I sat with Claire for almost an hour. I was truly inspired and at times, shocked, by what she had to say. Not to mention everything she has achieved so far. From debunking why the bikini industry isn’t actually saving the world one bikini at a time, to modern day slavery in clothing factories and making a custom designs for trans women—Claire and her label, Ocean Remedy, are refreshingly original and honest.
On most days, you will find Claire O’Loughlin in her shop. Adjacent to a busy street corner, drenched in natural light and the charm that is Fremantle, the store is as vibrant as her. But the store itself isn’t the most impressive attribute of this picture. It’s Claire’s work and her Ocean Remedy clothing label.
Her pathway to the fashion industry was non-traditional and so is her approach. The Ocean Remedy story began years ago when Claire was studying Environmental Science. “As a part of my degree, I was looking at food systems and going, okay, so a lot of the population knows about food miles and the impact of our food. So we know that if we buy local, if we eat less meat, we’re helping the planet. That’s simple really. But less of us realised the impact of our clothing.” Claire was concerned with the large quantities of discarded clothing that accounts for waste and the microplastic pollution associated with our laundry. As the course didn’t cover the topic in depth, she began to do her own research and take action.
“..I said to the university I’m doing an environmental science degree…the impact of our clothing is enormous. So I want to go and do a sustainable (fashion) design course at Curtin…I just incorporated that into my degree.”
After finishing the course and her degree, Claire kept striving for more. She was a teacher for a number of years while she perfected her (mostly self-taught) sewing skills and began to accumulate knowledge and contacts.
Many Google searches and trips to visit artisans in Indonesia later, Claire had secured herself an ethical supply chain for recycled fabrics. Though, it wasn’t an overnight fix, nor a simple one. Drawing the links between where the waste is sourced, how it gets made into fabric, passed on to her team of seamstresses and finally makes its way to Australia—was an undertaking. What’s more Claire takes great pride in her focus on sustainability outside of materials. The team in Bali are paid well and work in good conditions including with sick and holiday pay. This level of attention to detail and drive sets her apart from other brands.
During our conversation she shared with me her knowledge of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2010. An event that was one of the worst fashion industry disasters and responsible for the deaths of 1,135 people. It was clear to me long before this that Claire is a person that does things for the benefit of others and the world, but when she expressed her feelings about the Rana Plaza incident, I knew she was airtight in her ethos and following through.
Claire said “It’s so horrific the collapse created a thousand orphans as well. ‘Cause they’re all parents in the factories. So, for me, sustainability is people. You must look after the vulnerable because how else can you protect the planet? If they’re not looked after, then they can’t protect their patch. So we have to look after people in order to protect the planet. Then we have to look after the planet. The definition of sustainability is something that can continue indefinitely.”
Unlike other self-confessed ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ labels that use greenwashing terms to justify their production; Ocean Remedy garments are made from recycled carpets and are produced ethically. As a scientist, it was important to Claire that she conducted her own research before committing to anything. Conscious of the impact that fast-fashion has on our society, Claire’s garments are made to last and with design principles that allow for the most economic use of fabric and minimal to no off cuts. Another waste-reduction measure includes Claire accepting garments back at the end of their life. An advocate for well-fitting and all inclusive clothing, she produces leggings and shorts in sizes four to 22, for bodies of all shapes and sizes. Though, that is just ‘figurative’ she says. “Really I can design these to fit anyone.” Inclusivity and fit are a focus for her.
“My start (in the business) was actually frustration at poor fit. In swimwear in particular, but clothing generally…I’m not a big consumer. So when I shop, I’m really mindful about what I buy. And that annoyance, that inconsistency in sizing, you know, you can have one brand and all the sizes, you might be 12 in one or 14 in the other, you know?”
After selling her wares at markets for four years, this year she’s decided to go all-in and open a store front. Though, it’s not your regular brick and mortar. Almost a half of the floor is reserved for sewing machines, overlockers, fabric and a huge sewing table. If ‘hand’s on’ were a person, Claire would be her. The shop is adorned with not only Ocean Remedy but other equally beautiful, practical and locally made goods that all share a sustainability ethos.
You will find:
Available Offline – Romantic and boho clothing made with love
Emflower – Flow fearlessly in period underwear
Sofie Seyah – Artwork for ocean lovers
Fairspace Fair Trade – Supporting sustainable development of communities
Elia balms and blends – Natural deodorant that really works!
Kandles by Kristy – Consciously created soy based candles
Etiko – Australia’s most ethical tee shirts
BHM – Homewares and unique handcrafted boho pieces
Burnt Art – Hand made wooden laser cut lamps
What’s next for Claire O’Loughlin and the Ocean Remedy brand?
“My goals for the business aren’t that lofty. But for the environment? I want to make biodegradable and natural fibre activewear and swimwear options and create recycled fabric for which the plastic source can be traced to the village in which it was collected in the next few years.” We can’t wait to see Claire’s journey unfold.
You can follow her on Instagram @ocean_remedy_store
To read more about the Ocean Remedy brand or purchase some swimwear for yourself, visit the website here: https://ocean-remedy.com/
Better yet, drop into the store and have a chat with Claire!
140A South Tce, Fremantle.