Thank goodness Pursuit the Label co-founders Hannah Daykin, and Annabel Humphrey crossed paths on their very first day at the University of Westminster a decade ago. Since then, the two have broken into the swimwear industry in a revolutionary way. With sustainability as their driving force, each swimsuit designed by the duo is made from regenerated materials, minimizing the impact of textile related waste on our planet. With a knack for style and a commitment to purposeful creations, Pursuit the Label has been a favorite here at SI Swimsuit over the years (Yumi Nu wore the brand in her 2022 shoot in Montenegro).
We chatted with Daykin and Humphrey to learn how they dove into the world of swimwear; check out their tips for shopping more sustainably.
Where are you from originally?
Daykin: I am from a small town in South Yorkshire, I grew up as a dancer from the age of 8; this gave me a very strong creative flair from a young age. It was dance that sparked my interest in fashion and styling. I was obsessed with the costumes and how they made me feel when I wore them. After competing in dance for many years, I decided to pursue my love for fashion and enrolled in a fashion design course in my hometown. I then left home at the age of 20 to move to London and attend University.
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Humphrey: From the age of 10, I grew up in the French Alps as my parents decided to pursue their dream of running a ski chalet. This was a huge life change which really shaped me as a person. I attended French school not knowing much French apart from the basics and I had to learn how to adapt and stand strong against adversity. Seeing my parents achieve their vision really inspired me and I decided from a young age that one day I would create a business of my own. Most weekends were spent with family and being quite active, skiing and snowboarding. I was very lucky to be able to grow up in the mountains before moving to London which was a shock to the system!
What brought you each to the University of Westminster and how did you meet there?
Daykin: I always knew I wanted to live in London from around the age of 12 years old. I took a particular interest in fashion trends and always had an underlying obsession with swimwear. I would collect swimsuits and bikinis as a child for family holidays and this continued throughout the years as I grew up. As I finished college I decided to fulfill my dream of moving to London to be in the heart of the fashion industry. I decided to take the Fashion Buying and Management course at the University of Westminster to delve deeper into fashion trends and expand my knowledge of the industry on a commercial level. I met Annabel on the very first day, we stuck together like glue throughout the four years of University. Most people were partying and we would sit and watch the Friends box set on Saturday nights - not a very wild university experience but we loved it that way!!
Humphrey: In 2011, I attended a short summer course at l’Institut Français de La Mode to discover the panorama of fashion. I came out of the course just knowing that I wanted to go into the fashion industry. My auntie had been a fashion buyer, a role which merges commercial with creative, so I decided to apply for the Fashion Buying Management course at the university of Westminster in London to begin in 2012. I was so happy the day I received my grades for my French baccalaureate as this was the deciding factor for pursuing my dream of working within fashion. I was offered a place on the FBM course and this is where I met Hannah on the very first day. Fate!
Did you find it challenging to enter the swimwear industry?
Daykin: I think fashion on a whole is a very challenging industry–you really need to offer something unique and connect with your audience. During my last year of University I wrote my final dissertation project on the global swimwear market; so we used this as a base for our market research before launching Pursuit. I feel that with the combined skills we share; my love for swimwear and designing mixed with Annabel’s business and commercial skills really helped build the foundations of the brand. We really wanted to create a brand with a purpose (purpose + swimsuit = Pursuit). When we launched back in 2018, we wanted to ensure that sustainability was the core DNA of our brand.
Humphrey: I remember the very early challenges when developing our first range, there was so much to learn about garment technology as swimwear is quite a different construction technique due to the stretch fabric. It was also a very exciting time, we researched our preferred suppliers and found a renowned lingerie factory in Wales where our first collection was made. We were faced with challenge after challenge but soon learned that that’s what we signed up for! I remember driving to the factory and back in one day through a blizzard named “Beast of the East.” That was interesting when developing a swim collection wrapped in hats and scarves and having to fit test the swimwear in freezing temperatures.
What do you try to communicate through your designs?
In our minds when we are designing is a powerful, strong, independent woman. We really spend a lot of time developing and tweaking before we launch to ensure we get the perfect fit so that our customers feel amazing. That’s always our end goal. When we started discussing our ideas for Pursuit before we launched we knew we wanted to break the typical “sustainable” mold of minimal designs and neutral color palettes. We wanted to inspire our generation to shop more consciously and show that you can do this without sacrificing style and fashionability. Our swimwear is designed to empower, enhance the female silhouette and make you stand out in a crowd. We play with shapes that help to sculpt the body and give the most flattering finish. We always strive to bring our fashion expertise to the forefront, which is what we have become known for. It’s all about fashion and function.
