It was during a family summer holiday that Jane Hayes became conscious of the gender divide on the beach. “While kids and their dads were all wearing rashvests, swimming and playing on the sand, most of the women were sheltering up the back of the beach under umbrellas.”Back home in Sydney Jane started searching for a women’s rash vest that wasn’t pink with a prominent logo.
Her friend and fellow mum Julie Capobianco had always worn one. “I called Jules and asked where she got hers. When she told me it was a men’s one we thought let’s look into this.”The pair had talked about starting a business during recent career breaks. With a mutual love of fashion, Jane’s background in PR and publishing and Julie’s in digital marketing, launching an online shop was a natural fit.
“There was a genuine need and gap in the market,” Jane says. “No one, here or overseas was making luxury women’s rash-vests that made women feel stylish and confident no matter what age.”
“We decided if we were going to do this we would manufacture locally and design one product, and get it right. It had to be something we would wear ourselves that would make women feel relevant and still be able to swim and use the ocean. Living by the beach meant we knew exactly what we wanted.”
After a year of researching, costing and case studies The ACQUA Brand launched in December 2014. Thanks to Jane and Julie’s PR and marketing expertise the brand gained instant profile, with public figures like Lisa Wilkinson, Paula Joye, Sarah Wilson, Candice Lake and Zoe Foster Blake promoting the “water-wear” on social media. Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe also featured the brand on her website after discovering it on Instagram.
A key aspect of the business and brand is it’s ethical credentials. Designed and manufactured in Australia, each piece is made from Econyl®. Also the basis for champion surfer Kelly Slater’s new menswear label, this sustainable fabric is made from regenerated waste like fishnets and carpets.
“We always wanted the brand to be made from the highest quality, yet sustainable fabric and it’s something we’re really proud of,” Jane says. It’s also been essential for business growth. The ethical nature of the brand was a key factor in David Jones quickly snapping up The ACQUA Brand for all Australian stores.
Next step is to go global, Jane says. “It made sense to start in Australia where we have been overwhelmed with the response. Sun-protection and anti-ageing are becoming increasingly more important for health and wellbeing. In our research we learnt that a white cotton tshirt only has a UPF of 5, that 90% of skin ageing is caused by sun exposure, and that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia, Europe and the US.
“I think we can start the conversation there and really go global with our product and message.”
“Our goal is to bring the Australian beach lifestyle to the world, with the added bonus of stylish sun protection.”