Not only is she one of the most sought-after models in the world, Candice Swanepoel also has a burgeoning empire on her hands with her eco-lifestyle brand Tropic of C. She tells the Daily how the line is growing, what she’s learned since becoming a businesswoman, and why it was important to her to be a swimsuit brand with a purpose.
What’s new with Tropic of C?
There are so many beautiful pieces we’ve added, along with our core styles, which are classics and keep selling well. We added a movement category and recently clothing, so we’ve continued to grow and reach so many beautiful customers all over the globe.
You’ve had the line since 2018. How has it evolved?
It has been growing at a rate I never could have expected. We’ve had some growing pains along the way, as all businesses do, finding the right employees and how to handle the demand and deadlines, but it’s all part of the process, and it’s a good problem to have. I’m constantly brainstorming the next collection for TOC. It’s always challenging and exciting as I put a lot of heart into it.
What have you learned about yourself along the way?
I’ve learned how important it is to stay true to my style and what I believe is beautiful. There can be many different influences and distractions these days. It’s important to stay true to the DNA of the brand. It’s also important for me creatively to have moments to myself where I can let my creativity flow and find new inspiration as we’re constantly making new collections and supplying the demand. When I started this company I knew nothing about business. I’ve enjoyed stepping into my entrepreneurial power.
How would you describe the aesthetic of the brand?
Tropic of C is a brand for a conscious consumer. The general style is inspired by classic shapes and simplicity. These are pieces you can have for a long time, and they never go out of style. I imagine the Tropic of C girl to be an adventurous woman who likes to look chic and feel good on whatever adventure she’s on. I pay close attention to both quality and fit. I think my experience modeling and making a living by making some not-so-beautiful clothing look good has helped me design pieces that do the opposite; they help make you look good.
You’re involved in every aspect of the business, from design to marketing. What’s your favorite part of the process?
My favorite part of running Tropic of C is the creative side, for sure. I love designing and finding new fabrics and colors, art-directing the shoots, and perfecting postproduction and marketing. I want the customer to feel a part of my tropical fantasies, to feel something more than just shopping. I want to transport the consumer into the Tropic of C world and almost feel the sun and elements that inspire me so much. My process is that I design with the location and feel of the collection in mind. I envision what environment the pieces will look best in and make the collection come to life.
Does the C in Tropic of C stand for Candice?
The C is for Capricorn or Cancer—the latitudes. I’ve always been ruled by the sun; it inspires me with its incredible colorful sunrises and sunsets and the ability to create life and growth. The sun makes me happy and is also the only way to be in a bikini all the time, which is when I’m happiest, so it made sense. It was a name for the place in my mind that is TOC, where summer never ends. But it can also be for Candice if you like!
How would you still like to see the brand grow?
I would love to keep adding categories and collaborate with other like-minded brands that I respect. I’m just happy to be reaching so many different countries and beautiful customers around the world who continually come back because they love what we do. It says a lot.
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Why was it important be a brand with a purpose, and who have you partnered with over the years to achieve this goal?
It was important for me to have the sustainable aspect as I truly care and am inspired by nature. I think you can see that in most of the projects I do. For me, it’s about building something with integrity. It was never just about selling a product for me, and I believe if you try your best to give back in some way that life will be good to you. I guess it was about being proud of my business but also being able to sleep at night knowing I’m not doing more damage to the thing that inspires me most. We have partnered with amazing organizations in Peru and Africa that give work and power to women who need it. We’re continually finding new sustainable fabrics and methods to create our products and packaging. Some of the first companies we found, like Econyl and Repreve, were pioneering these methods at the time I started the company, and now many more like them are popping up with new technologies and ways of reducing the environmental impact.
What are some examples of the brand being sustainable?
There are different sustainable fabrics we use. Most are made by regenerated nylon fiber made from recycled materials like fishing nets, fabric scraps, and industrial plastics rescued from landfills and oceans all over the world. The liners, hand tags, and packaging were carefully picked to be 100 percent renewable and biodegradable.
Where do you find inspiration when designing for the line?
I find inspiration everywhere! It could be a woman on the street; it could be the shape of a leaf or flower. Culture and attitudes influence me, too—African culture and its beautiful prints and colors. Vintage fashion also inspires the shapes of my designs. I’m someone who sees beauty in everything and everyone, even in the most simple day-to-day moments that most people may not even pay attention to.
How does it feel to see other women wearing the brand?
It’s the most gratifying part of it all. To see women.feeling empowered and beautiful and enjoying their lives in my pieces makes me happy, knowing all that hard work is paying off.
Tell us a little bit about the team behind Tropic of C.
Our office is based in New York. My incredible partner holds down the fort while I sometimes work remotely when traveling and shooting. One of my oldest and dearest friends handles our wholesale. She’s based in London, and we have wonderful creative women collaborating on our marketing and digital, helping my vision come to life. There’s also our business team, which works remotely tracking our progress and setting goals. The TOC team is still quite small considering, and it’s mostly working mothers. I’m very particular about the energy we allow into our little tropical bubble.
You live in Miami now! What do you love about the area?
I loved living in New York; I lived there for almost 14 years, so I really got the best out of it, but being able to swim in the ocean year-round is a huge plus for me. I thrive in a tropical place! It’s also somewhere I don’t need to wear shoes. Miami is close enough for me to be productive in New York when I need to be. But the main reason I live in Miami is that my children love the open spaces and water. It’s a lovely balance for me.
Now that you’re a local, what’s your favorite restaurant in Miami?
I love Mandolin Bistro. It’s the most amazing Greek food, and the place is outdoors and feels like Europe. Good luck getting a reservation!
We hear that you’re working with the Route app. What appealed to you about it?
Tropic of C has benefited greatly since we started using Route. It’s an amazing service to our TOC customers that provides protection in case packages are lost in the mail. Route has a unique approach to online shopping, rethinking the consumer experience from discovery of brands to delivery of products. We’re also launching our black and white capsule collection with Route during Basel.
The holidays are coming up. What’s on your wish list this year?
To take a week or two to block out a lot of the constant noise. I definitely need some time to recharge my batteries. This past year has been quite intense for everyone, and life seems to be back on full speed ahead. It’s important not to forget the lessons we learned through the pandemic. I’d love to go somewhere beautiful in nature and just be. Finding balance and peace is an important part of being able to handle and juggle everything in my life.
What’s something you really don’t want or need this year?
Drama, fake people in my life, or unnecessary stress.
What do you typically do during the holidays?
Go somewhere that inspires me or calms me, usually a place that is rich naturally, like Africa, Brazil, or Costa Rica. I enjoy watching my children be with my family and make memories
What are you looking forward to in 2022?
I’d like to continue seeing my business flourish and whatever interesting, exciting things that may come my way. I’m very much an “in the moment” type of person. I’m extremely present, so I don’t really stop and think about the future unless I’m forced to. Life is all about learning and evolving, so I’m looking forward to what lessons 2022 has in store for me, both professionally and personally.
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