Rii Swim, Eco-Luxury Swimwear Line Puts Sustainability First

Ellie Furuya's Eco-Luxury Swimwear Line, Rii Swim, Putting Sustainability First

Part-time foodie, influencer, PR rep, and former TV executive Ellie Furuya wanted a more sustainable swimwear product on the Hong Kong market for the classic Repulse Bay lazy Saturdays or ventures to Sai Kung.

Inspired during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellie launched Rii Swim, Hong Kong’s leading eco-luxury swimwear, a collection of sleek bikini sets and one-pieces made from luxury, durable Italian fabric from recycled ocean and landfill plastic waste!

With the launch of four new bikinis in late March, The Beat Asia sat down with Ellie to discuss why she created Rii Swim, blending sustainable materials and practices with elegant swimwear pieces.

What inspired you to create Rii Swim?

Back when travelling was a thing, I would plan my trips around beautiful beaches and oceans because I was always so drawn by them. Maybe it’s because I’d always grown up [and] lived in cities – Hong Kong, Tokyo and London – and any “escape” in my mind would naturally consist of palm trees, sun, and sea.

On these travels I grew to love finding gorgeous boutique swimwear produced on a smaller and more ethical scale – but realised how hard it is to find anything like that in Hong Kong. So, I decided to start my own brand!

What is sustainable about the product?

Our high-quality Italian-made fabric ensures a long life for the swimsuit, so it’s not something that breaks, stains or deteriorates as easily as other common nylon swimwear. As for designs, we tend to keep them minimal, elegant, timeless, and comfortable so that nothing ever goes “out of style” or gets discarded after a season. We also only produce each collection in very limited quantities so that we can avoid excess waste as much as possible.





When did you have the idea to make swimwear out of “regenerated nylon” or old fishing nets?

By virtue of launching my own brand of physical, wearable products, I knew that waste was going to be inevitable. My research focus turned to how I could minimise waste in the best and most efficient possible way, and along the way I found out about this cool new technology where post-consumer waste is sometimes re-purposed and upcycled to create beautiful fabrics. This is where my interest in re-generated nylon was piqued.

How is the recycled ocean waste used to create the final product? What other materials do you use?

For the current collection, we are using Italian Carvico Vita ECONYL (eco-nylon) fabric, which is made entirely from ocean and landfill waste. Not just recycled ocean pollutants (e.g. discarded fishing nets and ghost nets) but also post-consumer products at the end of their life cycle (e.g. old carpets sent to landfill). Our swimwear composition is 78% ECONYL and 22% spandex.

What does it mean to be a climate and female warrior “championing the luxe yet planet-friendly lifestyle”?

I think luxury and sustainability in fashion can naturally go hand in hand, but the problem lies in the way these products are mis-perceived (as unaffordable, lower quality, recycled means re-used therefore isn’t as “‘clean”’ or “‘new,” etc.).Fast fashion on the other hand is often viewed as the easier, cheaper, and more convenient choice, and part of championing the “luxe yet planet-friendly lifestyle” is shifting these traditional buying habits and mindsets that are so ingrained in consumer behaviours. In this aspect, I think Asia has made a lot of progress lately, but it still has a long way to go!

Is it hard to blend the conservatism of Asian fashion with the modern designs of your pieces?

This has been a challenge! Hong Kong’s expat community has responded much more positively to the swimwear designs/coverage level so far, and I think I will continue sticking to my guns and designing what I’ve found to be the most comfortable, functional, and flattering cuts.

I want everyone who wears Rii to feel amazing in their bodies, and to get the most out of their swimwear at whatever occasion they wear it to – whether at the pool, beach, yacht or a staycation.

What does it mean to be a climate and female warrior “championing the luxe yet planet-friendly lifestyle”?

I think luxury and sustainability in fashion can naturally go hand in hand, but the problem lies in the way these products are mis-perceived (as unaffordable, lower quality, recycled means re-used therefore isn’t as “‘clean”’ or “‘new,” etc.).Fast fashion on the other hand is often viewed as the easier, cheaper, and more convenient choice, and part of championing the “luxe yet planet-friendly lifestyle” is shifting these traditional buying habits and mindsets that are so ingrained in consumer behaviours. In this aspect, I think Asia has made a lot of progress lately, but it still has a long way to go!

Is it hard to blend the conservatism of Asian fashion with the modern designs of your pieces?

This has been a challenge! Hong Kong’s expat community has responded much more positively to the swimwear designs/coverage level so far, and I think I will continue sticking to my guns and designing what I’ve found to be the most comfortable, functional, and flattering cuts.

I want everyone who wears Rii to feel amazing in their bodies, and to get the most out of their swimwear at whatever occasion they wear it to – whether at the pool, beach, yacht or a staycation.

What is the future for Rii Swim?

We will continue launching limited-production capsule collections, and I do hope to eventually get into eco activewear. For now, I’m enjoying the swimwear biz, learning the ups and downs of starting a new business, and the people [I get] to meet through it!

What is your professional background?

What’s strange is that my background is completely unrelated to what I’m doing with Rii now. I was a programming executive at National Geographic under a global TV network for four years, and this is the same time that I also began my foray into the food & beverage industry as a PR & copywriting freelancer.

One day during the particularly intensive early COVID-19 lockdown, I decided I that I wanted to start up the company I’d been thinking about for years, and just went for it on a “now or never” kind of whim.





What else are you working on now?

Right now, we are getting ready to drop four new bikinis to add to our collection, which features the most requested colours made with a new type of silky, shimmery regenerated nylon fabric.

Thank you for chatting with us, Ellie.

Thanks!

Ellie’s addition to the Rii Swim collection drops late March and will be available for purchase on the Rii Swim website.

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