We ship all over the world, with FREE SHIPPING throughout the U.S. on orders over $100 and easy, FREE DOMESTIC RETURNS.

0

Your Cart is Empty

by Laura Graham September 18, 2019 11 min read

I had a safe career working in the fashion industry in New York City; a steady salary and a tangible trajectory at a great company. And then I quit. I hopped in my car, jam-packed with all my belongings (sans a few boxes of pencil skirts, heels, and other corporate attire that would end up stored at my parents' house indefinitely) and headed south for Miami to help launch an environmental clothing startup. It pains me to mention that 20 minutes into the trip I got pulled over for talking on the phone - foreshadowing? I hoped not…  

I had a safe career working in the fashion industry in New York City; a steady salary and a tangible trajectory at a great company. And then I quit. I hopped in my car, jam-packed with all my belongings (sans a few boxes of pencil skirts, heels, and other corporate attire that would end up stored at my parents' house indefinitely) and headed south for Miami to help launch an environmental clothing startup. It pains me to mention that 20 minutes into the trip I got pulled over for talking on the phone - foreshadowing? I hoped not…  

My old desk at the corporate job I left behind had a motivational quote pinned to the wall that I’m proud to have followed through with.

My early days with Waterlust began by discussing how apparel could fit into what was at the time exclusively a film/photography project. The reason I wanted to be a part of the apparel industry to begin with came from inspiration that clothing could be a catalyst for positive impact. And while initially to me this meant how a garment could make you feel: more confident, comfortable, or uplifted; I dreamt of how we could take that impact a step further. A piece of clothing can make an impression on those around you, start a conversation, and hopefully serve a functional purpose in your life for a long time. So we hypothesized that creating apparel could be a great way to help support the company’s mission of bringing environmental research to the general public not only financially, but by becoming its own powerful science communication tool. While communicating science through media can be powerful, your moments with those photos and videos that scroll endlessly across your digital life are fleeting. We hoped that clothing could provide a personal and longer lasting connection. 

We knew a couple things about the products we wanted to create and how we wanted to create them: 

  1. To always make fundamental, functional products that suit a need. In other words, stuff that we would want to wear ourselves. 
  2. To create those products with the smallest environmental impact possible. In my time in the apparel industry I was exposed to waste at every level, and while everything comes with an environmental cost, our goal would always be to minimize it.

We crafted a business plan despite having no formal experience in business, but more than anything we truly believed in the idea and what it could achieve.

My early days with Waterlust began by discussing how apparel could fit into what was at the time exclusively a film/photography project. The reason I wanted to be a part of the apparel industry to begin with came from inspiration that clothing could be a catalyst for positive impact. And while initially to me this meant how a garment could make you feel: more confident, comfortable, or uplifted; I dreamt of how we could take that impact a step further. A piece of clothing can make an impression on those around you, start a conversation, and hopefully serve a functional purpose in your life for a long time. So we hypothesized that creating apparel could be a great way to help support the company’s mission of bringing environmental research to the general public not only financially, but by becoming its own powerful science communication tool. While communicating science through media can be powerful, your moments with those photos and videos that scroll endlessly across your digital life are fleeting. We hoped that clothing could provide a personal and longer lasting connection. 

We knew a couple things about the products we wanted to create and how we wanted to create them: 

  1. To always make fundamental, functional products that suit a need. In other words, stuff that we would want to wear ourselves. 
  2. To create those products with the smallest environmental impact possible. In my time in the apparel industry I was exposed to waste at every level, and while everything comes with an environmental cost, our goal would always be to minimize it.

We crafted a business plan despite having no formal experience in business, but more than anything we truly believed in the idea and what it could achieve.

Sometimes it can feel like we’re taking a path unknown, but believing in the idea has kept us moving forward. Exploring the Nature Island, Dominica in May 2017.

