Muddy Meets: Helen Lofts, Founder of Davy J
Ethical, sustainable, local, founded and run by women who actually swim (all year round!) - what more could you want from your swimwear? We caught up with Davy J founder Helen Lofts.
What prompted you to start Davy J back in 2017?
Davy J is a sustainable waterwear brand. We design fantastic swimwear that enables women to feel comfortable and confident in and around the water, whether that’s running around at the beach with the kids, wild swimming, diving through the surf or paddleboarding days out.
The concept for the brand was built out of my frustrations with the existing swimwear market and my own struggles to find stylish swimwear that could keep up with my adventurous, water loving side. The sustainability drive of the business is really just a given for me, I wouldn’t want to build a business any other way.
How different a landscape is it now? Are people more interested in sustainable and ethically produced swimwear than before?
Wow yes, the market for sustainable brands has hugely evolved. What was once a novelty is now becoming mainstream and customers are certainly becoming much more tuned into where their clothing comes from and how it is made. It was never a question for me when building a brand that it would need to be driving net positive impacts on the world and that that would be the future of business, so it’s great to start to see this changing landscape becoming a reality, and for Davy J to have a place front and centre of that movement.
What did you do before?
I was an International Development & Sustainability Economist and had been in a consulting role in London prior to handing in my notice, moving back to Devon and launching Davy J.
What’s your favourite piece from the collection?
This time of year it’s the Long Sleeve Bonded Top – which I wouldn’t be without going into these colder months (win one here!). This is a piece that I designed this time last year and was developed through my first full winter swimming in skins (swimsuits as opposed to wetsuits).
It was shaped heavily by my swim community and the demand for something to bridge the gap between a swimsuit and wetsuit through the colder months. It’s such a flexible piece to have in the wardrobe as it can be layered over all your existing swimwear to give you that extra layer of protection and warmth in winter but also great for summer surf sessions or a top for paddleboarding.
Unlike most ‘wetsuit tops’ it’s not made from neoprene (which is quite an environmentally damaging fabric to produce), instead it’s made using two layers of regenerated nylon fabric bonded together to form a thick fabric that feels half-way between a wetsuit and swimsuit.
Is there still a Waste Collection or do you make everything from Econyl now?
I suppose I think of ‘The Waste Collection’ as our original classic pieces – The Classic Suits, The Body Top & Jones briefs & our bikinis but technically our entire collection is ‘The Waste Collection’ as it is all made using nylon that is 100% regenerated from waste.
And why Econyl?
ECONYL® is the trademark for the regenerated nylon that we use in our swimsuits. This particular nylon is recycled from 100% waste sources including a combination of pre-consumer waste, such as carpet production offcuts, as well as post-consumer waste, such as fishing nets. There are other forms of ‘recycled’ nylon available on the market, but a large proportion are nylon offcuts produced during the production of virgin nylon fibre. This is only one step away from being raw nylon yarn in the first place and despite it being a cheaper form of recycled nylon to use, we are a brand built on the principals of circular economy and finding solutions to reduce waste.
It’s important for us to therefore support a model of waste recycling that identifies and addresses an existing and potentially environmentally damaging form of waste in the world (such a fishing nets) and creates a market and recycling solution for collecting and reusing this waste.
Aquafil (who produce ECONYL® yarn) are not just an industry leader in the field of innovations in regenerated fibres, but also a leading example of how to be a circular economy business.
What’s next for Davy J? Or you!
It’s all change here at Davy J at the moment and I love it! What most people don’t know is that up until five months ago Davy J was run solo by me from my home in Plymouth. I completely outgrew the house and the number of potential working hours in a day, so earlier this year I moved our operations into an awesome space in Plymouth where we are now a thriving team of 4.
The level of care and attention remains the same, but it has enabled me to step back from operations and work a bit more on growth & strategy. We have some exciting things on the horizon including collaborations, new products, other markets to explore, new packaging on the way and a fresh website. There is lots to look out for!
You always use real women in your photoshoots. Why does this work so well for Davy J?
Because it’s authentic. The experiences and feelings that come across in our photography reflect real experiences and real emotions. There is no other way to capture the raw energy behind that moment when the cold water hits your belly button than to actually capture it happening.
Watching friends goofing about in the water and falling about laughing as one tries to do the perfect dive for the camera and instead does a spectacular belly flop is what it’s all about. There is a shared love and sense of community right there. You get to see women shivering over coffee & cake post swimming while chatting about boobs, or life, or kids, or the cake…
Why would we fake it? There are so many incredible women out there who love to be a part of these shoots. It’s always an amazing day out and the team and I usually can’t resist getting involved as well.
Can you tell us a bit about your collab with Coppafeel!?
This was floated as an idea by one of our team, Sarah, in her interview as she knew the charity and thought it would be a great fit. At the same time we’d already been working on some funny sea inspired phrases for T-shirts and the ‘it’s a bit nippy’ phrase felt like the perfect fit.
I sketched up some designs and ‘tested the water’ with Becks, who’s part of our swim community and is also a Boobette (term used by Coppafeel for supporters of the charity who have themselves had a personal experience of breastcancer at a young age and are advocates for spreading the Coppafeel message and encouraging all of us to check our breasts regularly and get to know what is ‘normal’ for us). She loved it and linked us up with Coppafeel HQ. So far we have raised over £3500 and spread a whole lot of nippy love.
Where’s your favourite place to swim?
Firestone Bay, Plymouth. This is my local swim spot and while it might not be a secret idyllic cove or picture perfect natural pool, it’s still a beautiful spot, accessible in all conditions, I know the tides and water movements well, I know loads of friendly faces down there and every once in a while you’ll be swimming while a massive submarine goes past which is always a novelty. Every morning I swim here I feel grateful and thankful for having this connection to the ocean on my doorstep…and post swim I don’t have far to go for a warm shower before heading into work.
Where’s next on your list of places to swim?
The Lake District. I follow so many women that swim in the lakes and I’ve never visited, so it’s on my ‘to do’ list.
Why do you like to cold water swim?
I live a busy life and have a busy mind. Building and running a business is stressful and it can often feel like you never switch off from it. For me, getting in the water is one of the few moments in my day when I’m not thinking about anything else but the water…and how cold it is. It’s my ‘me’ time, no phones or computers. Lying back and floating with my ears under the water is like meditation. It feels like it drowns out the noise and busyness of my mind and it’s where I find clarity and perspective on anything that’s stressing me out outside the water.
& super quick fire round… what’s your fave?
Local business Hair cuts by Yoke Salon, Plymouth
Coffee & bagels Hutong Café, Plymouth
Beach day out Ice creams at Porthcothan Bay Stores
Walk & pub lunch The Hope & Anchor at Hope Cove, Devon
Walk & cream tea The National Trust tea rooms at Bedruthan Steps (below)
Win a Davy J long sleeve swim top in our reader treat here.