Sea and be seen: Turning plastic bottles into swimwear

Jake and Caroline Danehy are surfers, siblings and the co-founders of Fair Harbor clothing, a sustainable swimwear company that appeals to the eco-minded and fashion-conscious alike.  

The brother-sister duo, both in their 20s, grew up in the beach community of Fair Harbor on Fire Island, New York, where they developed an appreciation for and connection to the ocean. But the plastic bottles that littered the beach gnawed at them.

“When we were younger, we really noticed a lot of plastic waste was coming up on the shore and this really frustrated us because of our real ties to Fair Harbor and this amazing beach town,” Jake Danehy told CBSN. 

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“We made it our mission to actually do something and change the way people view waste,” Caroline Danehy said. 

In this case, doing something meant collecting more than 500,000 plastic bottles and recycling them to create men’s swimwear. 

Plastic bottles are sourced from all over the world and then shredded into polyfibers, which are then spun into yarn. The fresh yarn is then woven into Fair Harbor’s custom fabric which is dyed or printed on. 

Caroline — the design half of the duo and a self described fashion nerd — admits to making some mistakes along the way. 

“Jake and I really didn’t have any idea what we were doing and the first boardshort that we did, it was actually see-through.” 

That particular style didn’t make it to market, but many others since have, following a shaky start.  

“We went running around the garment district of New York City— we were trying to get a small garment manufacturer to make a single boardshort just knocking on anyone that would talk to us, hear us out, and ultimately just create a single short,” Caroline said. 

All in the family

 Fair Harbor is, at its core, a family operation. “Over the past four years we’ve taken over our parents’ house and it was a shipping and distribution center,” Jake said. 

They also assigned their mother a job title: head of the shipping department. 

The siblings are intent on making sustainability “cool” and “approachable.”

“Approachable sustainability for us is to include everyone, no matter who you are, no matter where you are,” Caroline said. 

Beyond boardshorts

More than swimwear, the Danehys are promoting a sustainable lifestyle they hope others will imitate. 

“There are things you can really do to change the lifestyle, whether it’s not grabbing that plastic bottle, bringing reusable cutlery, bringing your reusable bag to the grocery store,” Caroline said.

“We’re just asking you to make small differences every single day and we think that will lead to a better world,” Jake said. 

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