The industrial fishing industry generates a staggering 640,000 tons of the ocean’s plastic waste each year. Kaira Active harnesses reclaimed fishnets to make a line of eco yoga and swimwear.
. It is estimated that 46% of the plastic in the Great Pacific garbage patch comes from fishing gear.
Hannah Tomita is the founder of Kaira Active.
Healthy Seas is a non-profit that works with volunteer divers around the world to retrieve abandoned “ghost” nets from the ocean. These plastic fishnets are then regenerated into Econyl thread and woven into fabric. Kaira Active has partnered with Healthy Seas to create an eco-conscious activewear line made from these repurposed fishnets. The company considers the environment at every step of the manufacturing and distribution process, from picking sustainable materials, to designing multifunctional and reversible activewear that promotes a minimalist lifestyle, to using local and ethical manufacturing, to employing environmentally friendly packaging. In addition, Kaira Active donates 1% of profits to support Healthy Seas.
Hannah Tomita is the founder and designer of Kaira Active. She stumbled into her passion for fashion while a senior in college. Unwilling to spend $80 each on tops and bottoms of swimsuits sold in stores, she decided to sew her own swimwear. She taught herself by watching YouTube videos and reading articles online. Having built a portfolio, she was able to get a job as an assistant designer at a swimwear design consultancy, where she had the opportunity to work with several high-profile international brands.
Tomita’s company Kaira Active makes clothes from plastic reclaimed from the ocean.
While she learned a great deal at her first job, Tomita also noticed how wasteful the fashion industry is. “Environmental responsibility was never a priority or even a discussion point,” she says. “We were sourcing the cheapest materials and finding the most cost-effective manufacturers without doing any environmental background checks.”
Because she couldn’t support the ethical practices of the fashion industry, Tomita decided to create a brand that put the environment first.
Living in Hawaii, she and her friends often found themselves going directly to the beach after yoga class, not wanting to pack two separate outfits. That’s when the idea struck Tomita to design a line of multifunctional activewear that you can use for both workouts and swimming or surfing.
“Growing up in Hawaii, my fondest memories are of being in the ocean,” Tomita says. “This is where I find adventure and peace. It breaks my heart knowing that our consumer-driven lifestyle and addiction to single-use plastics has greatly harmed the health of the ocean.” She feels delighted that founding Kaira Active has enabled her to work towards a mission she truly believes in. “It’s a lot easier to push through obstacles when there’s a strong why behind what we’re building.”
After working in the fashion industry, Tomita felt driven to create an eco-conscious brand.
Tomita feels constant pressure to keep up with the wasteful fashion industry – whether it’s the push to produce new products for each season, to the environmental consequences of certain dying and production techniques, to the large amount of single-use packaging materials for storing and shipping products. “It’s easier and a lot cheaper to follow the standards of the industry, but I won’t,” she says. “There is always a better way. I’m determined to keep figuring out how to improve every aspect of our business so that we create the least amount of harm to the environment as possible.”
To other people looking to align their career with their life purpose, Tomita advises you to follow your curiosity. Then, talk to people in the industry and get their insights. If it seems like something you want to pursue, give it a shot. “Don’t be afraid to apply for a job you’re interested in but you might not be 100% qualified for,” she says. “It’s okay to start an entry-level job in an industry you really want to be in so you can learn the basics and work yourself up from there.”
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