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Designing #BodyPosi Activewear with SixtyNinety

For a while now it has seemed that the Venn diagram of fitness fans and body positivity supporters have shared a slim middle ground. Finding our way in the new wave of feminism brings up questions about what female-identifying people should deserve and demand in all aspects of life. Swimwear is a sore spot for many; from a young age our culture does a lot to cultivate anxiety about our physical appearance, and many industries depend on our insecurities, such as weight loss products whose slogans ask us disparagingly whether we’re really “beach body ready”. In a utopia, we’d all be free to dress how we want, and treat our bodies as well as we can, especially in the summer months. Luckily, SixtyNinety, an ethically produced, eco-friendly activewear brand, offers us a little slice of heaven.

SixtyNinety is the result of two best friends from Brazil, Daniela and Aline, combining their backgrounds in media, sports, fashion, and business, to produce a sustainable, flattering, and simple range of gorgeous swimwear and gym-wear. Designed with the soul intention of making life easier and more enjoyable for everyone who wants to show some skin, SixtyNinety pride themselves on marrying fitness finesse with self-love, and have been praised as creators of “the best swimsuit” by Glamour.

We spoke with Daniela, one half of the designer duo, to find out more about the process of starting a brand, the culture of beauty in Brazil, and what it means to her to be body positive…

Debut: First thing’s first, what does the name SixtyNinety mean?
Daniela: It actually came from these numbers that were meant to be “ideal” for women; sixty regarding weight, ninety for hip measurements. We started the brand by looking at those outdated standards and really just wanted overcome those measurements – reject sixty and ninety!

That’s so cool! Growing up in Brazil which is known for its beauty standards, what did the fashion and fitness industries represent to you?
I think mainly the way we shopped for swimwear is very different, it’s comparable to shopping for gym wear in America. You know there’s a very big range for you, and that’s something you don’t have in England. In Brazil, people would regularly spend a lot of money and time finding swimwear that fits, which I always found funny because it’s when you’re the least covered! Mainly, I think Brazil normalised that, but it’s easy over here in England to think you’d not like swimwear, or that it’s not for you just because there isn’t a welcoming enough range.

What makes SixtyNinety different?
I think it’s a lot down to the cut, first of all. We took a bikini, and removed all of the unnecessary complications, and simplified it to just the essential cuts that hold the bikini together and worked from there to flatter a body. Because it’s simple, it fits really well. We’re also different from fast fashion because we’re the first to use the first biodegradable lycra in the world! Usually fabrics like that take decades to degrade in a landfill. We’re produced sustainably.

Was it always your plan to end up directors of your own brand?
I think it was just natural progression – a year ago we were selling other brands, and myself and Aline decided eventually to do our own collection and see how it went together.

Which path did you take to get to where you are?
I came from the media sector, and I worked with MMA kickboxing, working on producing everything that went on TV for three years. In a way I’ve always been around marketing and media, and now I’m finally on the creative side of things. Aline is the one who studied business, so she learned the expertise for that side of the company!

How has your experience of entrepreneurship been, so far?
Well, (laughs) a whole lot of stories! Some days it’s really good and you think everything’s working, and then there are other days when it’s like “oh my god, this is awful”. The changes are something you do really appreciate, though, it’s never like “ugh, Monday again, I hate the office”. You learn a lot all the time, and it can be surprising. It’s like having a kid in that it’s with you  24/7, and you never get to switch off which can be a blessing and a curse.

How is it co-running a business? Do you ever have to navigate disagreements?
It’s funny because Aline and I are best friends, and when we launched the business everyone rushed to say “don’t do that, its gonna ruin your friendship, don’t do it!” I don’t remember one person being supportive! Actually it’s been the best experience, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her. We’re both very hands-on and whether it’s taking baggage to pop-ups or whatever, it’s really good to have someone you can trust in terms of work ethics too – it happens a lot that the other person is not as involved. We only ever have a hard time because we’re so similar, when it comes to collections we always agree, so we need a third pair of eyes sometimes!

Is there anything that surprised you about starting your own brand?
Oh yeah, oh my god! When you start, you think “ok, I’m gonna start a brand”, you know all the miles you have to go, you have to make content and so on, but there’s just no formula! The surprise is really the learning-on-the-go kind of thing. For me one of the hardest things is production, it takes a lot of time and you have to trust people and deal with the fact that sometimes they won’t always deliver, which is one of the most painful things. The family-run sustainable factory in Brazil we love isn’t mass production, so if we went to China, it would be, but that’s when we hit a wall because we want to produce ethically. There’s also good surprises, like the way we got media interest quickly!

Everyone can work out, everyone can move even a little. You don’t have to be hard on yourself, just learn to communicate with your body

SixtyNinety champions “empowerment, fairness, and quality”, which we love. Was it difficult to pledge your products to Fair Trade standards?
Yes, actually, mostly because of price. We could make the same products for a fourth of the price, but then we have to compromise on a lot. We knew from the beginning it had to be sustainable and fair, it’s where production’s hopefully heading. It can be done, it just takes more effort. There’s a lot of people, especially online, who are interested in sustainability. It’s about remembering that if you buy something for, say, four pounds, someone else is paying that price.

What does body positivity mean to you?
It’s understanding the body. Especially when we’re younger, we see a certain type of body, and we think we have to be like that. I think you can only be as good as your body is, so work with it and love it and nourish it and be active. If you want to have the body of your dreams you have to feel it in your DNA, you can be beautiful the way you are. You see a lot more diversity, different people and different bodies these days, which is good because it’s showing people you can look beautiful always.

People say that regular exercise is helpful for balancing mental health, what do you think?
Oh, for me it’s much more about the mental than the physical. I understand my body in a way now that I know if I wanted to look a certain way, I could exercise diligently enough and figure it out. If you move your body it’s gonna thank you back. It’s all about the hormone balances and happiness, you don’t need to push yourself harshly; everyone can work out, everyone can move even a little. You don’t have to be hard on yourself, just learn to communicate with your body.

How has your own relationship with your body and self image grown?
I had a baby five months ago! I think what happened is that coming back from it, I’m happy, I feel like my body can do amazing things! I’m comfortable with it. Maybe I’m up to workout now, maybe I’m not. I’m happy the way I am, and I’m just feeling more chill these days.

What kind of relationship with fitness do you hope SixtyNinety inspires?
We’re focusing on the working female and empowerment, it’s important for you to move and feel good and we hope we can inspire people to embrace healthy living and their own personal balances. We’re not body builders all about diet and such, we’re about enjoying ourselves and being natural.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard so far?
Regarding persistence, the difference between success and failure; it’s not gonna happen overnight. That’s it really, in business it’s persistence. You have to do a lot of groundwork before you start seeing the results.

What are your hopes for the fitness and fashion industries?
It’s very cool what’s happening now with the activewear, such as clothes that go from the gym to the office and back. Most people nowadays who drop kids at school appreciate functionality, something that can take you everywhere you need to be stylishly, practically and comfortably, (laughs) and not always looking sloppy or hungover!

If there was one thing you could tell a younger version of yourself, what would it be?
I was a very wild youngster (laughs), I would say to enjoy the free time more. I look back and think about the afternoons I could have spent reading a book. You don’t appreciate it at the time, but that would be amazing!

What are you looking forward to this summer? What can we expect from SixtyNinety?
We opened the website in the US! It’s gonna be our first summer over there. It’s a huge market, so hopefully we get some good traction!

Tweet us your thoughts about this feature @DebutMagUK!

Words by Esmeralda Voegele-Downing
Twitter: @Esmeralda_VVD

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