On the hunt for a new swimsuit for summer? We are excited to introduce you to sustainable swimwear brand, Zonarch, and their Founder Genevieve Andre de la Porte in this Q&A interview:
What led you to start Zonarch?
I launched Zonarch to fill the gap in the swimwear market. After years of working in the industry, I saw first-hand that swimwear, as a category, has historically been priced disproportionately high in relation to the cost and quality of production. I felt passionately about starting a brand that not only takes an honest and ethical approach to luxury swim but also offers premium quality at a relaxed price point. It took me 4 years to get it right!
How is Zonarch sustainable?
Zonarch is committed to and responsible for reducing the burden on our planet. We want to bring forth positive change through a more conscious business model within the fashion industry. One that unites the community, celebrates quality craftsmanship, pushes for innovative sustainable design as well as transparency and fairness throughout our supply chain.
We operate under a Triple Bottom Line business philosophy, where success is not only measured financially, but is also based on social and environmental impact. Our aspirations are to provide win-win solutions that help support artisans, reuse landfill waste, promote regenerative farming and help our customers find their unique version of a life well-lived.
Zonarch is part of the prAna Responsible Packaging Movement, which aims to reinvent the way we collectively package and ship in order to reduce plastic, paper waste and carbon footprint. At Zonarch, we have reached our initial goal to launch the brand with a zero plastic policy. Meaning, there are no plastic or recycled plastic components in our packaging, shipping, and handling. Our secondary goal is to ensure all paper packaging is sustainably sourced from regenerative or recycled paper. Furthermore, we are progressing on our goal to become a Certified B-Corp and continue Fair Trade Certifications across our supply chain.
How is Zonarch different from other swimwear brands?
Most importantly, at Zonarch transparency is our guiding principle. While most brands thrive off of keeping their true costs and business profitability margins a secret, we believe our customers should know where the value of their purchase comes from by lifting the curtain and showing exact breakdowns of our production costs and margins vs. retail price.
To that point, we offer our premium goods at about 40-50% less than competitors.
We also allocate more time, money and resources to perfect the fit of our swimwear. For example, during the fitting process we utilize fit models in each size ranging from XS-XL. This allows us to have integrity in our fit and size range. All brands vary with their grading + sizing rules, so it’s best to first read through our helpful Size Guide.
All of our designs are intended to bring you mentally to the Mediterranean, surrounded by elegant, relaxed, well-lived people. Zonarch helps transport you to an alternate state of mind, even in your day-to-day life, through our slow content and thoughtful conversations. The muse who informs our products is a global soul and has a sense of harmony. She divides her time between urban cities that fuel her independence, and the beaches she longs for to reconnect with her free-spirit and creativity. There is strong brand storytelling which has not been done for a swimwear brand.
Will you walk us through your design process?
My favorite part! I consider it an honor to create garments that make women feel beautiful in their own skin. Swimwear is an intimate, therefore technical category to create. Form must meet functional and attention to detail is what will make or break a design.
Everything starts with a philosophical concept, a specific feeling found in nature, art, music, literature, film, or observing people live.
From there I’ll translate the inspiration into hundreds of ideas: colors, textures, shapes, designs. To take these ideas and edit them down to a cohesive collection requires a sharp eye and merchandising skills. Once I have selected the pieces to sample and develop we’ll go into the atelier and start the process. This is where we make the pattern pieces and our fit samples.
Once fittings start, there are usually a few rounds of fit edits before we can move onto the technical part of creating tech packs and grading the pieces.
This is where Zonarch adds an extra step – we make fit samples of each design on models of all sizes offered in our collection. Sometimes we need to make changes and continue this process until we approve the final fit.
Meanwhile we are sourcing all fabrics, trims and finishings for the production run.
The final step is production where I’m very hands-on in the factory ensuring the product quality for our customers.
What inspires you?
As mentioned above, my design process personally starts with a philosophical idea. I think about the proposition and point of view of the story being told.
