Fashion is the third largest polluting industry in the world, and the second largest when it comes to water consumption. In a world where it’s so easy to buy clothes that are not sustainably made, a consumer has to make a very conscious decision to shop sustainably.
There are brands however that make it easy – Free Bella Swim, for one. Launched in 2016 by Australian native Francesca Lagudi, Free Bella Swim aims for transparency, sustainability and social equity. Basically, the founder, Francesca Lagudi, is tackling all the current problems within the fashion industry and creating her own solution.
It was during her last year at Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles that Lagudi started Free Bella. “I’ve always been interested in sustainability, and I think part of that comes from growing up in Australia and constantly being surrounded by nature and the coastline,” she said.
What she originally intended to be a hobby is now her full-time job. “The meaning of my name, Francesca is 'free' and the meaning of my mom’s name is Linda, which means pretty one (‘bella’),” she said. “And I liked the idea of ‘Free Beauty’ – it's attainable, and its in us all.”
Free Bella has continued to flourish, making a name for itself as the “Girls that give a sh*t.” Sustainably made in Los Angeles, Free Bella has made its mark by disrupting the industry and providing full transparency for their consumers. On the clothing line’s website, you can find everything you need to know about the sustainability and social equity that goes into their swimsuit production
“Growing up surrounded by nature was my initial inspiration, but as soon as I started the brand I realized that it wasn’t an option for us not to be sustainable,” she said. “I just think we as people know way to much about the threats that the fashion industry poses to the earth and there are too many alternative resources available for us not the acknowledges and use. I figure if we know all this information and have all these resources available to us, why would we do anything else?”
One of the most damaging aspects of the fashion industry is textile production. It takes 700 gallons of water to make one cotton t-shirt and other fabrics aren’t much better. For example, many companies in the swimwear industry use Polyester, which poses serious problems. Polyester literally comes from a fossil fuel, as it’s made from petroleum. Instead, Free Bella uses Recycled Polyester made from plastic water bottles, which prevents them from ending up in landfills. They also uses a sustainable techno-fabric made with econyl instead of traditional nylon.
More than just sustainable, though, Lagudi’s line also tackles the social inequity caused by the fashion industry. Free Bella Swim recently joined The Fashion Revolution, an organization aimed at transforming the fashion industry with transparency, making sure that consumers know exactly how their clothes are made.
“I think that sustainability is not just an environmental issue, it’s a people issue – it affects us all,” Lagudi said. “You can be sustainable in regards to the environment but you also have to be sustainable in regards to how you’re treating people. [Sustainability and social equity] absolutely go hand in hand. It was so important to us to not only make sure we are designing and creating products with the planet in mind but also with the people that make them in mind.”
On the Free Bella website, you can find what is called a “Supply Chain Map,”which shows in detail exactly where the fabric is made, where the pieces are trimmed and where the prints come from. With the exception of their Italian fabric, all the materials are sourced in Los Angeles within a 30 mile radius.
The company's 2018 Summer collection features vintage cuts and retro prints inspired by the 80s. Items include higher leg silhouettes as well as some high-waisted (and extremely flattering) bottoms.
“With the collection that we just launched, I was super inspired by vintage cuts, and bold prints,” she said. I think there’s an element of ease and cool from the past that leaves a lot of room for a more modern interpretation. For this collection I looked at a lot of old magazine issues, like Cosmo and Elle from the late 70s and 80s, which are awesome! I got so much inspiration from the swimwear spreads at that time.”
Shopping sustainably is hard, and often times it feels like you don’t have enough (or the right) information. Free Bella Swim is aiming to change that. By being fully transparent in how they make their suits, and who is making them, Free Bella Swim offers the consumer peace of mind – in the form of a really cute swimsuit.
Katrina Froelich is the Fashion Editor at Tough to Tame. She’s worked in the fashion industry for over four years, gaining experience in PR and Editorial work at companies such as GUESS and Forme. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org