INTERVIEWS

5 Questions with Constance from CANOPEA

Good swimwear is an absolute summer essential. With water play the key to happy children on any given hot day, having a sun-safe option is so important. As we all know, not all swimsuits are created equally. A few summers ago we were delighted to discover CANOPEA, a brand with a collection of stylish, sustainable swimwear that ticks all the boxes. We love what we’ve seen, so we asked founder and mama Constance our 5 Questions to find out more.
Canopea parisian doorway

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and about your family.

My name is Constance. I live at the foot of Montmartre in Paris with my husband and three children, Sixtine (6), Octave (4) and Falko (2). Before moving to Paris, I lived in London for 6 years where I graduated from Goldsmiths College with a Masters in Art History. After my degree, I landed my first job as PR and Business Development Manager at the newly reopened Saatchi Gallery near Sloane Square. The very same week I met my dream man; we married in France a year and a half later! My colleagues thought I was the happiest person alive. I just kept smiling all the time, haha…

I am lucky to have lived all over the world with my family. Born in Paris, I moved to Japan when I was 6 years old, then Geneva at 9 and New York at 14 – perfectly timed for my teenage years. You could say I feel at home everywhere and nowhere at once. France is my country, but home is where my family is.

french sustainable swimwear

sustainable french eco up swimwear blue white

rash vest blue seersucker shorts

sustainable upf50 swimsuit

2. Tell us a little bit about your brand and how you came to create your label.

My husband and I have different characters, but when it comes to important decisions we don’t hesitate long. We’re both determined and passionate, when I began thinking about a career change he became even more excited about it than me!

Having worked in PR in the cultural sector for 10 years, and with the birth of our 3rd child coming up, I wanted to do something creative again – I attended Parsons School of Design in NY, majoring in Illustration. Something concrete and with a different set of issues to solve (little did I know!).

I gave myself the summer to think it through and in the meantime started packing for a 10-day trip to Sardinia with my two sisters and their families. The day before leaving my son developed a skin rash, so I took him to my uncle, a dermatologist. He gave us a prescription for a cream and a promotional rash top from a big lab company. It was bright orange and terribly ugly but we used it everyday on the holiday, despite ripping it open on day 3!

One candlelit evening, while we were dining, drinking and laughing about the future, someone suggested I should make my own rashies, only much better quality and much nicer looking. That night, CANOPEA was born! I returned to Paris and combed through professional trade shows searching for suppliers with my 7 months pregnant belly.

I found the ideal sun protective fabric: rated UPF 50+ – the highest protection according to Australian standards, meaning 98% of harmful UV rays are filtered, Eco-friendly – made from 100% recycled fibre such as pet bottles and fishnets, and better yet, with no chemical filter. Most brands inject chemical filters into fabrics to block UV rays. These wear off once the fabric is wet or stretched – in other words, as soon as children go play in the water – and end up not protecting them at all!

In CANOPEA fabrics the UV protection is contained in the weaving of the fibre. It is both tight and breathable, allowing it to operate as a second skin. The fibre has also been laboratory tested for over 200 hours against stretching, chlorine and sun cream. It will not lose its shape over time and therefore the protection lasts much longer than usually seen with other brands.

The other big challenge was to make sun protective tops – which are traditionally pretty unattractive – something you actually want to see your kids wear! Not an easy task! After conducting several surveys amongst friends (and giving birth to Falko the day before the Paris attacks), I finally settled on the name CANOPEA (referring to the upper part of the tropical forest, which protects younger plants growing in the shadow of older trees), and launched the first collection in May 2016. Three weeks later I had sold out 75% of my stock; I had to run 3 productions over the course of the summer! In the first year alone CANOPEA sold in over 20 different countries, which was fantastic!

girls blue upf50 swim bikini

sustainable eco suntops bikini bottoms blue

FRANCE - APRIL 22: Young ladies in the middle of a gymnastics session along the sea in Deauville on July 22, 1937. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

french vintage child swimwear

3. What is important to you when designing your products?

I’m passionate about the 1930s, when the beachwear trend started. I love the clean-cut look of that period, when style was timeless and simple lines dominated. Every time I think about a new collection I consider: how can I reduce this piece to the bare minimum and keep its elegant character intact?

It is very important for me to find the equilibrium between style and comfort. I want children to forget the fact that they are wearing clothes on the beach and let them focus on the fun. But I will never compromise one for the other.

I also pay a lot of attention to multiple choices. As a girl (and now mother), I like to have options, and I want my collections to be flexible in terms of colour matching. The first included seersucker bikinis in 4 different colours and 4 removable colours bows – the mix and matching fun was endless!

sustainable eco bikini bow

4. What is your current favourite product in your collection?

I love the THAIS UPF50+ swimsuit, a new one-piece from this year’s collection. It has a lovely shaped back, typical of the 1930’s, and a bright colour bow which ties at the back for a timeless, elegant look.

tieback one piece pink costume

french pink eco girls costume

5. What do you love most about your job?

I love that I get to decide what to do everyday. My children keep asking me who is my boss and why do I work from home all the time? Well, I tell them everybody has a boss! Growing up, my father told me that 70% of future jobs don’t yet exist; I’m very grateful every day that I’ve created my dream job. One where I can merge all that I love doing; combining creativity with business, working with other talented and hard working people in my workshops. And all of this according to my own schedule. What a treat!

It is certainly not always easy when you are a mumpreneur, though! In peak season I work very long hours daily and don’t see friends much. Each year it gets better, though (I don’t no longer handle logistics, phew!) and I get more organised. I don’t think I could have got this far without my amazing husband. He looks after the children most weekends during high season and whenever I’m at tradeshows. But every time I get an order alert, my heart skips a beat of joy. That’s what I love most about my job. That, and the look in my daughter’s eyes when she comes home from school, gradually learning that you can be your own boss and love every aspect.

 

All photography of Constance, her family and her home is by Virginie Hamon, A Day With Photographie. Product photography by Emma Donnelly. Historical beach scenes by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images.

CANPOPEA is a valued member of our shopping portal. Please visit their profile page to find out more about why we love this swimwear brand.

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Comments (2)

Emma
April 25, 2018

I have used Canopea’s rash vests for the last couple of years for my children and I can not fault them!!! Little request though…. I would like them to come in adult sizes now too please!!!


Helen in Amsterdam
May 1, 2018

Haha, yes! This is always the best sign of wonderful children items!


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