#humansofyachting – Lauren Wardley
The founder of Ethical Yacht Wear on her motivations behind launching a sustainable uniform brand for superyacht crew.
“A friend described superyachts to me as luxury hotels on the ocean and I was sold. I had already done a degree in business and hotel management and was working in Sydney in a hotel by the beach. I jumped on a plane and went over to Fort Lauderdale to do my training and have now been working on yachts for about three and a half years.
I’m on a boat called Samadhi at the moment as a full-time steward. I work 8am until 5pm, unless we are in charter season, then I try to do a good few hours every evening for my own business, Ethical Yacht Wear. I usually sit down by about 7.30pm and I’ll generally work until midnight. It’s just how I am. I love building and creating. I’m not good with downtime.
Ethical Yacht Wear started off the back of another clothing brand I’d started called One Back. It sold street-style T-shirts and I donated part of the profit back to ocean pollution and research. I had an article about it in an industry magazine called Dockwalk and then a lot of boats got in touch to ask if they could use my product for yacht uniform. As soon as I realised the level of interest, I turned it overnight into Ethical Yacht Wear. I wasn’t expecting such a response and since then it’s been awesome. I’ve had six or seven big boats doing most of their ordering through me.
I took inspiration from a couple of other companies – TOMS was one of them – you buy a pair of shoes from their store and they give another pair to a child in South America. I really appreciated that business model so I always knew I wanted to give something back for everything we sold. In terms of the actual product, we use organic, ethical cotton. Non-organic cotton uses tonnes of pesticides and it literally runs straight off into the oceans – it’s a large contributor when it comes to killing off sea life. With organic cotton, there are no pesticides and no toxins.
I’d love to get as many boats interested and encourage them to move from using uniforms with regular cotton or polyester with plastic inks and things. I want to make a big impact. I am already designing my own clothing line so that I can supply everything as at the moment I am limited to hats, hoodies and polos. Then I’d like to move into sustainable guest amenities. In terms of the future for the company as a whole, I’d like to use Ethical Yacht Wear as a vehicle to help organize beach clean-ups, getting young people involved, and creating some movement.
It’s just about being constantly mindful of how we can better the practices on board every day. Beyond the uniforms, there’s plenty of other stuff to think about. One big one is eco-friendly detergent – lots of the regular stuff actually says on the label that it harms sea life so I would like to encourage people to be careful about what products they are using.
I haven’t been in the industry long, but there seem to be a lot of initiatives going on in this space, which is great. I was recently down at the Antigua Yacht Show and competed in the Designer Water Contest. The idea behind it is to promote eco-friendly ways of serving water to guests on board – anything but plastic bottles! I was in Barcelona recently too and did a beach clean-up with one of the big marinas there – there are always things happening. I love what 4Ocean are doing too [the company pulls plastic and glass waste from the oceans and uses it to make jewellery] – they have made an awesome impact and really delivered on what they set out to do.
I am absolutely stoked to do the job I do and it gives the opportunity for so much travel. I love Barcelona – I went there for the first time recently before we crossed the Med and fell in love with it. The beachfront is right there in the city– plus there’s this great culture, with really good food and drink and loads of activities. Capri was also beautiful. I am not really a city person – if I’m not in the mountains or by the ocean I’m not happy – it’s a nature thing really. I would still love to go up to Alaska. I was over on the West Coast for a while but I didn’t quite make it up there. It’s top of my bucket list.”