Through the icy cobbled Berlin streets I rode to meet Mel – a poised but passionate Mauritian woman who sews swimwear out of sustainable fabric. When I think of all the times I met with Mel, I recall her looking out of place in Berlin; she exudes island energy and adorns her tanned skin with a palette of earthy-toned fabrics.
As we left the tapas restaurant where we had shared ideas, dinner and wine, I asked her, ‘How are my swimmers coming along?’ I had been taken with her designs and concept since we first met.
‘They’re nearly finished. When do you go to India?’
‘You’ll want them before then! I just need to sew one hem. What time do you leave your place tomorrow?’
‘Ok, I’ll finish them now and drop them over in the morning.’
At 6:55am the next day, all packed and full of anticipation, I waited by the door. In rolled Mel on her bike, looking as fresh as a pineapple. She handed me a parcel wrapped up in brown string.
‘Here you go! I hope they fit nicely,’ she said proudly, ‘I gotta rush now to yoga. Kisses!’
Pulling on my new swimmers for the first time, knowing that my favourite tropical woman had designed and created them, gave me a far better, longer-lasting feeling than the cheap thrill that fast fashion had ever brought.
A few years ago, towards the end of Mel’s fashion studies in Melbourne, she rekindled her love for swimming. ‘It was nothing surprising, getting back into it—’ she explains, ‘being born on the beach, swimming in salt water, feeling it glide over my skin was always absolute pleasure. The only thing that bothered me was that I couldn’t find comfortable, beautiful swimwear that I could use for running and then jumping into the water. This is how WET was created.’ Mel then started to sew colourful, clean-lined two-piece swimwear for herself and friends.
She soon began receiving orders.
Mel soon moved to Berlin and was surprised by its slow pace; she could work less and have more free time to consume wisely. ‘In Berlin, I started living simply, and the city inspired me to change my consumer behaviour. This new way of living motivated me to create my swimwear with a sustainable fabric.’ It was very hard for Mel to get her clever hands on a sustainable fabric, since often only big companies have access to it. After months of research, Mel was able to order fabric from Carvico, an Italian brand that offers sustainable techno-fabric made from post-consumer materials.
‘From the fabric to the final product, there is such a long process before it gets to you: energy, pollution and humans being abused in terrible conditions. How is it then that the end product can be 3€?’
Being raised on the island of Mauritius, Mel’s passion for sustainable design comes from a love for nature, humans and creativity. With an imbedded respect for the earth and a desire to be self-employed, she supports like-minded people who can live from the money made by the things they create. ‘Then it is not just big companies getting all the money. Only what we need is made and consumed with less impact on the earth: more handmade products and less waste!’
Mel follows and supports other labels like her own: labels created by women who make beautiful things in their own sustainable way. These include Bedroom, Sister Studio, Paloma Wool, LRNCE and Zazi Vintage. ‘I try my best to live in a sustainable way so naturally, I also try to create with less impact. Consuming and producing are as important as each other. You always find alternative ways if you think about it.’
Take a look at WET the label.
Feature image by Sydney Nwakanma.