Inspired by the romanticism of Australia’s meandering and secluded coast lines, our colour palette can be found where the grasslands meet the sea!
Spring has officially sprung and with that comes an increased desire to be out and about in the elements, enjoying the salt, sand, warm air and sunkissed days. Perhaps you’re like me and on the hunt for the most flattering and eye catching swimwear line- well, that ends here. Meet Peony swimwear, the Australian label named after the bloom that signals summer. They marry together classic shapes, dainty details and a romantic colour palette with sustainable fabrics. Peony’s commitment is to breaking down waste that would otherwise end up polluting our oceans and giving it new life. Think fishing nets, plastic bottles and more. Their capsule collections have graced many stores and for good reason. We must consider paying more for durability, innovation and the welfare of our bodies and the earth.
The processes of Rebecca Morton, founder of Peony swimwear, well and truly pave the way for more eco friendly practices in the fashion industry. All printed fabrics use Econyl, a regenerative nylon taken from landfill. Their inner lining is made from recycled content and packing is completely compostable and biodegradable. In short, regular nylon is made from non renewable petroleum oil which is a significant contributor to global warming. Recycled nylon differs from this because it is made by regenerating nylon goods that are already in existence, thus saving the earth’s resources and significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the fabric.
A lifelong love affair with the ocean gave peony its authenticity and purpose. Their thoughtful collection of swimwear is an essential for a sun drenched escape to paradise and they promise to inspire confidence and joy with each wear. A sense of timelessness exists within each collection, allowing pieces to become treasured mementos of summers gone by and to come. I’ve said it once and I will again- if I wasn’t so invested in my Interior Design course, I’d pursue a career in fashion design. There is something so rewarding about the process of bringing a vision you wholeheartedly believe in to fruition.
I collected my first timeless Peony piece a few years ago and officially became a part of their cult following. The La Boheme piped bikini in a ditsy floral paired with their high waisted belted bottoms. I prefer a one piece to a bikini so this proved the perfect opportunity to try a lesser coverage set whilst still maintaining modesty. I stayed super comfy that summer and enjoyed the hourglass figure look. I’m currently eyeing this new season’s citrus tie up one piece. I recently came across an interview with Rebecca Morton from Forbes Magazine and couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. Getting a behind the scenes and first hand account of her creative development was incredibly interesting and inspired me. Enjoy!
What was your first memory of fashion?
I remember drawing dresses with my grandmother when I was about six or seven. I would sketch the outlines and then colour them in with my beloved Derwent pencils. When you’d dip them into water, they’d turn into paint.
Tell us about your background!
I have always been passionate about fashion and design. Growing up I would sketch dresses in school books and on napkins at restaurants. I have no idea where my sense of creativity came from as my parents- a doctor and nurse- are the first to admit it didn’t come from them. Although I never met my great uncle, I am told he was a talented wedding dress designer so we often joke that it probably came from him.
After graduating high school, I wanted to go to design school in Sydney but my parents encouraged me to pursue a so called stable pathway, at least initially, as they felt I could chase my design dreams at a later date. In hindsight, I think they hoped I would forget about it! In two thousand and seven, I commenced a double degree in Law and Business, majoring in International Business and Marketing. I loved university and was particularly interested in Law as I adore the written word and working in the grey area.
During university, I completed practical legal training with a high profile criminal law firm and upon graduation, I was offered a full time role as a trainee solicitor. It was a prestigious firm and after five years of study I was eager to get out of university and into the workforce so I gladly accepted.
Although I loved studying law, I personally found legal practice quite unsatisfying and creatively stifling. After a few months, I felt a fire in my belly for something more and it didn’t take long for me to realise that it was time to pursue my dream of starting my own swimwear brand. Soon after that, I quit working at the law firm and began the daunting but exhilarating journey of starting peony.
It’s really hard to pinpoint the exact moment but I would say it was in my early teens. I would read fashion magazines like Vogue Australia and Harper’s Bazaar in my bedroom and I recall feeling that it was this magical new world I wanted to be a part of. I recall tearing out my favorite pages and blue tacking them to my bedroom wall or using them to cover my school books.
I would describe peony’s aesthetic as elevated, feminine and playful. We don’t take swimwear too seriously. When it comes to vacation, nothing compares to a few ruffles or the way pastel hues pop on sunkissed skin. There is always a sense of nostalgia, celebration, and frivolity within our designs.
We create our exclusive textile prints in house and we love experimenting with color and texture. Our unique design aesthetic comes through in the details-we are likely to embroider, ruche or add trims and texture to our pieces. We are inspired by the way an old swimsuit can instantly transport you back to a summer memory and we like to have fun with this sense of nostalgia when developing fabrics and designing shapes, irrespective of transient trends.
Who is your customer?
Over the last six years, we have grown with our customer and got to know her very well. We’re not just creating a product, we are creating a world that our girl is a part of. We listen to her, we connect with her and we grow with her. We have a very clear understanding of who she is because ultimately she is the reflection of our values and this genuine connection is what we strive to create.
I am the eldest of four girls and fortunate to come from a very loving family. My sisters and I grew up in South East Queensland, surrounded by some of the world’s most pristine beaches and where it’s summer nine months of the year. Growing up, we lived in our bikinis and school holidays consisted of family holidays to Byron Bay and Noosa. When I decided to pursue design, swimwear was a very natural choice. In fact, I don’t recall having any alternatives in mind. For me, there was a very warm sense of association as well as a thorough understanding of what a great swimsuit looked like.
I feel very emotionally connected to Wategos in Byron and Little Cove in Noosa. Growing up, my family holidayed here regularly and I have so many memories of my three sisters and I running from the beach to pool endlessly during summer holidays until our eyes were red, shoulders pink and hands shriveled.
