July/August’s – ‘The Summer Escape Issue’ – Download Now
Hanalei Reponty-Gudauska could surf before she could walk. Embodying her love for the beach and water, she founded sustainable swimwear brand, Abysse, with her mother, Raphaele. At the heart of the brand is the aim to: “Produce less, produce well.”
Can you talk us through your career?
I was born and raised in Tahiti, in the middle of the Pacific. Surrounded by nature and vast ocean, as well as its endless beauty, shaped every corner of my mind and being. I learnt how to surf before I could walk, and surfing became our way of life. I became a professional surfer at the age of 15, which led me to travel the world in search of perfect waves and empty lineups. This amazing adventure was followed by a transition into modelling, which was an incredible opportunity and journey. After I completed a Bachelor of Commerce at Sydney University, I yearned to create something of substance. My dream was to create a line that reflected my values – to produce for women and doing it with a conscious mind. Protecting our environment has been a cause close to my heart since I can remember and turning that passion into creating Abysse has been a magnificent journey through celebrating and creating for women that love the ocean as much as I do.
What inspired you to go into the fashion industry?
My initial goal was to create functional products for women that love the ocean but without compromising design and aesthetics. Abysse aims to blur the lines between fashion and function because we believe that one is not exclusive of the other. It was the main drive behind building and creating a brand that was not defined by the standard fast fashion pyramidal system. The goal is to always create a garment that is fashionable but functional above all else. My goal is to fill a niche, to fill the gap in the market, where women need technical designs to perform in the ocean as well as a timeless fashionable design that will empower them in and out of the water.
How did launching your own brand come about?
It was a very natural evolution. I have been incredibly lucky to have been surrounded by truly incredible people in my journey, that have believed in my vision from the start. My passion for the ocean, surfing and the environment was incredibly strong since I was a little island girl, and this drive has carried me throughout the years. Abysse was based on these values: produce well and produce less – that was instilled in me from a very young age.
What does Abysse represent?
Abysse to me represents a strong conscious female voice. It represents the ability to use our nature’s resources sustainably, in order to enhance and empower female beauty. It is made at the soul for women that love the ocean, that thrive by pushing their own boundaries.
You co-founded the brand with your mother. What has it been like building this brand together?
It has been such a dream creating Abysse with my mother. Mum and I have always had an incredible bond. She has always been my rock, my guiding light in anything I do, and she was the first to believe in my vision. To have her by my side, day in and out has been an absolute solace. Business can be hard and tough but knowing that someone’s got your back no matter what, is truly liberating. We support and empower each other, learn from each other and grow together with the same goals.
How has your fashion brand evolved since you started it?
Our ethos and ideals are the same as the first day we started, but we have been able to expand our range exponentially and that has been such an incredible experience. Working with new technologies, designing for a broader market, making pieces that are versatile and can be worn in and out of the ocean has always been our goal, but to slowly grow our categories to reflect our Abysse DNA has been incredible.
What does your design process look like?
The process of design always comes from a need. I do think that design should be subtle, and over-designing pieces is sometimes inadequate for a sustainable brand. We always try to accommodate a need in our market and try to create versatile pieces that reflect a solution. Our pieces are meant to be timeless, and we always keep in mind that a piece will be designed for several collections. I absolutely love looking back in the archives, as I always draw so much inspiration from the past. Fashion is circular.
What sets Abysse apart from other sustainable brands?
At Abysse, we make a conscious choice to make a difference. Being a conscious manufacturer means to take back power and support what we stand for. We define ourselves as a sustainable brand by embodying these aspects: by being a small family business, women-owned, locally produced, using recycled materials from the beginning to the end of our value chain – from packaging to production – and by supporting charities that we believe in. By achieving the above, we aim to create an impact and set our own long-term trend.
What are your thoughts on fast fashion?
Long-lasting fashion is the key. Instilling and educating young generations that well-made garments are meant to be bought and worn for years, mended and then recycled is also a key part of this cycle. It is really easy to get caught up in a vicious circle of trends and fast fashion but believing and supporting brands that do make a difference is so much more rewarding. Fashion is the most polluting industry. Awareness and understanding that slow fashion works and believing that buying less but more quality is empowering.
What have been the hurdles you have experienced in relation to your business?
The hardest part for us has been to produce our garments with all the high standards we set for the brand. We consider ourselves to a sustainable brand, which incurs a lot more costs and low margins, but we are not willing to compromise our ethos for dollars. It is not always easy being truly sustainable, but it is a state of mind. We have been incredibly blessed to our consumers feel the same way and have truly resonated with our journey.
And what are the milestones?
We have had too many amazing milestones to count. From working with our biggest muses such as Elle Macpherson, to selling our pieces on NET-A-PORTER and Browns fashion, it has been such a wild ride. What resonates the most is the people that you meet along the way that love your brand, that push you to create and evolve and that at the end of the make you a better person and company. One of our main goals has always been to break down the concept that an eco-friendly item cannot be fashionable or as performant. I think we have absolutely proven that, and that makes my heart so happy.
What are your future plans for the business?
To grow slowly and steadily. To keep making the right choices. To expand and refine. To work and collaborate with our idols and heroes. To keep reaching our goals. To inspire and be inspired. To keep educating younger generations. To support more amazing women throughout their journeys.
This is ‘The Summer Escape Issue’ – which of your designs do you think is the go-to for this summer?
I love the Maya & Misty for minimal tan lines in the summer. I wear the Billie surf suit out in the ocean almost every day and love the open-back design of this piece. Lastly, the Shaffer & Greta is my new favourite combo to spend my days in, from home to walk to the beach – it’s perfect!
July/August’s – ‘The Summer Escape Issue’ – Download Now
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