Sustainability in Fashion:


Juliet Shepherd, who left Headington in 2012, tells us about setting up her own swimwear company and explains how sustainability is the main driving force behind the work she does.

Q. What was the inspiration behind ULU Swim and Surf?

A. I set up ULU Swim and Surf in the summer of 2020, inspired by my career break backpacking around Europe and Asia.

I spent some time at a surf camp and realised swimwear options suitable for water sports and travel – in particular surfing – were incredibly limited, expensive and rarely sustainably made. I also never enjoyed buying swimwear for myself and wanted to change this.

I named the brand after Uluwatu, a famous surfers’ paradise in Bali, a place I’d fallen in love with. All of the designs, colours and branding was inspired by the places I visited across the world and the people I met along the way.

Q. How do you ensure that the process of creating ULU Swimwear is sustainable?

A. Our swimwear is eco-friendly, but we want our whole business to be sustainable from start to finish. Our swimwear is 100% made from fabrics that use regenerated plastic waste (such as plastic bottles or old fishing nets), our dyes are certified as eco friendly, and all trims are non-toxic.

We minimise our packaging, only using 100% recycled tissue paper and sustainably sourced, compostable bags which leave no harmful residue once they break down. We have also offset our carbon emissions by investing in a UN verified renewable energy project. All of our offcuts are donated to a local charity in Bali who uses the fabric to create goods to sell which benefits the local community and reduces waste sent to landfill.

We believe that sustainability should encompass social aspects. We only work with ethical suppliers who have high standards of care for their workers, families and community. We are a big believer of transparency and you can be confident that our products are fully traceable and make a difference on a local level.

When designing our swimwear we also considered the lifespan of the product. We wanted it to be timeless and transcend seasons so that you’d love it and wear it for years to come. This is why we only invested in classic styles and colours, rather than buying into fast fashion trends. Our fabric is built to last and as well as being durable, is resistant to pilling, oil, sunscreen and chlorine.

Q. Has sustainability always been an important aspect of fashion for you?

A. Sustainability has always been really important to me and something that I am passionate about. I try to live as sustainably as possible so when I decided to start a business I wanted to ensure that sustainability was at the heart of the brand and at the forefront of every decision I made. I felt that the world didn’t need another fashion brand, instead I wanted to create a business that would have a positive impact and create a conscious community.

Q. Is body positivity an important consideration in your work?

A. Our swimwear was designed to be comfortable when surfing and when doing watersports, but also I wanted each piece to be stylish and classic. Building the brand was a collaborative approach and I spoke to many different women about what they wanted, felt comfortable in and were looking for when purchasing swimwear. All of our designs were fitted on real women and the images used on the website and social media are not edited. It was really important to me that everyone who wears ULU swimwear feels confident, empowered and comfortable.

Q. What is the future for Ulu Swim and Surf?

A. We have just launched the brand in Australia and aim to build up an eco-conscious community here. Our goal is to promote sustainability in everyday life, especially increasing peoples’ awareness of the impact their shopping decisions have on the world. We also want to continue to deliver an amazing, high quality product that people can enjoy!

Juliet Shepherd took part in our Festival of Creativity this year, hosting a virtual workshop for our eco-textiles students.

The A level girls were given an insight into the sustainable processes behind Ulu Swim and Surf, helping to inspire them as they work on their own sustainable dyes and fabrics.

Find out more about Eco-Textiles at Headington by clicking here.