It’s easy to think of surf labels as categorically niche. There are labels that exist to satisfy the market of perennial beach bums, who chase summer across the globe in search of the next mahalo and an ice-cold Corona. But they all too often serve up designs that are more caricature than couture. The reality of eternal summer style rarely matches the glamour of the fantasy. Newcomer Salt Gypsy is a true exception to this rule.
The label – which was originally founded as a surf blog in 2012 – is by former Billabong sales rep Danielle Clayton. The idea behind the blog was to provide a platform for female surfers to connect and showcase interesting, independent designers. But while working as a surf guide in the Maldives, the lack of affordable, stylish, sun-resistant surf leggings was a point of frustration – leading Clayton to turn the blog Salt Gypsy into a surfwear label of her own. “Starting a brand was never my intention, but I was fed up with the top-down product design that existed. With all due respect to the surf labels that came before me, I’ve never related to being marketed to by men,” says Clayton.
Today, the Byron Bay-based brand offers a wide range of apparel that looks as good in the surf as it does at a party. But a sustainable approach is also a priority to Clayton, who goes to great lengths to minimise the social and environmental impacts of the label’s manufacturing process. “I got picked up by Urban Outfitters in 2014, which was great but overwhelming. I felt like I couldn’t keep up, so I put the breaks on in order to build a more sustainable and solid supply chain from which to grow,” she says.
Since 2015, Salt Gypsy has been using a regenerated nylon fabric made from plastic debris salvaged from the ocean. The types of waste that go into the yarn include ghost nets, plastic bottles and industrial waste. “I've seen first-hand how imperfect, polluting, wasteful and unethical the fashion production and industry status quo can be. We have the power to change the way we produce and consume apparel,” says Clayton.
High-wasted bottoms and cropped rash tops and turtlenecks are done in elegant colours and patterns to create a line that is well designed and practical. If you can imagine a young Brigitte Bardot or Diana Ross catching waves, this is what they’d be wearing.
Despite the brand’s meteoric success, Clayton remains true to her roots. “We’re in amongst our community in Byron Bay on a daily basis,” she says. “I’m one of the girls.”
This article was updated on September 28, 2018.