INTERVIEW WITH NINE FOOT STUDIO DESIGNER LUCIA @ninefootstudio
Firstly can you tell me a little about yourself?
My name is Lucia, I'm originally from Spain, but now I live between Europe and Asia. I'm sort of chasing an endless summer full time :P
I've always tried to live in pretty warm countries. After I left Spain, I lived in Huntington Beach (California) for about four years, where I worked as a designer for big corporations, luxury brands, and celebrities. I was lucky enough to travel a lot for my work, taking planes and visiting factories in China and Europe every three months, I lived in the US for four years, chasing the American dream. Only to find out it wasn't the dream I had envisioned. This left me searching for my true passion and away from the western world to Asia, with only a small backpack and a surfboard.
After a couple of years of freelancing while exploring Asia, I ended up settling in Bali, where I spend most of my time, surfing daily and working with small local factories.
Tell me about your brand Ninefoot, where does this name come from?
I wanted to create a lifestyle brand inspired by the surf culture, and all the creative minds that are around it. I see this project more like a design studio than just a "swimwear label", where I would like to bring artists in to collaborate, and explore new materials and concepts always. I choose the name for the size of the board I use, and also nine was the number of years that I was designing shoes before, so this number is really special for me.
How does surfing influence your work?
My family has always been connected with the ocean.
I spent my first years of life in Ibiza, my father taught me to windsurf when I was a kid, and when I grew up, I took my first surfing classes during a family trip to Canary islands.
After that, I surfed during my years in California, but I took it more seriously when I moved here in Bali.
Here I surf daily with my friends, it's something that keeps me balanced and empowers me to focus, surfing is the answer to my "why?" Why I'm doing this?" it is fun and really challenging.
I'd like to empower and inspired other women to surf, trying to create a more female and fun line up.
Where do you find inspiration for your creative vision?
Nature, mother female nature.
For this season I create two prints, and I called the collection "Sunset and Storm",
I use a mix of media technics of real paint textures that I personally made.
Inspired by the beautiful pink sunsets and the silver cloudy stormy days,
Those are my favourites days for surf and do photos, the light is fantastic.
What has been the most challenging aspect of starting your business, and how have you overcome these?
Fear from the unknown.
Basically, I had to move forward from a successful career and start out on my own. I was lucky that during all those years as a designer I learnt a lot, so I had the skills and experience to apply in my own business.
I decided that I didn't want the same life as I had, and moved forward to a different one, while being conscious that a lot of people or even myself sometimes will not fully understand why I choose something different.
That was a big step out from the comfort zone, and focus on my own brand, even when it's difficult along the way.
There are always ups and downs, but surfing provides a curative way to keep my balance, I truly believe that there is something in about salt water that makes your worries disappear.
Which people have influenced or inspired you?
I'm old school, and I still love to turn off my phone and give my full attention to the people around me. I think with social media, we are losing that special connection and pure contact that you get face to face.
It is also amazing how powerful everything can be, and too easy to reach.
I have been lucky, to meet other female entrepreneurs along the way, who have been mentors, and been lucky enough to work with them too.
I can say that Paula Bradley, my design director in LA, really changed my vision with design and taught me how to read and work with colour, and how Pantone colour pallets can work together and how the colour changes between lights.
I would also mention Maria Malo, she is helping me with anything related to the brand and she has her own brand based in Tarifa Spain.
My best surfers friends, don't really care for social media, but they are the ones that encourage me to push past my boundaries, and continually inspire me to keep going even when I get lazy in the mornings.
That's the lesson, surround yourself with people that inspire you.
What is your fabric made out of?
I use Italian recycled fabric only, which, when tested in real life conditions and proven to be four times more resistant to chlorine, suntan creams, and oils than competitors' fabrics, it has a UV 50+ protection, shape retention, and a wonderful texture and feel. This is totally the material from the future.
All the colours are made from ECONYL yarn, which is produced from fishing nets, so we can say that each piece you purchase, is actually helping to remove fishing nets from our ocean.
The cost of these materials is two or three times more than regular lycra, and it is tough to import into Indonesia.
I only with small factories run by families, this was a big decision that I made when I started to do my own project. I wanted to move out from the big industries that I saw with my own eyes all these years, I didn't wish the "suffering" or bad karma on my collection. In China people live in small dorm rooms all year long inside of a factory complex, with really horrific working conditions, no aircon, sometimes they work on the floor, overworking, and doing the same movements all day, everyday, that's the real human cost behind fast fashion.
Experiencing that meant that I made a decision to ensure each step of what I do at Ninefoot is totally ethical.
Offering the best material, proper fitting, and fair trade factories.
What inspired you to launch this brand?
Ninefoot suits are designed to allow women to feel their best while being in the ocean.
Women are their inspiration, in all our beautiful shapes and sizes, focusing on practicality without losing femininity.
I also take my own photos, and I never use professional models, only real women I meet in the water.
And I'm proud that most of them became excellent friends, with whom I surf daily.
Where can people buy your swimwear?
It is available to can purchase online and I ship worldwide www.ninefootstudio.com
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
It is going be a journey full of ups and downs, it can be really lonely and challenging. You have to be ready to work really hard and continually learn while solving problems along the way.
This is not for everyone.
So my advice is, be sure and believe in what you do, and get advice from people that are a few steps forward from you.