At first we did our screen printing in the kitchen, sewing in the bedroom, and quality controlled in the living room. We dabbled in t-shirts and started developing some swimwear. One day we decided to prototype a pair of leggings - I wanted a pair that I could wear to the gym AND out on the water SCUBA diving or kiteboarding. I grabbed some swimwear fabric scraps, took some measurements, worked up a garment pattern and got to sewing. Those first leggings were bright blue, shiny and cheesy, but they fit perfectly and showed potential! A new product was born…

At first we did our screen printing in the kitchen, sewing in the bedroom, and quality controlled in the living room. We dabbled in t-shirts and started developing some swimwear. One day we decided to prototype a pair of leggings - I wanted a pair that I could wear to the gym AND out on the water SCUBA diving or kiteboarding. I grabbed some swimwear fabric scraps, took some measurements, worked up a garment pattern and got to sewing. Those first leggings were bright blue, shiny and cheesy, but they fit perfectly and showed potential! A new product was born…

Doing our own screen printing in the kitchen of an 850 sq ft apartment kept our overhead costs way down and allowed us to produce shirts with no minimum order quantities.

In order for our designs to inspire conversation, we knew we wanted them to visually represent what we were advocating for- the marine environment and its amazing inhabitants. From our film work, we had some great photos to start with, but it took many iterations before landing on anything we were proud of. For example, our first sample of a whale shark pattern was tragically bad and completely unrecognizable to the final version we ultimately landed on. This would be an early lesson for me in persistence and not settling on a design until it felt right. I still use that gut check as my design compass today. If I don’t love a design when I see it, there is more work to do. 

In order for our designs to inspire conversation, we knew we wanted them to visually represent what we were advocating for- the marine environment and its amazing inhabitants. From our film work, we had some great photos to start with, but it took many iterations before landing on anything we were proud of. For example, our first sample of a whale shark pattern was tragically bad and completely unrecognizable to the final version we ultimately landed on. This would be an early lesson for me in persistence and not settling on a design until it felt right. I still use that gut check as my design compass today. If I don’t love a design when I see it, there is more work to do. 

The whale shark warrior print took many iterations to get right, but we finally landed on a version we think is both aesthetically beautiful and biologically accurate. Free diving off the coast of Miami with a new remora friend.

With little appetite for risk, virtually no money to support factory and supplier minimum order quantities, and wanting complete control over the product quality, we decided to prove our new concept first by making everything in house. Every legging we sold in the first year or so was brought to you by many late nights, frozen pizzas and podcasts; cutting and sewing each and every pair myself. But it was working, our customers wanted them, and we were stoked and proud of the potential!

With little appetite for risk, virtually no money to support factory and supplier minimum order quantities, and wanting complete control over the product quality, we decided to prove our new concept first by making everything in house. Every legging we sold in the first year or so was brought to you by many late nights, frozen pizzas and podcasts; cutting and sewing each and every pair myself. But it was working, our customers wanted them, and we were stoked and proud of the potential!

My trusty overlock sewing machine is still a well used fixture on my desk for prototyping, though we’ve since handed off manufacturing to an amazing partner we love and trust. I look forward to introducing you to them in a future blog post. Looking back, I now realize that running an apparel business by sewing everything myself may have been a naive idea, but I learned so much and feel so connected to our product and process, I wouldn’t trade those days if given the choice. This lesson has become a guiding principle for the entire company, we don’t hire somebody to do something until we first do it and understand it ourselves. This is why when you email us a question, you might get a response from me, our CEO or an intern. It is why we package and ship every order ourselves. It is how we learn and become better individually and as a company. 

My trusty overlock sewing machine is still a well used fixture on my desk for prototyping, though we’ve since handed off manufacturing to an amazing partner we love and trust. I look forward to introducing you to them in a future blog post. Looking back, I now realize that running an apparel business by sewing everything myself may have been a naive idea, but I learned so much and feel so connected to our product and process, I wouldn’t trade those days if given the choice. This lesson has become a guiding principle for the entire company, we don’t hire somebody to do something until we first do it and understand it ourselves. This is why when you email us a question, you might get a response from me, our CEO or an intern. It is why we package and ship every order ourselves. It is how we learn and become better individually and as a company. 

University of Miami's scientific diving class in Bonaire. Seeing a group of scientists wearing our gear out in the field is not only exciting, but keeps me inspired to design functional, comfortable pieces that engage people with our oceans and fresh water ecosystems.

These days, the two initial goals we had for our apparel remain fundamental to how we create our products, though we’re extremely excited that the structure of the business has adapted substantially. As our belief in advocate apparel grew from those first pairs of leggings, it has evolved from a supporting mechanism for media-based scientific storytelling to our primary communication tool. As the one spearheading the designs, I’m naturally extremely proud of this transformation, but as somebody who loves the environment, I’m even more excited by how it has enabled us to create more impactful relationships with people. 