What is each Pursuit the Label swimsuit made from?
Everything in our collection is created from ECONYL®, a yarn that is made from regenerated discarded fishing nets and other pre- and post-consumer waste from the land and sea. Our collections have been created with this specific fabric from the day we launched. Most of our trims are OEKO-TEX® certified and everything is ethically made in the U.K. at our local factory in London. Unlike regular nylon which is made using more energy intensive processes, ECONYL® is made of nylon waste from landfills and oceans in a closed-loop process. This process emits 50% less carbon dioxide and uses 50% less energy. This fiber is then blended with LYCRA® XTRA LIFETM, giving the final fabric a luxurious sculpting fit. The beauty of ECONYL® regenerated nylon is that it has the potential to be recycled infinitely, without ever losing its quality.
When did your personal journey with sustainability begin?
It was during our time at university that we both came to learn of the aftereffects of fashion on the planet. Fashion was something we both loved but we knew that there had to be a more sustainable solution. This is what planted a seed in our minds for one day creating a brand as a solution to the problem. When we graduated in 2016, we began obsessively researching the concept of sustainability and different fabric innovations, which is when we came across the ECONYL® yarn which Adidas was using for its trainers. You can say that sustainability has been within our DNA from Day 1.
How much are you both involved in the production process? What does that generally look like from conception of idea to final product?
We are involved in the whole process from start to finish.
Daykin: I start our design process by looking at various sources for inspiration. These include old and new catwalk trends, our previous designs, places and cultures. Once I have ideas I start sketching; I like to create collections that have a story rather than just launching individual products. Our latest collection “Boudoir to Beach” takes inspiration from old Hollywood glamour; you can see corset structures and a luxurious color palette of cream and chocolate brown. I aim to sketch around 20 designs; then I go through them with Annabel, we tweak and narrow them down, I then develop them further and we repeat the process until we have our chosen designs. The next step is usually our color palette and we start thinking about different trims.
Humphrey: During the design development process we will consider which designs would suit both of us as we both have very different body shapes and we want to ensure that our pieces make women of all different shapes look and feel their most confident. We then begin work with our product developer who will translate the sketch into a CAD and create a tech pack. We have a first sample made at our factory which we fit and make amendments to. We will have a few fit sessions and variations of a product as you pick up on things when you’re really able to test the product on a body. The pattern will then be graded up and down sizes and refit across a range of sizes before having a full size range graded. Once patterns and the final production tech pack are complete and we have sourced all fabric and trims, our factory can begin production.
How has your vision and future goals for the brand evolved over time?
Our vision has always remained the same, we want to take Pursuit to a global scale and we want our customers to feel incredible in our swimwear. One of our goals is to become fully circular in which we will produce zero waste. One of the ways we will achieve this will be by introducing a recycling scheme in which we will be able to transform old swimsuits into brand new products. We want to continue partnering with purpose-driven companies such as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit to amplify women’s voices in the non-traditional way. Eventually we want to expand into other product categories, too; we have a few ideas in mind already - stay tuned!
What should consumers keep in mind when trying to shop sustainably?
There are many brands making sustainable claims so it has become more difficult for customers to know the difference between genuine, good intention and those brands who are hopping on a trend. Our advice would be to properly research where the goods are being made, the processes involved and who is making them. If you’re still unsure, why not contact the brand? If they are genuine, they will be proud to tell you everything you need to know. Also look to invest in something that is of high quality to ensure it lasts so you can keep wearing it over and over again.
Do you have any advice for ways to reduce waste and practice more environmentally friendly habits in our day to day life?
You can reduce waste in all aspects of life whether that be clothing waste, food waste, etc. Get creative, donate, repair, re-sell rather than throw away. When shopping, choose slow fashion and invest in pieces which are high quality and made to stand the test of time. This is our philosophy. If something is cheap but you only get a few wears out of it before it falls apart, then you’ll have to keep spending to replace the item. It’s much better to pay slightly more for a high quality item that you can rewear season after season.