Canopea founder Constance Hartig came up with the idea for her swimwear brand when she was six months pregnant with her third child. She was about to embark on a holiday in Sardinia and sun protection was front of mind...
“When I returned home, I started researching facts about skin cancers, the damage of sun cream on our environment and how children are the most vulnerable to sun rays, I was determined I could do something that reflected my own values about the environment, producing clean-cut eco-friendly sun protective swimwear for children, made in Europe with reliable long-lasting UPF protection and that perhaps other parents would feel the same way about this too,” says the French founder. And so the Canopea journey began. The brand is now five years old, and Hartig has since expanded into swimwear for men and women. Driven by creating high quality, environmentally responsible products, her swimwear is made from Econyl®, a recycled fiber made from fishnets (which make up 10% of the waste found in the oceans), which is certified UPF50+ without chemical filters. Hartig is endlessly inspired by places in Europe she has visited or dreams of visiting. When it comes to swimwear for mama and mini (and dad), it doesn’t get much chicer than Canopea.
Here, we find out more about this beautiful brand and founder.
Go to canopea-paris.com
Canopea Paris swimwear
You believe that high quality and environmental responsibility go hand in hand and that style is timeless and your swimwear is made from Econyl®, a recycled fiber made from fishnets, and is certified UPF50+ without chemical filters. Tell us about your commitment to environmental responsibility?
The idea for Canopea started when I was six months pregnant with my third child summer of 2015. I had two other children aged two and four and as we were about to embark on a two-week holiday in Sardinia, I wondered how would I manage to apply sun cream without giving birth on the beach for running after them all day long. The day before our trip, my uncle who is a dermatologist gave me a promotional UV shirt for our family holiday. It was itchy, it was orange and I thought it was the most unattractive thing I had ever seen. Then we got there and the kids wore it so much, it was ripped just after a few days. Of course, I had no idea about sun protection then but when the idea emerged about doing something that combined style and purpose, I thought there was something interesting about that rash vest and UV swimwear in general. When I returned home and started researching facts about skin cancers, the damage of sun cream on our environment and how children are the most vulnerable to sun rays, I was determined I could do something that reflected my own values about the environment, producing clean-cut eco-friendly sun protective swimwear for children, made in Europe with reliable long-lasting UPF protection and that perhaps other parents would feel the same way about this too.
And what is the best in terms of environmentally friendly swimwear?
I came across a few independent studies that compared rashguards with each other and realised that there are two ways to protect against UV rays. The first method, which many big brands use, consists of injecting lots of nasty chemicals in the fabric, which wears off after just a few swims. Another method is to block UV rays with the weaving of the fibre. Specialists say that the most sun protective fabrics are jeans and corduroys – because the weaving of the threads is so tight. Our rashguards and UV swimsuits have the same properties as these fabrics but are breathable light and dry super quickly (and of course go in the water!) The best part? The fibers from our fabrics are made from recycled fishnets, which make up 10% of the waste found in the oceans.
What are your personal thoughts on fast fashion?
One of the most reoccurring questions I get is if our swimwear is made by hand. One the many sad consequences of fast fashion has been to lose the notion of the value of things and most of all, the value of the people who makes the items that we let into our lives. Having three children, who wear and tear things so easily has made me even more aware of the issues around consumption. Fast fashion is not only disastrous environmentally but it also has tremendous social consequences because whenever things appear to be a good deal, someone somewhere is always paying for it. Producing in Europe has a higher cost inevitably but I feel that consumers are willing to buy less and better quality whilst being increasingly mindful of where and how things are being produced. This pandemic crisis has also provided that reality check the hard way.
Tell me about the name “Canopea” and what it means…
Naming a brand is arguably more difficult than naming your own children. You have to make sure it is free of rights and that the domain names are still available, so it was clear to me early on that I had to make up my own name. I wanted a name that illustrated the purpose of the brand so after a survey amongst friends and family members, I came up with the name CANOPEA, which refers to the upper part of the tropical forest with filters UV rays, enabling young plants to grow safely in the shade of their elders.
What was it like as a working mother in isolation in Paris?
We’ve gone through many of the isolation stages. In the beginning, we felt overwhelmed and between schooling and extracurricular activities for all three kids, we would receive 10 emails a day of homework just for them! Then came the Zoom schedules for all three and that took us to an entire new level of multi-tasking. All of this while running a small brand through the beginning of high season and feeding a family of five, three times a day. Then we accepted that we weren’t perfect and were determined to enjoy this time together so we made choices, let go of a few principles, limited homework to mornings only and booked ourselves apero time with the kids every evening.
Where do you usually love to go with your children in Paris, when you’re not in lockdown…
When we lived in Paris, we loved taking the kids to museums around the city on their strollers. My favourite ones are usually those away from the crowds like the Musée de la Vie Romantique in the 9th, the Musée Rodin in the 7th or the Zadkine museum near the Luxembourg park, which served as sculpture workshop until the artist’s death in 1967. Now that we live in Geneva, we’ve been going on other adventures, either going for walks in the Alps, skiing on weekends or paddling on the lake until early October. We’ve been studying for our boat licence exams during isolation so we will soon find out if we were rigorous enough.
Canopea founder Constance Hartig and her family
What has COVID-19 taught you – any life lessons you’ve learnt?
It has taught me to let go of a few things (like makeup!), that we could have a different rhythm and make it work. It has also taught me to enjoy the present moment a lot more and not always be running and stressing over checklists. I know that we will probably pick up where we left a lot of things off but I hope I remember to enjoy the present moment more, or at least make time for it…
Was your dream always to own your own brand?
It was always a dream to be independent one way or another. When I was a teenager, my father would often tell me that 70% of jobs in the future haven’t been invented yet and he always pushed me to try and think outside the box. Before Charles Saatchi gave me my first job, I went through a series of internships and used to find it so frustrating being given tasks and not knowing exactly what purpose they ultimately served. Well, now I know…
What are some of the challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
Having a swimwear brand is a little bit like having a six-month-long birthday party. You plan it for half a year, send out carefully crafted invitations, come up with a list of activities, the perfect seating plan and on launch day tell yourself “what if nobody comes?” Luckily more people join us every year and we have been blessed so far with returning and enthusiastic new customers but the biggest challenge we face at the end of the season is making sure they remember us before their next holidays!
You photographed your SS2020 collection in Puglia – what lead you to Puglia?
My family has had strong ties with Italy over the past 4 generations, my great grandfather worked with the Swiss Embassy in Rome after the war, my grandparents worked in Milan for several years in the ’60s and my father who studied there, speaks Italian fluently. When I graduated from university, I put all my belonging in storage and moved to Venice for a 2-months internship and ended up living there for two years. I loved discovering different regions in the country but never managed to make it to Puglia, which particularly appealed to me for its earthy colours, rough edges and Mediterranean feel. My collections are always inspired by places in Europe I visited or dreamed of visiting. I feel so lucky today to have created the perfect job that allows me to go to these places. It certainly takes a lot of work to make a brand live but it never feels like actual work….
What are three of your favourite pieces for this season from your collection?
This is the trick question where you have to pick which is your favourite child. As a good mom, I would say I love them all for different reasons but being passionate about gorgeous backs, I particularly love our ALBA UV swimsuit for girls with a low cut back and ruffled straps, our matching ALANA UV swimsuit for women with timeless romantic lines and our new UPF50+ baby swimsuit DAISY, which protects from UV rays while hiding their little nappy. We will probably stop after three kids so knowing that I will get to dress other children while giving their parents a break, gives me great personal pleasure, and costs less than tuition!