These days, the two initial goals we had for our apparel remain fundamental to how we create our products, though we’re extremely excited that the structure of the business has adapted substantially. As our belief in advocate apparel grew from those first pairs of leggings, it has evolved from a supporting mechanism for media-based scientific storytelling to our primary communication tool. As the one spearheading the designs, I’m naturally extremely proud of this transformation, but as somebody who loves the environment, I’m even more excited by how it has enabled us to create more impactful relationships with people. 

PhD student Courtney Knauer (@islandgirl_0910) blending in with the locals while doing research at @heithauslab at Florida International University. It's so exciting for me to be able to design a product inspired by some amazing sea life; but that moment when we get to see the finished product next to the animal (and especially on the researchers) that inspired it is definitely one of the best parts of my job! ***Disclaimer*** Photo and handling was done under permitted research, under conditions not harmful to the animal. Do not try to recreate this photo in anyway.

PhD student Courtney Knauer (@islandgirl_0910) blending in with the locals while doing research at @heithauslab at Florida International University. It's so exciting for me to be able to design a product inspired by some amazing sea life; but that moment when we get to see the finished product next to the animal (and especially on the researchers) that inspired it is definitely one of the best parts of my job! ***Disclaimer*** Photo and handling was done under permitted research, under conditions not harmful to the animal. Do not try to recreate this photo in anyway.

Reflecting on where the apparel journey has taken us so far, I’m thrilled that I chose to take the leap to abandon the safe path for the unknown. And while it was a daunting decision back then, and even still is today; I’m fortunate to be driven by countless motivations that keep doubts at bay. Those motivations include all of the likeminded and passionate customers we’re able to connect with daily, the scientists we’re able to support, and of course the marine environment, animals, and ecosystems that we work to understand and protect. Each time my phone buzzes with an order notification (yes, I refuse to turn those off), I smile; realizing that buzz is another connection built. I hope that our clothing has been able to fulfill my dreams of making someone out there feel more confident, comfortable, or uplifted. And more importantly, I feel fortunate to have seen that dream evolve into so much more; products that serve as a tool for our customers to learn something, start up a conversation, or maybe just think a little differently. 

Reflecting on where the apparel journey has taken us so far, I’m thrilled that I chose to take the leap to abandon the safe path for the unknown. And while it was a daunting decision back then, and even still is today; I’m fortunate to be driven by countless motivations that keep doubts at bay. Those motivations include all of the likeminded and passionate customers we’re able to connect with daily, the scientists we’re able to support, and of course the marine environment, animals, and ecosystems that we work to understand and protect. Each time my phone buzzes with an order notification (yes, I refuse to turn those off), I smile; realizing that buzz is another connection built. I hope that our clothing has been able to fulfill my dreams of making someone out there feel more confident, comfortable, or uplifted. And more importantly, I feel fortunate to have seen that dream evolve into so much more; products that serve as a tool for our customers to learn something, start up a conversation, or maybe just think a little differently. 

Thank you for connecting with us, advocating for the topics our prints are inspired by, and for motivating and inspiring me daily! Any time I’m working on a design I’m thinking of our customers- so if you ever have any feedback, ideas, or just want to chat - send me a message!

laura@waterlust.com 

Thank you for connecting with us, advocating for the topics our prints are inspired by, and for motivating and inspiring me daily! Any time I’m working on a design I’m thinking of our customers- so if you ever have any feedback, ideas, or just want to chat - send me a message!

laura@waterlust.com 

Laura Graham
Laura Graham


Leave a comment


Also in The Waterlust Blog

The Environmental Cost of Making Things
The Environmental Cost of Making Things

by Patrick Rynne October 25, 2019 6 min read

When we decided to start manufacturing clothing years ago, we had an initial goal of doing no environmental harm. As a company, we existed to communicate science and help solve the environmental crisis and thought it would be extremely hypocritical if we didn’t practice what we preach in our own business. How hard could it be? 
Read More
Jumping In
Jumping In

by Patrick Rynne August 21, 2019 6 min read

My hand hovered over the trackpad as I contemplated the repercussions of the impending decision: to buy a plane ticket to Australia or not? It was Thanksgiving 2011, my second year as a PhD student, and I had been invited to film an interesting field experiment on rip currents down under.
Read More