Feb 26, 2020
By the year 2050, it’s estimated
that there will be as much plastic in the ocean as there are fish.
The industrial fishing industry actually generates a staggering 10%
of this waste in the form of abandoned fish nets and fishing gear,
approximately 640,000 tons each year. It’s estimated that 46% of
the plastic in the
Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from
fishing gear alone. Luckily, I’m talking to someone today who is
tackling the problem of ocean plastic in a really unique way.
Hannah Tomita is the founder and designer of Kaira
Active. Kaira Active makes all of their products out of
recycled fishnets and fishing gear! Hannah grew up in Hawaii and
moved to California for college. After stumbling into her passion
for fashion while a senior, she decided to sew her own swimwear to
avoid spending hundreds of dollars on a swimsuit from a store. She
taught herself how to make her own swimsuits by watching YouTube
videos and reading articles online. After building a portfolio of
her work, Hannah landed a job as an assistant designer at a
swimwear consultancy where she worked with several high-profile
international brands. I love hearing people who use their unique
passions to solve problems in really unique ways, and I can’t wait
for you to hear how Hannah is making a difference for the
environment with her business.
5:20 - The Hannah 101
- Growing up in Hawaii, Hannah
visited the ocean at least a couple times a week. Experiences in
nature were very accessible, and she spent her childhood exploring
the island of Oahu.
- Hannah studied industrial design
in college at Arizona State University. Hannah started sewing
swimsuits and learned how to make designs from patterns and online
- It was sharing her designs online
that ultimately led Hannah to her first job as an assistant fashion
designer at a consultancy. She worked with big clients like Urban
Outfitters, Tommy Bahama, True Religion and more.
- Hannah immersed herself in fashion
and while she loved it, she quickly realized that the industry was
riddled with fast fashion and little to no concern for
sustainability. No one was diving deep into thinking through
designs and materials used.
- A few years after working in the
fashion industry, Hannah realized the need for companies that
thought through how their practices would affect the world. That’s
when she started Kaira Active.
- When she was a student, Hannah
loved designer swimwear, but couldn’t afford designer swimsuits on
a college student budget. Missing the beach while studying in
Arizona and not being able to afford the swimsuits she liked led
her to start playing around with sewing her own
8:40 – Kaira Active
- What began as a curiosity and
hobby turned into a unique fashion brand that recycles industrial
fishing nets and turns them into functional, beautiful active
- Sadly, there are a lot of ways
these nets end up polluting the ocean. Sometimes fisherman will
illegally dump their nets to avoid getting caught. In other
situations, nets are lost due to bad weather or getting snagged.
There’s currently no good system in place to regulate the
- When Hannah first started working
at the swimwear consultancy, a vendor came in from Italy selling
fabric made out of recycled fish nets. At the time, sustainability
wasn’t being paid attention to very much, but seeing the fabric
made Hannah excited about merging her love of nature and her very
- Hannah was also looking for a way
to get the most out of her activewear. Her fitness and outdoor
hobbies are eclectic, and she wanted a way to use one outfit for
both the yoga studio and surfing.
16:26 – Fishing Nets to Fabrics to
- Kaira Active partners with a
nonprofit organization called Healthy
Seas that sends divers to pull nets out of the ocean.
Since industrial fishing nets are made of Nylon, the nets are taken
to a facility and chemically regenerated back into their pure form
of Nylon and made into ECONYL.
- ECONYL is the technology that
forms the Nylon into a thread which is then sewn in with Spandex to
make fabric for Kaira Active clothing. You can learn more about the
stages of the process here: https://kairaactive.com/pages/protecting-the-ocean
- The majority of the fishing nets
are collected from the North Sea, Adriatic Sea, and Mediterranean
Sea where there are many shipwrecks.
- Fun fact: Since 2013, the Healthy
Seas initiative has recovered 453 tons of fishing nets from the
ocean – that’s the weight of 3 blue whales!
- Kaira Active is also committed to
reducing their waste, energy, emission, and water consumption. They
partner only with manufactures that focus on sustainability, their
electricity is derived from renewable sources, and they have
adopted a water system aimed at reducing polluting agents before it
is sent to the municipal water treatment plant. There’s more and
you can learn about their reduction of harm HERE.
- Kaira’s dad believed in her vision
and encouraged her to go for it. He invested 2 bitcoins right
before bitcoin took off. Hannah’s bitcoin appreciated and allowed
Hannah to get her idea off the ground with development, design, and
a Kickstarter campaign video.
24:00 – Multifunctional and
- Kaira Active’s mission going
forward is to reduce the amount of clothing in the world while
giving customers a multifunctional piece that they can use for
- All of Kaira Active’s tops are
reversible, so you get multiple looks from one garment!
- Instead of buying active wear from
a big box store with lower quality materials, consumers can invest
in a higher quality item that will last longer while reducing
- In additional to the sustainable
qualities of Kaira Active’s garments as well as their good business
practices, a portion of their profits go back to the Healthy Seas
- Kaira Active ships responsibly by
reducing plastic and packaging materials. They use 100% recycled
paper and reusable 100% recycled poly mailers.
26:43 - Getting To Know Our
- Learn about Hannah’s guilty
pleasure, who she’d most like to sit next to on a 10-hour flight,
what she’s reading right now, and of course, what it means to her
to run a business with purpose!
CONNECT WITH HANNAH: