Natasha Tonic is a swimwear label that debuted as the final runway for Paraiso and featured in British Vogue. We are thrilled to learn more about the maker behind this hemp-made, sustainable swimwear line and carry this beautiful line of swimwear in our Svn Space store. Unless you're jumping in the pool naked or wearing your birthday suit at the beach, wearing Hemp made swimsuits stops any microplastics from entering our waterways. With the world on pause, it's an investment into our future and being part of the solution.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background and knowing your first name is Natasha, the brand “Natasha Tonic” sounds like a badass, alternative, progressive, new wave band for Millennials, any special meaning to your namesake?
I was waiting forever for someone to ask me that question and finally you did. Thank you! My real name is NATASHA (Nataša to be more precise) and my given last name is Antonić so I took just the TONIC part of it. When I was starting my brand, I wanted something that didn’t connect me with past or present. I wanted to see what my brand meant for the future. And for me a tonic is a water/potion that magically cures all illnesses and sorrows. It cleanses, it cools and is also another meaning for being cool or mint. I wanted my brand to be all of that.
But I also associate tonic as part of a drink you might have in the summer. Something you might have after a dip in the water while you work on your tan. Tonic is basically a lifestyle. Having fun while staying healthy, practical and kind to nature.
2. As our entire world is on pause, the silver linings are hearing about how the planet is healing yet many people are still not aware of the damage being done just in the clothes we are wearing. Why did you choose Hemp for your swimsuit line?
I always loved biology (molecular biology specifically) and was fascinated that fibers can be made out of plants. Hemp always stood out because it’s one of the strongest fibers. I knew that it grows fast, doesn’t need pesticides and uses very little water. It’s truly one of nature’s miracles. Throughout history it’s been used to make ropes for boats, so I knew it could withstand long term exposure to water.
But the main reason I wanted hemp swimwear was because I don’t like polyester or polyamide and I was shocked to find that the entire swimwear industry is almost 100% based on this fabric.
To me polyester is the worst thing you can put on your body. I mean, you’re essentially wearing plastic. Why would you do that to yourself and your skin? It releases toxic chemicals, especially in the warm sun – which is exactly when we wear our swimsuits! And as I started to research more about polyester, that’s when I discovered how much of a scourge microfiber pollution is to our environment from the 5Gyres organization. Microfiber pollution is when polyester releases toxic chemicals into the water through fibers that shed from our clothes. These microfibers go into the water anytime we wear polyester into the ocean or wash them. Once I heard this, there was no going back. The change was urgent – I needed naturally based swimwear for myself and others. I had to give people another option. I knew that good place is to start with women.
3. Your suits are made in the USA, why was this important to you? What are the advantages and/or challenges of being USA made?
Yes, my suits are 100% made in Los Angeles. With all the green washing and fake sustainability in this industry, I had to know that what I am doing is real and that I can stand behind my product. I need to be able to know everyone who is dying my fabric to make sure it is low impact dye. These things are easy to cheat on and nobody really tests it at the end of the day. They just test what the label says.
I can drive to my production and see what they are doing. I know that if there is any difficulty, I can show up within 30 min. I’ve worked with this factory since 2008. Long term relationships to me are also a part of slow sustainable fashion. It is about commitment and trust, not just who can give you the cheapest price.
Not being able to talk directly to someone I’m working with doesn’t sit right with me. I need to meet you at least once and speak to you eye to eye to know what you are all about. I cannot give claims that what I am doing is right unless I trust the people I work with beyond just a paper certificate that says you’re organic.
Producing locally reduces carbon emissions if you know how you transport your fabric and organize production. And having an electric car helps me do just that.
The negative part of producing in the US is that as a business owner it’s way riskier for me. Compared to producing abroad, it is simply way more expensive. I get offers on a daily basis to produce polyester swimwear in China, so I know how much money other swimwear companies can make going this route. This is why there is so much swimwear out there. People that produce swimwear for $1.50 per swimsuit, which includes fabric and sewing, don’t have the level of risk I have. They can put out a new product every week and don’t care whether it sells or not. I can only imagine how much stays unsold (whether it’s ECONIL recycled polyester or not) and pollutes our world. Let’s face it, how much of this will ever be recycled in the closed loop system that eco-warriors are promoting. Once again, we’re getting greenwashed so that we feel comfortable buying more.
So yes, even though for me it is expensive to make it here in the USA I do feel I make slower and thoughtful steps before I produce something. Also, people who work in US factories need to keep their jobs and feed their families. I’m happy to help them do that.
4. What are some of the features and benefits of using hemp fabric in your swimwear line? Could some of these benefits be the reason why you’re making Hemp Fabric face masks?
