Insight: Behind The Scenes of Eco-Friendly Swimwear Brand Away That Day

This week, we sat down with Ingemae Kotze, founder and creative director of eco-friendly swimwear label Away That Day. Established in 2018 with the goal of creating high-quality, eco-friendly swimwear made from regenerated Nylon, ATD has since been listed among the ‘Best Swimsuit Brands to Know and Shop’ by British Vogue. Ingemae shares the story of how she developed and launched her very first collection and offers a behind-the-scenes insight for anyone hoping to build their own sustainable swimwear label.
Insight: Behind The Scenes of Eco-Friendly Swimwear Brand Away That Day - DMY BY DMY

Featuring Ingemae Kotze (@awaythatday) in the Billy (Classic Havana)

What were you doing before you founded Away That Day?

Before ATD, I was working part time as a stylist, hostess in a nightclub in London and a PA for the CEO of a health company. A mix to say the least! I would travel as much as I could for design inspiration and put money aside for my first swimwear collection. I learned so much from working in all these different industries, from management skills, general people skills, work ethic and confidence. I use everything I learned in my day-to-day life now and it's helped me so much within my own business. 

Can you walk us through the early journey of the brand? How did it all begin?
I was living with one of my best friends at the time and she helped me start the brand and launch my first collection. I had a lot of support from friends and family which really helped. We started selling via Instagram and gifting influencers based in the UK and US which organically grew the brand with word of mouth. I never asked for anything in return from influencers, I knew that if they loved the pieces they would organically post about us, which they did. We then started getting recognised by various press publications and got mentioned as one of the top swimwear brands on British Vogue which was a total 'pinch me' moment. We have also grown the ATD family and I have such an incredible team now, who I have no idea what I'd do without! I am very lucky to have people around me that have the same goals for ATD and are truly passionate about the brand. I feel it is only just the beginning. 

Why swimwear?
I grew up in South Africa so the beach was my playground. I also love to travel and would always find myself being very interested in swimwear in particular. It can be a vulnerable thing to wear and so it's incredibly fulfilling seeing someone feel good in their own skin when they wear ATD. A customer recently DM'd us saying how she recently had a baby and never thought she would feel good wearing swimwear again, until she tried our Monaco one-piece and since bought it in every colour. When I see messages like that, it reminds me of why I love designing swimwear so much. 

How did you go about creating your Core Collection?
The Core Collection is a selection of our all-time best-selling styles. They are designs you can trust, timeless cuts and colourways you can wear year after year and it also includes separates which you can mix & match to suit your mood. This allows you to add additional pieces to your ATD collection every season.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your swimwear designs?
I get inspiration from absolutely everywhere. Instagram, travels, magazines, a print that I will see on my mom's dress, a colour I see in a flower - it could be anything. The number 1 thing I think of when designing is wearability and how our customer will feel in it. Even if the design looks amazing, it doesn't mean anything unless the person wearing it feels amazing. This means the development process is always very particular and can take a while to perfect, but it's definitely worth it in the end!

What does a typical day look like for you?
Wake up - Strong coffee, check phone, get my favourite playlist on and get ready for the day, walk to the ATD office on Ladbroke Grove, check in with my team, emails emails emails, go over designs and new fabrics with my team, zoom meetings, more emails, spin class, drink with a friend. I tend to do all of my creative and business development thinking / strategy planning in the evenings or on the weekends. 

What advice would you give to someone hoping to build their own fashion label?
Consistency is key. Look at others for inspiration but do not compare yourself to others - Stay in your own lane. It can be difficult to start something great if you are constantly looking at how far others have come... Remember that they also started somewhere and no one is an 'overnight' success. 

What’s next for Away That Day?
At the moment we are working on growing the brands international market as well as branching into the wholesale market. We have some very exciting collections in the pipe line with new innovative fabrics and designs which I can't wait to share! We are also launching transparency statistics on the website, which means everyone will be able to see exactly how much carbon emissions and water we have saved (and continue to save) as a company. It's something we have been working on for months and I am so happy we are finally able to share the positive impact of ATD with our customers.

Ingemae's Round of Speed Dating with DMY

1. What is your go-to drink?
White wine - Sauvignon Blanc.

2. What was the last thing you Googled?
Royal mail tracking (How exciting).

3.     What was the last book you read?
My Body by Emily Ratajkowski

4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
London! I love this city and wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

5. What is your favourite TV show?
It changes all the time! Right now I'm loving Inventing Anna on Netflix.

6. What would be your ideal date?
A glass of wine in Lake Como at sunset. Heaven.

7. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Crisps and hummus. Ergh. It's just so good.

8. What’s the best and worst purchase you’ve ever made?
Best: My Canon camera
Worst: A pair of shoes I loved so much but they were one size too big for me because it was the only size they had left. I eventually gave them to my friend because who am I kidding.

9. What was your first concert?
10. Make a party playlist with only 3 songs:
Usher 'Yeah!'
TLC 'No Scrubs'
Lumidee 'Never Leave You'