Gone are the days when ‘activewear’ simply referred to the lycra leggings and t-shirt you wore at the gym. Today, it’s as much about science as it is fashion or fitness, with brands in constant competition to develop the most innovative exercise gear. This has begun to infiltrate the yoga world, too — with the emergence of high-tech yoga pants that do everything from wick away your sweat to correct your form.
It’s something that came to Indigo Luna founder Kathy McCarthy’s attention while undergoing her yoga teacher training in June 2016. “I noticed there were plenty of large activewear brands that made super high-tech yoga wear with hefty price tags,” Kathy says. But with all of these brands cashing in on next-gen activewear trend, it had left a gap in the market for accessible, sustainable and down-to-earth yoga wear. “I wanted to create something to wear for yoga that was beautiful, eco-friendly and affordable for everyone,” Kathy says.
Kathy had started a successful surfwear brand in Bali in the late 80s, but ended up working for a storage company after having children. She had been looking for a way to reignite her passion and tap back into a creative space — and this was the perfect opportunity. She sketched some initial designs and showed them to her son, Jules and his partner Loviisa. At the time, the couple were practising yoga and teaching free diving on Nusa Lembongan, the tiny island between Bali and Lombok.
In a serendipitous coincidence, Jules and Loviisa had been thinking about starting their own eco-friendly swimwear label. The pair started out helping Kathy with her designs and vice versa, but ultimately, it made sense to join forces and focus on creating a sustainable yoga wear label.
The team knew from the get-go that they wanted to create their pieces from sustainable fabrics that were still comfortable and flattering. However, finding such a fabric proved to be a challenge. “First, we thought of cotton,” Loviisa says. “But even though it is a natural product, growing it uses a lot of water.” Eventually, they landed on organic bamboo, which uses one-third of the water needed to produce cotton. They combined this with 10% lycra to give the pieces the stretch they need to support yoga practice.
The next step was finding natural dyes to bring the designs to life. “We found an amazing little factory in the north of Bali that specialises in natural dyes,” Loviisa says. It was here that they saw the beautiful natural dye colour that comes from the indigo leaf. This not only marked the beginning of the manufacturing process, but also the creation of the label’s name, Indigo Luna.
When their first batch arrived, Kathy, Jules and Loviisa had their friends and family test it out. “We started with a few leggings and crops in weird and embarrassing shapes and sizes,” Loviisa laughs. Through trial and error and the constructive criticism of their loved ones, the team fine-tuned the pieces until they had a range they were proud of. Now, it was time to get the word out about Indigo Luna.
With a non-existent marketing budget, the team turned to Instagram to build their following.
Without the means to organise a professional photo shoot, they simply took some shots of Loviisa and their friends wearing the range in beautiful spots around Bali. It was these casual, down-to-earth shots that allowed Indigo Luna to set themselves apart from other yoga wear brands.
Even today, with more than 11K Instagram followers, authenticity remains the focus of their social media presence. “As a brand, we find it really important to use different women and different body types when shooting,” Loviisa says. “It’s so easy to compare yourself to the picture perfect girls on Instagram and we want to encourage girls and women to love their own bodies and be proud of every magical inch of it.” The team never photoshop their images and instead of doing paid collaborations, prefer to work with conscious local yogis who genuinely love their range.
And there’s certainly no shortage of people that adore Indigo Luna. After launching the range on the website and at the local markets in Kathy’s home of Torquay, Victoria, the range was an instant hit. It was this success that led the team to branch out into sustainable swimwear. “As we spend most of our time in the water, it just made sense,” Loviisa says. “We realised that most yogis love the beach and that swimwear and yoga wear could very interchangeable.” They created a range of swimwear that could be worn to yoga without anyone blinking an eye. The decision certainly paid off — the swimwear sold out immediately in the Australian market.
Now, Loviisa says Indigo Luna’s sales are split 50/50 between yoga and swimwear. They continue to sell their range online and at markets around Melbourne, as well as in their new store in Canggu, Bali. They have plans to expand further into Bali and Australia as well as in the Europe and Nordic markets. Creating a range of men’s yoga wear is also on the cards.
“I think the main thing is we are small and conscious of our impact and are trying our best to move in a positive direction”
However, most of Indigo Luna’s future aspirations revolve not around fame or fortune, but their mission to create a more sustainable future. “I think the main thing is we are small and conscious of our impact and are trying our best to move in a positive direction,” Jules says. It’s something that has always been important to the team, with Loviisa growing up in one of the greenest countries, Finland, and Kathy bringing Jules up on environmentalist ideals in Torquay.
As well as using organic Bamboo and plant-based dyes, Indigo Luna has recently started working with ECONYL® — an Italian made material which uses recycled nylon 6 waste taken from our ocean, like discarded fishing nets. “This year, we are introducing a whole new collection of Eco bathers made from ECONYL,” Jules says. “It’s important that we try to limit our contribution to global warming and live lightly on our planet, because we only have one,” Loviisa says. We’d say they’re more than doing their bit!