Minty Magazine is proud to support small businesses that are committed to sustainable manufacturing practices. Olga Valentine is doing just that, designing sustainable swimwear from recycled fabrics. Aussie owned and designed, the swimwear is manufactured ethically in Bali. Featuring stunning prints, the detail is exceptional and the designs are as unique as they are beautiful. We chat with Natasha, mother of 3 and Founder of Olga Valentine about her design process, her inspiration and her favourite pieces from the new collection.
Tell us about Olga Valentine Swimwear, when did you launch and what was your inspiration?
‘I launched Olga Valentine officially in 2016. Before that, I was just playing around and selling to friends and friends-of-friends. We moved to Bali in 2014 which is where it all began because I had a lot more free time in Bali (than I did as a mum in Sydney). I was able to be creative again and have the time to start a business. I had 3 young kids swimming every day and I was finding that their swimmers just didn’t last. At that time in Bali you couldn’t get decent swimwear for kids so I decided to buy fabrics and get them made because Bali has so many amazing tailors.’
What philosophies and values underpin Olga Valentine?
‘As a family we have always been considerate to the environment and sending my kids to the Green School in Bali influenced my choice to make Olga Valentine as sustainable as possible. We use fabrics made from recycled plastic waste for all our swimwear and board shorts. Our printer in Bali uses dyes that don’t harm the earth. All our packaging is compostable including our postage bags. Though there is still room for improvement, I know we are not perfect but we are doing our best.’
Tell us a little bit about your design style and aesthetic?
‘I design for boys and girls from size 1 to 14 and last year, I introduced a teen line for girls aged 12 to 16. Our designs and prints are probably a little more sophisticated than your regular swim brands, but they are still kid friendly and fun. The designs and prints are classic and timeless and won’t date.’
Can you tell us about the fabrics you choose for your range?
‘After seeing the amazing quality, it was a simple choice for us to use recycled fabrics made from plastic waste. If we could make the slightest difference getting plastic out of the ocean and landfills and making them into beautiful swimwear, it was a no brainer. We have been using 2 different recycled fabrics that are amazingly soft. We just introduced a new one this year that has a little more stretch, however they are both fantastic fabrics. Incredibly, they are also UPF 50+ offering excellent sun protection. We know how important it is to be sun safe and they are chlorine resistant too. For our beachwear we use natural fibres of lovely soft cottons and silk. It’s so nice to wear during our hot summers!’
How important is it to you to maintain ethical practices within your business?
‘Fortunately whilst living in Bali for the first 5 years of the business I was able to be very hands-on and got to know my staff and their families. It’s been pretty tough for my factory over the last couple of years, as they lost so many accounts. Now I’m the only one left, so I feel my little business supports our Bali family. Before I left Bali, I hired a production manager who has been fantastic, especially because I haven’t been able to visit Bali for close to 2 years now. It’s very important for my staff to be happy and have good working conditions so some of the sewers work from home, they choose their hours and can spend more time with their families which is wonderful.’
Take us through some of your favourite pieces from the latest collection, Ibu Ibu
‘The Ibu Ibu collection is all about my love affair with Bali. It’s a reminder of all the tropical beauty of Bali and its people. ‘Ibu Ibu’ means mother and it’s also an honorific title when we address women in the Indonesian language. My favourite is the Tank Top Bikini (pictured) from this collection. The main print depicts beautiful Balinese women on the rice paddies carrying ceremonial offerings which is very symbolic of Bali. There is so much detail in this piece. A batik print is on the bottoms and a gorgeous lotus frill on the neckline. I do love the matching silk/cotton Kimono that looks gorgeous with any of the Ibu Ibu collection.’
What is the most rewarding part of running Olga Valentine?
‘I don’t think I can say there is one most rewarding thing about running Olga Valentine. I feel very lucky to have started my own business, I love designing beautiful prints and swimwear and get very excited when the collections come together. I put a lot of love and hard work into my business, it hasn’t been an easy road. I’m still learning, I have meant some amazing people who believe in Olga Valentine and are helping expand the business. I have tons of gratitude towards them, it makes me think that I am doing the right thing!’
What can we look forward to in the future from Olga Valentine?
‘Our customers have been asking us for mum/dads matching swimwear so there might be an opening for that sometime in the future. We have a few new ideas but you’ll just have to wait and see! For now, our main mission is to keep making beautiful sustainable swimwear!’