You might have spotted it already, the new La Selva Collection by Monique Rotteveel has landed! So, we thought it would be a perfect time to share a little more about the lady behind the label with you. Monique was one of the first designers on Seafoam when we launched back in 2015 and has been praised and loved by you for her high quality pieces and amazing prints. Read all about her inspiration and hard work below.
Hi Monique, first of all, being from the Netherlands originally, how did you get into surfing?
I grew up in a little village in the Netherlands (Bodegraven!). We went to the beach (Scheveningen) sometimes, but I actually had no idea about surfing and didn’t know anyone who surfed. I didn't start surfing until I was 22, so about 13 years ago now. I was traveling through South America and when I got to Brasil my goal was to learn to surf. I went to the Floripa peninsula (and then the little town of Barra da Lagoa), fell in love with surfing and ended up staying at the same spot for 6 weeks to be in the water all day, every day. Didn't end up seeing much of Brasil (haha!) but learned a lot about surfing and made a lot of good friends there!
When did you come up with the idea behind your label?
After another trip with a lot of surfing in Costa Rica where most my bikinis failed epically. I started wearing my yoga tops as surf bikinis because they stayed on better! After that trip, I had the idea of creating my own yoga & surf wear. Also because you don’t have to bring that many clothes when you are back packing if you can use the same clothes for both yoga and surfing! My first designs I actually already created during that trip, that was my signature Jungle Feathers print, the first print for my brand!
Monique Rotteveel in her very first Jungle Feathers print.
Do you have an academic background that helped you with setting up your label?
I studied Graphic Design at the Art Academy in Rotterdam. Here we learned a lot about creating from idea/concept, working with different materials and mediums ( photography, illustration, painting,...) and also about all the Adobe programs (Photoshop, Illustrator) to make your ideas digital. It was mostly focused on print/brand identity/ logos/ books/ magazines though, but it has definitely helped me with my brand, because I can design everything myself. From the logo, to the return forms, to the prints for the clothing, I designed it all myself!
Is running your activewear label your full-time job?
Yes, I focus mostly on my brand! I also take some graphic design freelance jobs here and there and I make jewellery and resin art as well. Although, 80% of the time is dedicated to my brand/business. Spoiler alert: I am not making a ton of money though, not at all. I live a very simple life in Costa Rica. Which is actually cheaper then it would be living in the Netherlands! I took on some business loans a few years ago and I'm still struggling to pay them back, but I believe my brand will keep growing (even when it’s slowly and steadily). I will get there eventually.
Monique testing her own creations in the waves.
You live in Costa Rica now, what made you decide to move there?
I always worked to travel! I was living in the Netherlands, taking any job I could find and as soon as I had enough for a ticket and a month's stay I would fly overseas to go on an adventure and find some waves. I realised I just wanted to be by the Ocean all year long and preferably in a tropical country! After I visited a friend (that I had met in Brasil before) in Dominical, Costa Rica, I fell in love with this little surf town and kept coming back. After about 5 visits I made the actual move. Just before the move I was living in The Hague through winter time, trying to recover from the trademark infringement of my first brand name. A big money set-back, it cost me €15K! I was setting up a new brand name and website while living in the city. I was working a lot and it was getting colder and days were getting shorter. I was actually getting really depressed. It got so bad that I didn’t see any other solution than to try and make the move to Costa Rica in the hope that the sunshine and the ocean would bring me back to life and feeling good again. When you have nothing to lose, you can make a big decision easier. So I went, and started feeling better! The waves and nature are so healing! It was the best decision I have ever made.
While you live in Costa Rica, your pieces are made in Europe. Does this distance work? How do you check up on manufacturing standards etc.?
It's not easy to be on top of everything all the time, but I usually make trips to Europe twice a year and visit the factory as well. After 5 years of working together with the family owned business that produces my collection, I trust them fully and their quality is always right on point. I am very happy with the amazing quality of my collection, long lasting, vibrant colours and good fits.
Sunshine and waves make Monique feel alive.
We have always had great feedback on the quality of your product and fabric. Was it hard to find this quality of fabric for production?
