeps inspiring Now in Rio.
A Carioca has an easy-going and friendly attitude that embraces others, takes pride in the beauty of Rio, and above all, celebrates life at every moment. Carioca’s are effortlessly charming, uninhibited, and laid back. Their smile can be infectious.
The Carioca culture is known for its openness, diversity, and inclusivity, welcoming everyone with open arms.
Being a carioca is a way of life — simple, relaxed, and informal. And above all else, nothing is more carioca than going to the beach.
8. Does this brand want to become recognizable for its local and cultural identity?
We want Now in Rio Swim to be recognized as a brand for women of all shapes and sizes. A brand that is luxurious, but also ethical and sustainable. A brand that gives back to the community. And above a brand that is REAL.
9. What do you think are the post-pandemic life views? Will people turn into carioca?
I think the pandemic has really taught us to slow and to appreciate life at every moment – you never know what might happen tomorrow. I mean before the pandemic started, I never dreamed that the world would come to a halt in such a way.
Carioca living is to take every day as it comes. To slow down and enjoy life. Even though I don’t live in Rio de Janeiro anymore, I have tried to implement this type of living into my day to day life. I now live at the beach (walking distance) and I make sure to go every day so I can bury my toes into the sand. I also am trying to not take things too seriously and just kind of live in the moment – but this is a little hard for me.
10. How did this brand relate to the pandemic? What did you learn from this period?
We launched our brand in a pandemic, and it has been the hardest and more rewarding experience of my life.
I originally decided I wanted to start Now in Rio Swim in December 2019. At the time I was living in Brussels, Belgium. I was working as a Digital Strategist for the Hotel and my contract was ending in February 2020. I wanted to move to Portugal, so I decided that if my job did not renew my contract, I would move with my husband.
It turns out that my contract was not renewed. However, the day before I was supposed to fly out to Portugal to sign our new lease and get the keys to our new apartment the pandemic hit and everything closed. It was so sudden. I remember sitting in a bar and drinking a beer with a friend right before the world shutdown. From one day to another life changed. We were in full-lock down.
During lockdown, I decided to focus inwards and work on myself and my business. I enrolled in a seven-week personal development course, and started to develop Now in Rio Swim. During my lock-down period in Brussels I developed my logo, and understood the values, mission and vision of Now in Rio Swim.
On June 10th, which is Portugal Day, we arrived in Portugal. We left Brussels with a car packed full of our things (and a small trailer) and it took three days for us to drive to Portugal – we stopped in France and Spain before landing in Portugal.
Launching a brand in lock-down tough a lot of different things. First it taught to be patient and that things can go wrong. For example, we planned on having our photoshoot in Rio de Janeiro in November 2020, our photoshoot happened in Costa da Caparica (Portugal) in February 2021, a month before we actually launched our brand. Why? Well, because there were so many delays in terms of fabric, sampling and production. But we need to “roll with the punches.”
I think the BIGGEST lesson I learned was that things take time. Before my launch I was watching a lot of Instagram and TikToks of all these small businesses who do these videos talking about how their brand “BLEW UP!” and how easy this and that is – let me tell you it’s HARD. The first year is literally just trying to figure everything out. Testing different ideas. Failing over and over again. Restarting. You can’t fast track success. And you can’t fast track progress. It takes time. And that is ok.
11. We know how sad we are when we love a swimsuit, but we can’t wear it endlessly, because we feel that we are not transmitting something new. So what do women think about your reversible swimsuits?
The whole idea of slow fashion is to try to re-use what we buy. And a swimwear piece can get boring after a while. That is why I really wanted to make sure that our swimwear pieces were made in a way that would allow women to wear them again and again – in different ways. So for our bikinis, you can wear them four different ways. You can also use our tops for working out, yoga or even as a bralette. Our Agua de Coco one-piece is also PERFECT as a body suit. It looks absolutely amazing underneath a crisp linen shirt and a pair of shorts.
12. Do you want to expand to other market segments? (men, children)
We are already thinking about expanding into resort-wear. I love linen and would love to have linen pieces available in the next couple of years.
13. Why do you think sustainability is so important in 2021?
Did you know that fast fashion is the second largest polluter in the world? Isn’t that crazy? Sustainability is important because we are living in a world with finite resources. Fast fashion is ridiculous because in reality we as consumers don’t need half of the things we actually buy. I think it’s also a question of minimalism. A question about ethical manufacturing. A question about overconsumption.
I also think that it is important not only raise questions about sustainability, but also about ethical manufacturing. What is the point of having your swimwear made with sustainable fabric, if a child from India is sewing it for 2 cents?
Businesses need to do better. Period.
14. Where are the designers you collaborate with from?
At the moment I was the one that created all the designs myself and I worked directly with my manufacturer to create the pieces, but in the in future I would LOVE to work with Carioca designers.
15. If you would give one piece of advice to the young designers who dream of entering the business world, what would it be?
So I am not a designer. But if I was going to give one piece of advice to anyone that is launching a sustainable product into the market, that advice would be:
Don’t give up. Let me be real with you. It is so hard, and there will be times when you think that your product is not good enough or you question if it will get off the ground. You probably will have a couple of breakdowns. You’ll probably cry or loose hope. That’s ok. Your first product won’t be perfect and there will be people that won’t love your business or your product. That’s ok too.
On my podcast, the Branding Lab, I was talking with Kristi Soomer from Encircled and she gave me such a great piece of advice. She said to be kind to yourself. And I want to echo that as well.
Be kind to yourself. You will get it wrong. You will get frustrated. Things will fail. But that’s ok. If you really BELIEVE in your product/business and if you stick with it, great things will come your way.