Em Crawford and Olly Lewis are friends who first bonded over a love of good food and travel, and found that they also shared a passion for spending time at the beach and sustainable, ethical living. This then led to the idea for their business, a sustainable and ethically made swimwear label, Raw X Salt.
Hi girls; have you both always been Coffs Coast locals?
Em: Hey, hey! We are both true blue locals right now. But, it hasn’t always been that way. I was born and grew up in Bellingen.
Olly: I’m a little confused with my nationality, as I was born and grew up in Siberia (Russia), lived in Dubai (UAE) for over eight years, then for a little while in Nairobi (Kenya) and two years ago finally found my personal paradise here in Coffs Harbour.
Have you known each other for a long time?
Em: We met two years ago at church.
Olly: Em was one of the first people I met moving to Coffs, and it was almost instant friendship after the discovery of our mutual love for Mexican food and travelling.
When did the idea for Raw X Salt begin to take shape?
Em: As mentioned, our favourite thing after food (and our husbands) is travel. I have a little boy, Phoenix, so we went travelling together with our husbands and Phoenix to Singapore and Vietnam. We had the best time while eating our way through Asia! But it was down at the beach in Vietnam where we saw a lot of plastics littering the shore, and our business idea was born.
Do you both have a background in fashion/swimwear design?
Em: Yes and no. I had worked as a model in the fashion industry for many years and travelled around the world seeing the industry from that perspective.
Olly: I had worked as a cabin crew for Emirates Airline and was more of an observer of fashion globally for a number of years. We both worked for a successful fashion brand here in Coffs and learned the back stage part of what it takes to run a business firsthand.
Why swimwear in particular?
Living in this part of NSW, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to pristine, uncrowded beaches, rivers and waterfalls. It’s a part of our Australian culture to spend lots and lots of time at the beach. There is nothing better than salty skin, messy hair and sandy toes. We think that if you’re wearing shoes – you’re already overdressed.
What do you think is the most important thing to consider when designing a swimwear range for women?
Being kind to the environment and being kind to ourselves. These two are more connected than you would think. We’ve got to be more loving and accepting of who we are and the skin we’re in to be conscious of our environment and other people.
What was the motivation for you guys to make your label an eco-friendly sustainable brand?
“Eco-friendly” is definitely a term that gets thrown around these days. It’s important to really dig deep and understand what it really entails, spanning from the fabric that your clothing is made from, to the factories where the clothing is made. It includes the way the fabrics are dyed, how the wastewater for the factory is handled (ensuring it’s treated and not polluting the environment), are the factory workers safe and getting paid a fair wage, is your clothing high quality, or does it fall apart after a few wears, is the packaging it comes in biodegradable or recyclable?
We knew we wanted to do things better. We did not want to do things the easy way. We wanted to bring value on more levels than just “business sense”.
We also think it’s almost a prerequisite for any new fashion brands to be mindful of how they are going to impact the environment and how the garments were made. There are many brands that create beautiful products, but there are way less of those who do this with the cost towards the planet and people in mind. There is a quote that nothing is really free or cheap in fashion; someone somewhere is always paying for it – be it the planet or people. This resonates with us on so many levels.
Can you explain to us what makes your label sustainable?
It’s a holistic approach. We use only innovative fabrics that literally turn waste into wealth: ocean retrieved fishing nets, old carpet scraps, pre-post consumer waste that would otherwise end up in landfills or harm our oceans, is regenerated and turned into beautiful regenerated fibres. We are very thankful to be living in the time and age where technology makes this possible.
There is a lot of devastation, damage and heartbreak that human consumption brings, but we’ve got to use this as a fire in our bellies to act. As our business mentor, Emily Cooper from Novel Creative says: look to the stars, carve out the dust. We also only engage with ethical manufacturing, making sure those who create our garments are taken care of. When it comes to shipping, we use compostable satchels and a carbon-neutral courier. Even our business cards are made out of recycled fashion waste and old T-shirts. In everything we do, we try to keep the main thing; the main thing, for us, is creating something beautiful with other people and our planet in mind.
Did it take a lot of extra research to find the right manufacturers and suppliers to suit your brand’s ideals?
Yes, but it was time worth spending. It was slow and sometimes frustrating in the beginning, because we live in a fast world, but we always believed that things that are foundational will pay off eventually. At the end of the day, we would rather take time and do things slowly, but do it well.
Have you both always had an interest in the environment and ethical/sustainable resources? Or, is this something that you’ve become more conscious of in recent times?
We have always appreciated the beauty of the world around us, and maybe this is why we are such avid travellers. We are definitely becoming more and more aware of ethical and environmental aspects around us as we go, but it all started at making a commitment to simply recycle our rubbish and pick up plastic at the beach. We do have the best support in our husbands, who are passionate about people and the planet too, and the four of us can have endless discussions about how we should leave this world better than we found it. We are very lucky to live on the beautiful Coffs Coast, which is on the front foot with its environmental awareness. We never would say that we are perfect though; it’s all about learning how to do things better today than we did yesterday, loving people, the planet and going for salty dips every time we get a chance. Preferably twice daily.