Swimwear from the future: interview with Jo-Anne Godden from Ruby Moon.
Ruby Moon is one of those ethical companies that do everything right: the have a sustainable supply chain, reuse waste, give back to the society and considered their product’s life cycle from start to finish. Read about their story and incredible things they’re working on next.
Jo, please tell me how you came up with the idea for the brand?
Jo-Anne Godden: I had a background in lingerie and swimwear, that has always been what I worked in internationally for 20/25 years. I just got fed up with fast fashion and the way it worked and how it degrades our environment, how it degrades people in the supply chain.
I wanted to do something better, to see if it’s possible to manufacture things and enjoy things that are ethical and sustainable and not damaging for anybody.
It’s better to start a business in something that you know about and at the time, 10/12 years ago, there were no lingerie fabrics that were recyclable or recycled.
So this was literally the first product on the market that was recycled fabric.
Why did you decide to go for a non- profit?
-I did a course called “Women in social enterprise.” I didn’t know anything about social enterprise before that and the more I learnt about it the more I knew that it was the model I wanted to take on.
You also dedicate a lot of the company’s profit to help women in developing countries. Please tell me a bit more about that.
We started our business at exactly the same time as a charity called “Lend with care” and they are also based in London.
I also read a book called “Half the sky” by two New York’s Times journalists. The whole book is dedicated to women and that if we can empower women in developing countries, that’s when change really starts to happen. Each chapter of the book looks at different ways of helping women get back on their feet and take control of their own lives. One of the chapters is dedicated to micro-finance and it’s particularly powerful to women, especially in groups. So “Lend with care” is a charity dedicated directly to that and you can actually see and choose the women you want to invest in. So although I originally wanted to focus on women who were at risk of trafficking, I found it really difficult to find any charities 12 years ago. So I thought this would be the next best thing. We loan to women and when the money comes back to us, we loan it again or invest in stock. So far we helped over 1200 women and their families.
Let’s focus on your products: recycled swimwear. Can you tell me about the process of how you create the fabric?
-We are a partner of an organisation called healthyseas.org which is a not for profit itself. It’s a pan-European initiative to remove waste fishing nets from Mediterranean Sea and North Sea. The material is then cleaned up in Slovenia and then turned into pellets. Fishing nets have to be very strong and are made from very high grade nylon, so it’s a way to take a waste product that’s a high quality item and using circular economy techniques to break it down to molecular form again by mechanically recycling it to turn it back into a fiber. The fiber is sent down to a facility where we dye it and print it and turn it into swimwear.
Other companies are sending the fabric from Europe to Asia for manufacturing and then reimporting it again so that completely negates any carbon sayings that you’re making from using recycled nylon. And there’s a modern slavery problem going on in Asia, so people are missing the point.
Our supply chain is based entirely in Europe, I never manufacture anywhere else.
Do you have a process in place or a recommendation to what should be done with the clothing when it’s’ not useful anymore?
Yes, so currently, we give 5% back to anyone who sends back their old swimwear. Unfortunately, we have not been around long enough to have our own swimwear returned to us because most of our garments last more that 10 years. But people are sending us their nylon swimwear and activewear. We are doing some research and development with two universities here in the UK to actually recycle used activewear and swimwear.
There are two projects: the first one is called “Future fashion factory” and we are halfway through that project right now . We’re working on the separation of the elastane and nylon, so you have to separate those two items in order for nylon to be recycled again.
The second project is called “The business of fashion and textile” and we are doing that with the University of St Martin’s and that project is all about reusing the nylon again but making it a superior, purer nylon thread. When you normally recycle something, you always lose strength and durability in that thread. We are looking how we can get that fibre even stronger than the original one, to make it infinitely recyclable. And we are doing it with as little environmental impact as possible.
So what happens to the clothing that people send back to you at the moment?
We keep it so we can use it in our experiments. Eventually, we will be keeping it so we can recycle it but we have to do our research first.
What else are you working on to improve?
We are working on something that happened during covid- we didn’t have time to do any of this before but covid was just a little bit of a break so we could put a few things into action.
We started a membership which means that people can save money (to buy our products).
We are trying to make people understand that prior to the 1980s everyone used to save and value their clothing and now it has become almost disposable.
We started a membership fee where people can save for their items so they can get new activewear from us and they also can get lots of other membership benefits as well.
A lot of people complain that the prices of sustainable fashion are too high. What do you think about that?
People are becoming more educated about the true cost of what it takes to make things ethically and sustainably. Another thing we are working towards is making our product last 10 years. So if you look at the product cycle assessment of something that lasts 10 years, it actually is a cheaper garment.
Visit RubyMoon here: https://rubymoon.org.uk/shop/