Candice Swanepoel knows a thing or twenty about the swimsuit industry, so it makes sense that her first major foray into the business world would be in the form of a swimsuit line. But Tropic of C isn’t some celebrity vanity project. The Daily caught up with Candice to find out what makes her swim line so wonderfully different.
You launched your swimwear brand, Tropic of C, earlier this year and now you’re getting ready to launch your second collection. What has changed in that time?
The first collection I stuck with a lot of one-pieces because I wanted to differentiate from other swim brands and because I’m known for bikinis, I wanted to just start off with something a little bit more fashion. And then for the resort collection, obviously we get a lot of direct feedback through Instagram — what people are liking — so we kept some of the silhouettes that people were loving and just changed up the colors. So resort is all those desert-y nudes and earthy colors and then Spring gets a little bit more colorful. We recently started doing knits too, which I’m excited about. They have good stretch but they’re just a different take on swim.
You also seem to be working really hard to make your brand as ecologically responsible and ethical as possible. Was that always the plan or is it something that has evolved over time?
In general, with everything I do, I like to try my best to be as ethical as possible. Obviously it’s hard to be 100 percent, especially in the swim industry because it’s not known as an ethical industry. I started with the packaging because nowadays, with Instagram and everything, we get sent a lot of clothing and opening bags and bags of plastic — things wrapped twice over — it’s upsetting. So I started with the packaging which is 100 percent eco [100 percent recycled paper hang tags, ‘tree-free’ stone paper packaging, and biodegradable plastic garment bags]. Then someone told me about this brand that creates [eco-friendly] fabrics. We started researching which ones are good and then they started sending us a bunch and the quality was amazing.
In the first collection, everything that was black and white was made from this Econyl bi-elastic techno fabric, which they make from old fishing nets so you’re not producing more [petroleum-based synthetic materials]. And this season, they made us this suede fabric that’s got a different feeling. It’s really delicious, actually.
These feel incredible. And they don’t feel like swimsuits, especially these knit pieces.
The knit it not made of the same fabric. That’s why I’m very careful not to say that our brand is fully eco. We are trying out best as a company, but swim is difficult. But we’re going to get there one day.
Why is swim particularly difficult?
Because of the fabrics. Because of the nylon. The fabrics you need for swimming, for it to dry quickly and for it to work as a swimsuit are all synthetic. But at least we’re trying hard not to produce more [synthetics]. Right now we’re using about 70 percent recycled materials and still researching. A lot of the fabrics actually work better than new fabrics we sourced so it’s not like we are giving anything up.
That’s interesting. Are these recycled materials more expensive?
No, it’s not more expensive. It’s just about doing more research. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I definitely want to be proud of my brand and for it to grow in a way that I can feel good about.
Where do you think your love and concern for the environment comes from?
Growing up [in South Africa] with such an extreme level of nature, seeing these amazing creatures and just the smells and everything, I think that definitely played a big part. I can’t wait to go back to South Africa, actually. I’m going in December. I’m taking my boys. They’re going see like lions and everything for the first time!
Where do you see your brand 10 years from now?
It’s hard to say. I would love to make it into a lifestyle brand and constitute to incorporate new elements and learn new things. I’ve already learned so much just being on the back end of the business.
Do you want to become a mogul or transition into acting or anything like that? I mean, obviously, if you wanted to, you could probably keep modeling for the next 30 years or more.
I don’t know about that.
I have probably another 10 years in me if I take care of myself.
It’s a more demanding job than a lot of people realize.
Funnily enough, I’m actually quite a shy person. Obviously, my job requires me to do a lot of out-there things, but it’s definitely a sort of persona that I put on to help me kind of come out of my shell. I don’t know if I would go into TV or anything like that. I just wanted to have a brand and a creative outlet and make nice things that people enjoy and feel good in.