How A Teen-Founded Swim Brand Took On Climate Change & The Supply Chain

Battling the supply chain crisis with

Innovative, Inclusive Swimwear

Kayla Bell: Diving into sustainability

Arrow + Phoenix Swim is not your typical swimwear line and founder Kayla Bell is not your typical swimwear founder. To start, she founded the company at just sixteen years old as a high school student back in 2012. While most students her age were focused on graduating high school and completing college applications, Kayla was concerned about climate change and determined to create a sustainable brand that was kind to the environment. Because in her words “what good are bikinis if we don’t have a beach or pool to enjoy them in?” Today, almost ten years later, the mission of Arrow + Phoenix remains the same: To empower women, give back to the community, and provide creative, affordable, and comfortable swimwear that celebrates diversity, sustainability, and body positivity.

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Arrow + Phoenix began as a sustainable brand which focused on size inclusivity and offering swimsuits that were made in the United States. When they started, they were quite unique as they mostly catered to women who were top heavy and may have faced challenges finding swim tops that actually fit them. Today, the brand has evolved into much more. Since its inception in 2012, the brand has grown more and more sustainable each year and Kayla shares that she is extremely proud of staying true to the intentionality and values behind why she got started. The more she learned and continues to learn about sustainability and climate change and the ways in which our ecosystem is in jeopardy, the more the mission of her brand is reaffirmed. Though she has always been passionate about sustainability, she notes that her parents came from a generation of upcycling, not necessarily recycling. Like many of the founders I have interviewed, Kayla is glad to see that the younger generations are educating those that came before them and those that come after them about the importance of sustainability. Kayla notes that as the conversations regarding fast fashion continue to evolve, it has made Arrow + Phoenix a better brand.

When it comes to sustainability, Renewal Logistics is a leader in the warehousing and distribution industry. Because of our industry experience, we have been able to help many brands, both large and small, transition to more sustainable business practices. With this advantage, we are able to offer advice about what is working in the warehousing and distribution industry and provide a safe space for businesses to experiment in a cost-efficient way. I was curious about the practices that Arrow + Phoenix Swim currently has in place when it comes to sustainability.  Kayla shared that she started out using fabric that was made from recycled water bottles. All of their suits are made to order and made in the U.S. because she didn’t want to have a surplus of back stock and items housed in a warehouse. Working alongside her team, they carefully control the quantities of what is produced to ensure nothing is wasted and makes its way to a landfill. In the event that there are production errors, Arrow + Phoenix finds creative ways to reuse the fabric or offer sales to consumers to eliminate waste. 

 

We know that containers and packaging make up a major portion of municipal solid waste (MSW), amounting to 82.2 million tons of generation in 2018 (28.1 percent of total generation). This packaging is the product used to wrap or protect goods, and is used in the packaging, shipping, storage and protection of products. Today, consumers are becoming more conscious, not only about sustainable products, but many are prioritizing sustainable packaging as well. According to Asia Pulp & Paper's 2018 Paper & Packaging Consumer Trends Report: 65% of Americans say packaging sustainability is more important compared to 5 years ago, and 55% are willing to pay more for products in sustainable materials. Businesses will have to begin placing more emphasis on sustainability with their products and packaging in order to draw more customers in. 

I was curious about the sustainability efforts exercised by Arrow + Phoenix when it comes to shipping and distribution. Kayla shared that the brand has always shipped out orders in recycled poly-mailers but in an effort to be even more eco-conscious, they will be transitioning to using compostable mailers starting this summer. They only use bubble wrap for the glass jars used with their skincare line, but even then they used recycled bubble wrap. All of their skincare products are packaged in glass bottles to be reusable and their customers have the option of participating in a recycling program in which they can ship back used skincare jars to receive a discount on their next purchase. The company used to have a similar recycling program with their swimwear line but has had to discontinue this practice due to COVID19 precautions. She hopes in the future they are able to return to this practice in order to help eliminate waste. 

According to Fortune, 77% of the world’s ports are experiencing abnormally long turnaround times. Scores of ships remain anchored off the coast of U.S. and Chinese ports, idle, and waiting for space to dock. The turmoil has pumped seaborne freight costs to record highs, rising over 300% year on year as of August, encouraging some exporters to hold off on shipping goods with low profit margins. These shipping delays have caused many brands to receive delayed goods that are moldy and damaged. With over twenty years of expertise in cleaning and repairing garments, Renewal Logistics has responded to this global crisis by offering mold remediation services to our clients. 

Kayla shared that although her brand had not experienced any shipping and distribution delays due to issues with the port, she did experience challenges with sourcing fabric due to factories closing down in Italy as a result of the pandemic. In response to the racial unrest in the U.S., many consumers began making a conscious effort to buy Black. Almost overnight, Arrow + Phoenix Swim received a lot of publicity and were receiving a massive influx of new orders daily, a shift that her then team of three had a challenging time keeping up with. Kayla worked hard to find a domestic supplier that could source sustainable fabric, although this shift resulted in an increase in production costs for the company. Despite this increase in fabric costs, she remained true to her brand and mission and still chose to source sustainable fabrics. Remaining intentional every step of the way, she also focused on conscious scaling and providing suits to retailers and wholesalers who share similar values. 

In addition to maintaining integrity at the forefront of the fabric selection process, the company also prioritizes paying manufacturers a living wage. When deciding where to manufacture her fabric, she consciously chose to manufacture all suits in the U.S. so that she could ensure the workers were receiving the fair wages they deserved. Since 2015, Arrow + Phoenix has partnered with and cultivated a relationship with the same Las Vegas company for their manufacturing needs. I agreed with Kayla about the importance of investing in your team. At Renewal Logistics, our people are the legs we stand on, and therefore we invest in them. We provide a positive and respectful work environment, focused on educating our employees and associates on best practices.

As we closed out the interview, I was curious as to what we could expect from Arrow + Phoenix Swim in the near future. Kayla shared that the brand has a lot of new things coming including new swimwear styles and colors. In addition, they have a new campaign launching May 4th, as well as new skincare products including shampoo and conditioner bars. They will be relaunching their activewear line soon, introducing kids swim, and offering genderless, sustainable swim that is inclusive. We can't wait to see all of the new things in store for this awesome brand.

To learn more about Arrow + Phoenix Swim and to shop their items, visit www.arrowandphoenix.com

Meet The Founder

Kayla Bell

Kayla Bell has always been passionate about sustainability, but she’s also a huge fan of body positivity, inclusivity, and being comfy. From her early teens, she envisioned a brand that held all of these qualities, and that’s how she created Arrow + Phoenix at sixteen years old. These days when she’s not working on A+P or her blog, The Wayve, you can find her enjoying the rays.

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