At Work With: Natalie Glaze, Wild Swim

At Work With: Natalie Glaze, Wild Swim

Breaking through the noise of fast fashion and influencer culture, Stay Wild is a breath of fresh air on our Instagram feeds. Transparent practices and ethical roots certainly float our boat, so we think this sustainable swim brand is one to watch, especially with co-founder Natalie Glaze leading the charge.

We took a dive into Natalie’s world to discover her passion for sustainability, her love of the sea and to catch-up on her lockdown interior projects.

You’re the definition of a self-starter: how did you make the jump from office life, to blogger to business-woman?

To be honest by just winging it. I feel like my whole career has been a series of taking risks, making it up as I go and hoping for the best (who isn’t!)! I worked in media for a few years before going freelance with social media and pr for brands. I started my blog and Instagram on the side which in turn turned into Instagram content creation and blogging as one of my main jobs which I wasn’t planning but absolutely loved the freedom and creativity it brought. Which is how I meet my co-founder Zanna Van Dijk through blogging and events and we became friends and started Stay Wild together just over two years ago now. I think I always knew I would run my own business, I was always writing business plans and coming up with ideas but I never ran with any until Stay Wild. Which just felt right, sometimes you have to go with those gut feelings.

The Stay Wild ethical journey doesn’t stop with recycled ocean plastic as your source material but stretches to empowering women and exceptional factory standards. Why is it important to have a holistic approach to an ethical business?

We always knew when we started Stay Wild it was about making every single decision with people and the planet in mind. Sustainability is more than just the material although it was important for us to use a recycled sustainable material. We also wanted to make everything locally and ethically, we wanted to know the humans who made our pieces and have a hands-on approach to production. For us, it’s making sure that every detail including our packaging being made using recycled and recyclable materials, using compostable hygiene liners, having a slow fashion approach to our brand, putting quality first and encouraging buying less but better. We want to look at sustainability from all angles and create an empowering brand for everyone who wears the products but also for the planet.

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Stay Wild isn’t your only project – you also created the book swap club – can you tell us a little about that?

Book Swap Club came from my love of reading, as it helps me to switch-off and relax. I was reading so quickly and ended up swapping books with friends a lot. Once I started talking about it on social media, it just kind of snowballed. I ran monthly events (pre-Covid) where everyone would bring books they loved, have great conversations, eat lots of snacks and often drink wine. I partnered with Facebook on quite a few events, did supper clubs and more. They were all focused around the idea of community and buying less, swapping more. Since lockdown I have been mainly sharing reviews on my page of my favourite reads, but also reviews from the community. Hopefully one day I can run the events again as they were really special.

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Wellness has clearly always been a big part of your journey. When did sustainability come into the equation, or was it always there?

I think growing up in the countryside and being near the sea meant I was always conscious of nature, although ‘sustainability’ was less at the forefront of my mind until about 5-6 years ago. I have always loved the ocean and swimming, so seeing firsthand the effect of ocean plastic when I went snorkeling or swimming made me question the amount of plastic I was using and, in turn, how much was being thrown away by humans and the impact that had on wildlife and the oceans. It was a slow journey of learning and becoming more conscious. It started with my use of plastic, then into my daily choices and habits, consumption of clothing and moving away from fast fashion. I think Stay Wild opened my eyes even more to the impact of fashion and the garment industry. I am in no way perfect but do my best to make more sustainable choices in my everyday life.

We love seeing a sustainable brand grow, but 2020 was no doubt a challenge for Stay Wild. How did the business cope with such a turbulent year?

2020 was definitely a challenge for all businesses. We had to push back on quite a few launches, shoots, events etc. However, I do think we learnt a lot: it forced us to adapt quickly and be more creative. Community has always been vital to our business, and our audience help shape our products and business, so we focused on them. We took time looking at where we want to be and learning a lot, and we worked hard on new products that will launch this year.

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And what about you personally? It looks like you’ve had some time to work on your new home interior? Has that always been a passion of yours?

Growing up, interiors and buildings have always been a big part of my life. My dad is an architect, so I grew up on building sites and saw projects come together, which I found fascinating. Last June, my boyfriend and I purchased our new home, so it’s been so fun to work on the interiors and renovation. It’s involved a lot of DIY and painting, which I find very therapeutic. Running Stay Wild day-to-day is very full-on, so I turn to my home project to help switch off. We have been taking our time to get a feel for the house, and now we’re on a roll with working on each room and I love to us see the transformation.

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You’re an advocate of buying vintage. Why is it important to you to use reclaimed items in your home?

I adore vintage pieces and I have been shopping from vintage shops for years. I don’t buy clothes often, but when I do, I will often search my favourite vintage shops or secondhand stores. I love that the pieces have a story, it’s better for the environment and I am a believer in a slower, more mindful approach to consumption. I have the same mindset when it came to the interiors; I love finding pieces with character and searching online auctions or eBay for a vintage or secondhand piece and mixing that with new pieces. My favourite pieces in my home are vintage or secondhand.

How do you feel lighting effects wellness, and how important have you found it in your home?

I think lighting is so important – it brings a room together. The light bulbs themselves affect the mood of a room. I want my home to be a place that is welcoming, where I can switch off and unwind and I see lighting as a huge part of that feeling.

We can see from your Instagram that ‘ByGlaze’ is coming soon. Can you give us a hint as to what that is?

Ah yes! Another one of my many projects! I always have new ideas and By Glaze is just one of those many ideas that I decided to run with. I came up with the idea last year when we first went into lockdown. I spent about 6 months researching and developing the idea and brand. I have been sharing the journey on my Instagram page along with tips and advice for startup life. The products are focused on recycled materials, slow fashion and simple, timeless designs that you can wear every day. Hopefully coming in Feb 2021!

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What advice would you offer someone wanting to start a sustainable business?

Before we launched Stay Wild, one of my favourite bits of advice was to just go for it – that idea, that plan – just do it. I think learning on the job and evolving as you go is a crucial part of business and helps make your business better. Sustainability wise: don’t cut corners, take your time and think about each decision and the impact it makes. Sustainability is more than just the material, it’s the ethics, the way the pieces are made. It’s about slowing down and creating less, but better.

Quick fire questions:

Favourite thing about the sea?
How vast it is. Its size and beauty always put things in perspective and make me feel grounded again.

Most treasured vintage item?
Fashion-wise, my oversized Italian navy blazer I wear constantly and is such a beautiful classic piece I will wear for years and years. Then homeware-wise, I adore my marble-topped French washstand I picked up at an auction. It’s such a beautiful piece and has so much character.

Go-to brunch spot in London?
Café Fleur in Wandsworth is up there as one of my favourites!

Best book you read in lockdown?
Ah, too many to choose from. I have demolished so many books this past year, but I just finished The Betrayals by Bridget Collins which I couldn’t put down. Full-on, escape-to-another-world, spellbinding writing.

Thanks to Natalie for talking to us. Head over to Stay Wild to discover their sustainable swimwear, follow Natalie on Instagram and check out her new project ByGlaze.

Questions by Josie Brenta.