In what ways do you feel that growing up and being based in Australia has impacted the way you view fashion production and the importance of the quality of raw materials used?
Growing up in Australia has given me a genuine love and respect for the natural world and an inherent desire to preserve and protect it. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, it is a constant source of inspiration and motivation as we pursue a more sustainable approach. I believe this shows through in everything that we do, from our attitude towards production to the fabrics that we choose for our collections.
Tell us about the process and the sustainability element!
Peony is pioneering sustainability in swimwear through our fabrications and processes. Our latest May collection, created in partnership with luxury retailer NET-A-PORTER is made entirely from sustainable fabrications. This means both the main fabric and the lining are made from recycled and sustainable content, something that truly sets peony apart. We are also introducing sustainable textured fabrications, which like our lining, have been developed in house by peony and are exclusive to our brand.
Your future strategy highlights an incredible goal of being completely sustainably produced by twenty twenty two. Are you able to tell us a bit about the contemporary tools and methods you use to measure sustainability in your fashion business?
We will soon commence a process called quantification. This process will measure our carbon footprint as a business and highlight how and where we can improve. Our goal is to become a carbon neutral business and this will involve minimising our environmental impact wherever we can and also purchasing offsets to negate the impacts that we cannot mitigate. We look forward to sharing more about this with our community as we progress through the process.
At Peony, you view the process of conscious creation as a journey. Are you able to tell us a bit about how the brand first began its shift towards sustainability?
After visiting suppliers and learning more about the impacts of the fashion industry on the environment, I felt compelled to make a dramatic shift within the brand. We started by introducing fabrics made from recycled content and ensuring we partnered only with SA8000 approved suppliers (this is the leading social certification standard for factories and organisations across the globe)
We then overhauled the packaging within our supply chain to be compostable and biodegradable. In terms of our fabrics, this is where we really push the boundaries of what is possible to create our own custom sustainable fabrications that are uncompromising on luxury. We refer to this process as a journey because as we progress down this path, we realise there is always more to learn, new ways to adapt and endless possibilities to evolve. We are not perfect, but we are committed to constant evolution and progress.
It’s extremely impressive to see how you made the jump from twenty six percent sustainable fabrications in twenty eighteen to completely sustainable fabrications in twenty nineteen! Could you share a bit about which sustainable materials you predominantly use, and why you chose them?
Thank you! It may look like it happened quickly but there was an incredible amount of work behind the scenes to make it happen. We started by introducing twenty six percent recycled fabrics into our swimwear collections and the percentage grew incrementally over the seasons. When we were unable to source our signature textured fabrics in a recycled content we realised that to continue our progress we needed to develop our own custom recycled fabrics in house- this is where the real challenges started. We worked tirelessly with our fabric suppliers to make this happen and finally in twenty nineteen we did.
Today, every single swimwear fabric we use is made from recycled content. This includes our custom textures, prints and even our inner linings. For example, our printed main fabrics are made from seventy eight percent econyl regenerated nylon (made by recycling post consumer goods such as abandoned fishing nets and carpets) and our custom luxe lining is made from ninety percent recycled content. In short, regular nylon is made from non-renewable petroleum oil which is a significant contributor to global warming. Recycled nylon differs from this because it is made by regenerating nylon goods that are already in existence, thus significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the fabric and saving the earth’s precious resources.
For our debut resort wear collection, our focus was on natural fibres such as Hemp, Linen and Organic Cotton and innovative new fabrics like Evovero Viscose. The fabrics were carefully selected based on their environmental impact and uncompromising luxury. We are most excited about our Petunia Crochet Pieces which are all knitted by hand, as opposed to machine knitted, which gives them the most dreamy and romantic appeal. The story is quite incredible. Our custom crochet yarn is made from a unique blend of recycled hemp and organic cotton. To make recycled hemp, “waste” yarn is collected from the floor of our garment supplier, cleaned, sorted and re-spun into recycled hemp yarn, which is then blended with organic cotton.
If you could choose one hero piece from your latest collection, which would it be? And how would you style it?
I would wear our Petunia Crochet Swing Top and Skirt as a set over the top of our Magnolia swimwear. I absolutely love the story of the crochet yarn and these pieces have the most dreamy handmade appeal. I recently took these samples to Europe on my honeymoon and it was the one thing I wanted to pick up and throw on every single day.
Who or what had the biggest impact on your career?
My parents have had the biggest impact upon my career, which is ironic in some ways given they were the most guarded about my decision to start a swimwear brand in the beginning. They have supported me every step of the way and they’re the first people I turn to for advice. I admire them both so much. My mum is passionate, hardworking and incredible with people. She has taught me how to lead with kindness and give to get the best of people. My Dad is my biggest rock and an eternal optimist- he’s someone who can find the silver lining in even the darkest of clouds and make you believe in it too. I think it all comes down to unwavering dedication and hard work, support from my family and friends and a bit of luck. My Dad says “the harder you work, the luckier you get” and I think there could be some truth in that.
I also think fortunate timing has played a big part in this journey so far too. In the early days, we rode the social media wave and sold product via our online store. I responded personally to all our customer enquiries and we build an incredible product through listening intently and being incredibly responsive to the needs and desires of our end customer. When we made the move to wholesale, we had ironed out most of the creases within our product and developed a loyal and driven customer base. In twenty seventeen we committed to taking business in a new direction and pursuing a more sustainable pathway. We invested significantly in developing our own custom sustainable fabrications. Our eco pioneering efforts have played an instrumental part in opening doors with the fashion world’s leading retailers. Net-a-Porter, Harrods, Selfridges, Browns Fashion, SAKS, Lane Crawford, LuisaViaRoma, Bloomingdales, FarFetch, Ballantynes and Maris Collective, Four Seasons Hotel’s Boutiques globally.