I just decided to go for the best (and most expensive) fabrics that were on the market! Italy is known for its top quality fabrics and as soon as I got the first samples I knew it felt good. After testing them in the salty ocean and the sunshine for a couple of months and they were still good, I knew these were the fabrics I wanted to work with for my brand! They are made from recycled plastic bottles, so they have less impact on the environment as well. I am very stoked on my manufacturers as well. They are a family business that have been making swimwear for over 20 years. So I knew that their quality must be good, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the market for that long.
How Sustainable Is Your Fabric Versus Virgin Polyester?
This process of converting PET into recycled polyester requires much less energy than in the case of normal polyester, it takes 33-53% less energy. There are two main advantages to this process:
- Using more recycled polyester reduces our dependence on petroleum as the raw material for our fabric needs.
- Diverting PET bottles for this process reduces landfill, and thus less soil contamination, air, and water pollution.
Could you give us an insight into your typical working day?
I wake up early, by the sounds of the birds and the howler monkeys around 5:30.
I start the day by cuddling my two doggies, doing some stretches, or playing guitar on the balcony. Then I usually check my emails to see if there is something important that needs my attention right away. (Timezone difference! Europe is 8 hours later so their day is already going on when I wake up!) If so, I'll do a few hours of work early in the morning. If not, I usually go to the beach and surf the mornings, then I will do a couple of hours at the end of the day. I like to enjoy daytime being outside mostly. It also gets really hot here in Costa Rica, so around mid day you don’t really want to work!
Every day involves some work like answering emails, all kinds; from customers, production, the warehouse, collaborations, returns, etc. Also daily social media, keeping up with stories, posts, and comments on my @bymoniquerotteveel account. Sometimes it means just looking around for inspiration and creating art for new collections. Other days include photoshoots, photo editing, looking for ambassadors, creating the prints, new styles and designing anything from the packaging to the return forms etc etc. There is always so much to do! I don’t work 10 hours a day though, my goal is to fully enjoy every day of life and to work enough to keep this going!
What have been your biggest challenges since launching?
Well, what I find hard is to get my products out there. I have a nice steady customer base now, but it’s hard to find new customers to be honest. As I don’t really have the money for a lot of advertising, my brand just grows slowly and organically. But it’s also good, this way I can keep up with it all.
Another one is lack of capital to invest in a bigger collection. I have so many ideas! But not the funds. I am actually thinking of doing a crowdfunding camping for the 2021 Summer collection, so that all my ideas can come to life for this collection!
With challenges also come amazing achievements.
What achievement are you most proud of?
To see my friends wearing my bikinis when they are surfing and in the yoga studio. All of you ladies that I haven’t personally met, but share your photos with me on social media. It is so amazing to see all these beautiful women wearing my designs! :)
Are you working on any new projects for your surf and yoga collections?
I would love to do a bit wider range of products as well! Add more lifestyle items like tees, tops and hoodies with my illustrations. Even printed yoga mats and beach towels would be so cool to have in the collection. Hopefully soon!
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years time?
On a personal level: Living a beautiful life, doing what I love, wherever I want to be (probably still Costa Rica :)! In 5 years I also hope to have a family of my own.
Business wise, I also love the idea of having my own actual store, with my surf & yoga wear, lifestyle items and resin art (next to the online shop!). With enough free time to play and surf, of course! Maybe have one or two awesome women working with me on the brand (design/ sales) and in the shop, because I won’t have the time to do it all by myself anymore! In 5 years I want to have paid off my business loans, feeling free and keep doing what I love!
Last but not least, a special message to you from Monique..
I am doing the best that I can, learning a little more every day. :) I have no background in fashion, I see the trends, but I mostly just create what I love! Inspired by the ocean and the jungle! Quality, sustainability, and fair production are really important to me and my brand. I want to create this collection for you and me, so we can feel confident while we are out there surfing those big waves, or doing our yoga practice. I want us to feel stoked about our products, because they last a long time and are not harmful or wasteful for the environment. All feedback on the collection is always more than welcome! Your opinion matters to me, so don’t hesitate to shoot me a message. Thank you for your support and thank you Seafoam, for believing in my brand since the beginning (2015) and always supporting and inspiring me!