Using hemp for swimwear has many benefits
- It is naturally UV resistant, with no added chemicals to achieve that.
- It is breathable, so it’s way more comfortable to travel in and wear on a daily basis.
- It is antimicrobial, so it keeps you fresh.
- It dries fast but keeps some moisture so you can suntan longer if you want and not be too hot.
- It is durable, so it will last for a very long time.
- Machine washable and dryable. Not that I want to promote that, but it is. However, handwashing and drying in the shade inside out is my preferred method of cleaning.
- It doesn’t shed microfibers into the ocean and therefore doesn’t pollute our ecosystem with plastic threads.
During the pandemic I started to make hemp masks out of my scrap fabric because I felt an urgency to help people in immediate need. I wanted to have a useful purpose for my scrap fabric and this seemed like something that fit squarely within NATASHA TONIC’s ethos: saving lives out of scraps. I made my first mask for my son by hand out of scrap fabric I had at home when I was first quarantined. It was breathable, and I wanted to insert a coffee filter inside for extra protection. I imagined healthcare workers on the frontlines coming back home tired who had neither the time or energy to wash their masks. With hemp being antimicrobial, it can definitely help in this situation.
Now that masks are available worldwide I see it more as a fashion statement to go back with your swimsuit while it is breathable and protective. For each mask sold we made some for homeless women and families in need. In the future I will change that and rather give percentage of sales for food and other needs that I can communicate with homeless shelters.
5. How do you take care of hemp fabric, does it require any special care and are we making hemp fabric here in the USA?
Taking care of a hemp swimsuit is easier than taking care of a polyester one. Polyester melts in heat while hemp doesn’t. That means if you really need to you can dry it in a machine. I don’t suggest this because air drying is better and keeps fabric look fresh. If you have one of my swimsuits, I don’t suggest leaving it in harsh sun because it can damage the color. We recommend leaving it turned inside out in a shaded spot outdoors or indoors to dry.
The fabric for my swimwear is actually made in China. Production of hemp fabric doesn’t exist in the US unless somebody started doing it recently that I am unaware of. Hemp fabric production in the US was banned for many decades and the industry was killed. However, with new laws there are hopes that may change.
The person I buy fabric from in Los Angeles is partnered with a Chinese hemp fabric manufacturer. Again, one of the many good relationships I have with people I work with. They are certified fair trade and organic. I went deep with him to see photos of the fields and people involved in the process. It actually helps people in that area of the world to have money to live and feed their family. They are skillful masters of making hemp fabric. To get the level of quality and technique down in the US will take a while, but I am looking forward to it because growing hemp fields reduces CO2 and enriches soil.
6. Do you think more fashion houses, designers and ‘fast’ fashion companies will start to incorporate more sustainable fabrics into their collections?
Fast fashion companies have already started doing that. Unfortunately, they still cut corners and if they use sustainable fabric then they pay their workers less. And even if you do produce with sustainable fabric, if it’s fast fashion that gets thrown away you’re still damaging our planet. Quantity is their game, but all the energy that goes into producing something that will easily be discarded damages our ecosystem. They see this not as a way of life, but as a trend that they can use to make make more money. They’re putting profit over people and our planet.
Where I see change is in new generations that truly breathe sustainability and care for the future of our planet. They know if these old-school companies don’t change their ways, then life is going to be tragic. Just the other day, my son cried when we watched a show about the consequences of climate change. He is only seven years old. The way young kids fight for it can make a huge difference and hopefully soon!
7. Ok, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic (wish this were a made up scenario) where traveling, restaurants and life as we know it are all at a halt -- where is the first place you want to go, who’s going with you, what are you reading, eating and listening to? We already know what swimsuit you’re wearing ;)
Okay let's start dreaming. My favorite thing to do…
There are many places on my mind. First, I would love to visit my family by the sea in Croatia, but since we are just coming out of the pandemic that seems far and to risky, so I will save it for some other time.
My dream also includes my girlfriends and our kids. #1 place would be MEXICO!!!!! An eco-friendly resort like Playa Viva or something similar to that. Mexico never disappoints. I would eat avocados and tomatoes that are so fresh and grown from a local organic farm by a family with bunch of kids. Drink fresh mango juice in the morning and then slowly start mixing it with local mezcal and spices that are so great to lick from the edge of my glass. I would finish the day off by reading a book that my 99-year-old neighbor gave me to read during the pandemic HOWARD HUGHES HELL’S ANGEL by Darwin Porter. Music is the toughest choice. It will be based on the mood of our crowd. I would DJ for us old-school Daft Punk, remixes of Diana Ross songs, Poolside, Cafe Del Mar, Depeche Mode….or just classical music for that beautiful sunset.
Natasha Tonic Swimsuits are now available on Svn Space