Often it is art and music that help set the energy for the collection. I love being exposed to different ways of living, how we express ourselves and what people consider to be a rich and well-lived life. I design products that are part of the story being told. Ideas flow freely from there.
Will you tell us about the fit of Zonarch suits?
We allocate a lot of time, money and resources to perfect the fit of our swimwear. Through the sampling process we include models in each size range XS-XL to fit every piece. This allows us to truly stand by the fit and size range we offer with confidence and help every customer find the perfect swimwear.
Our customers are looking for pieces that have an elevated yet effortless sensibility to them. I like bringing in nostalgic elements and interpreting them into a modern, yet classic design. The line is meant to be wearable yet expressive when styled with your unique approach.
How did you decide it was time to leave your full-time job to start Zonarch?
In September 2019, I left my corporate job after my manufacturers told me that in order to launch Zonarch by 2020, I had to dedicate my time to the process of development. I gave myself a 6-month timeline to launch, March 2020 was my goal. I had been building out Zonarch’s brand, operations, IP, and e-comm during nights and weekends for the last 3 years. In March the world shut down and our launch got delayed by 9 months.
Do you have any advice you can share with entrepreneurs?
- Invest in marketing prior to and during launch with your time, team, creativity and budget.
- Experience the world in ways that give you new eyes. It makes even old sights become new.
- The nicher you go, the quicker you grow. Find the first 1,000 customers who LOVE you. Create a connection with them and it will grow from there. Using musicians as a metaphor, don’t worry about which size venue you sell out. Play to express your craft and give your audience an experience.
How did you choose the name, Zonarch?
“ZON” is “sun” in my native language, “ARCH” represents curves in architecture and design. To me, this is about the story of our human curves under the sun.
Do you have inclusive sizing?
As a brand that values diversity as a core pillar, we aim to create products that fit a wide range of different body shapes and sizes. Our current sizing comfortably fits a US size 0-14 and up to an E cup size.
We are working on expanding our sizes up to 3XL for our upcoming Summer 2023 collection
Will you tell us about the fabric? We love it, and it feels very high-quality!
- Thank you! Our core swimwear fabric had to have a premium look, feel and function. Our fabrication is soft to the touch, matte in finish and feels supportive yet comfortable on the body. In our swimwear program, 100% of the fabrics used are GRS certified recycled nylon created from post-consumer waste. This waste is diverted from landfills and instead, regenerated and processed back to its original form ready to be woven into new fabric. Where traditional virgin nylon is not biodegradable, our Regenerated Nylon is infinitely recyclable and carries its integrity through the lifecycle made possible through this process. We pay a 20-40% premium for these recyclable fabrics. Estimates claim that by using Regenerated Nylon, greenhouse gas emissions and energy requirements were cut by 50%.
- Requiring far fewer chemical inputs than cotton and little to no irrigation, linen, made from flax, is by nature a more environmental fabric than most. Organic linen: Boasting all of the same benefits as conventional linen, organic linen has the added benefit that the seeds, sprouts, and soil are spared from the use of fungicides and pesticides. Breathable, lightweight and slightly textured, linen softens with time and wear.
- Made with 100% organic cotton yarn, STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®. Starting from untreated, natural seeds, organic cotton is grown without synthetic fertilizers. Organic cotton crop rotation and composting maintain the health of naturally moist soil by creating a biodiverse, balanced ecosystem. As a result, organic cotton plants are more resistant to pests and disease eliminates the need for the use of pesticides which are often suspected to be carcinogenic or neurotoxic. As a result of the cleaner growing process, farm workers are afforded a healthier work environment and the resulting uncontaminated plant waste can be used for other purposes.
Does Zonarch give back?
We are so proud to support the work of organizations fighting to protect nature and human rights. We give back 3% of our yearly revenue to the following carefully vetted partners: 1% For The Planet, Room To Read, and Dirt.
What’s next for you?
In June we’ll be launching our new collection which will include some of our best-selling products reimagined, as well as new designs all together! We are planning pop-ups and community activations throughout this summer as well.
Where can people find you?
Alison + Delia