Written by Kajsa IngelssonAugust 26, 2019

Sustainability seems to be all the rage lately. Big brands are throwing around words like “green”, “eco-friendly” and “biodegradable” left and right. It all seems too good to be true, and very often that’s unfortunately the case (this is another HOT topic called green washing btw)

However, when I do find a brand that’s sustainable from the beginning and ground up, it makes my heart skip a beat filled with hope. This is the case with swimwear brand SAGE LAROCK. With a burning passion for our oceans and shorelines, this model turned designer brand is on a mission which we can easily support and stand behind.

Coming from the model industry, what sparked your interest in sustainable fashion?

I was always very interested in textile design and natural dyes, so I think that initially sparked my interest. After I stopped modeling, I wanted to do something that was aligned with the knowledge I had gained after hours listening to designers and photographers about clothing, so I decided to start making clothing and dye the things I had made with plant dyes I had foraged from around LA. I quickly learned after researching garment production & the fashion industry that much of what is being produced is not conducive to healthy people or a healthy planet, so I began to look into how this could be done differently, which is how Sage Larock came about. We set out from the beginning to do things in a way that is as ethical and sustainable as possible, and we are always looking to improve in these areas.

Non-sustainable fashion is not only doing extreme damage to our planet and eco-systems, but is also directly bad for our health. You want to tell us a bit more about how the clothes you are wearing can directly affect you on this personal level?

You are correct – there is a lot of clothing out there that is causing so much destruction, not only to our planet, but to our own bodies. Much of the clothing that is being made – including swim & activewear, jeans, shoes, t-shirts, dresses and even underwear –  have been tested positive for hormone disrupting NPEs, Phthalates, which are toxic to the reproductive system, and cancer-causing amines from azo dyes. Our skin is our largest organ, so unfortunately any chemicals present in fabric or the dyes that are used on our clothing can be easily absorbed into our skin and then bloodstream. Beyond that, these chemicals are often dumped into waterways or the ocean, which destroys freshwater supplies and air/soil quality for everyone. Producing clothing in this manner is highly destructive and there is a much better way of creating clothing that should be implemented.

Do you feel like the fashion industry as a whole is catching up to the harm it’s been doing and changing its ways? Why so? 

I feel as though there has been much more awareness raised, but the change is not happening fast enough to reverse or stop the damage. Most brands, from luxury to fast-fashion are still using chemically intensive production processes and even slave or underpaid labor. 
I think change is being made – and that’s really great – but we must collectively make a shift to demanding that brands do better, and by choosing sustainable & ethical options to make a real impact. Many brands will not change until they are forced by consumers & until it supports their financial gain – this is just the reality, as in many countries doing things this way is not illegal. 

Give a quick rundown on the materials you use and why:

There are SO many great sustainable option out there – but we are currently loving:

Upcycled Ghost Nets instead of virgin polyester: Instead of creating new polyester fabric (which is plastic – the same PET as plastic water bottles & chemically very intensive), which all non-recycled content swimwear is made from, we only use ECONYL yarn, made from upcycled ghost fishing lines. Each year, at least 640,000 tonnes of nets and other fishing gear goes overboard and never comes back, and if left to drift in our oceans, these nets create mile long death traps – 640,000 tons is equivalent to almost 2x the weight of the Empire State Building. Abandoned or ‘ghost’ fishing gear accounts for almost 50% of the plastic in our oceans and contributes greatly to micro-plastic pollution.

Organic cotton: Is grown and produced free from more than 100 harmful substances, including toxic heavy metals. Traditionally grown cotton is one of the most chemical and water intensive crops out there, so using organic cotton really does matter. The Okeo-Tex standard organic cotton we use is grown and produced by a collective of Indian cotton growers, who still utilize traditional bio-dynamic farming methods that are respectful of their traditions and the land. This is a completely biodegradable material.

Hemp: Is grown without use of chemicals & pesticides, and can also be grown quickly with very little water. Hemp is also incredibly durable and is also super soft, and becomes even more so the longer you wear it. Hemp is one of the softest and most comfortable fabrics around and looks great on. This is a completely biodegradable material.

Dead stock fabrics: Means less waste and less landfills. Every year, hundreds of thousands of yards of fabric go to waste from fashion houses and if this fabric goes unused, it can end up in landfills only to let off toxic emissions. 

From caring about polluted waterways to designing swimwear made out of discarded fishing nets, you seem to have a passion for our oceans. Where does this come from and how does it manifest in your life?

Yes that’s definitely true! Even though I did not grown up around the ocean, I have loved the ocean and everything that lives in it for as long as I can remember. I actually decided to launch Sage Larock swimwear after watching my friend Rob Stewart’s documentary ‘Sharkwater’ and also ‘Racing Extinction’ about the massive destruction we are causing to our life source – the ocean. I knew I had to do something – even if it was as small as making swimwear from upcycled gill nets and trying to help raise awareness – to help protect what I love the most. 

You recently dropped an activewear line (which we LOVE). How would you describe your design style?

Thank you so much! I launched our activewear collection in collaboration with my friend and business partner Anna Lundgaard. Our idea was to create a sustainable & ethically produced line (also made from upcycled ghost nets and non-toxic dyes) that empowers & celebrates women & our earth. We are driven by making the highest quality pieces available, that fit beautifully and feel great on, but that are not designed with ‘trends’ in mind, so they can be worn year after year. 

Tell us a bit about your different collabs with NGO.

We have partnered with key NGOs that we feel are really making an impactful difference such as HealthySeas.org & Ghost Divers, who are amazing at removing abandoned fishing gear form our oceans, and also NGO Canopy to ensure endangered forests are not logged to make rayon and viscose fabric for clothing. We are also really excited about an upcoming collaboration we have with Sea Shepherd, who’s work we admire so much. 

Lastly, what’s your top three tips on how to be a green eco-warrior?

I would say get educated about what’s going on and the impact of choices on you, other people, non-human animals, and our earth, make decisions that are in alignment with your principles and that are aligned with the world you want to live in, and most importantly know that you are so powerful – use the passions and gifts you have to make a difference for the lives of those around you, and inspire and uplift others.