Sometimes it only takes two to make an impact. Take this crafty Thai couple, for example, who recently launched a line of swimwear made almost entirely of recycled materials.
When most people think of “eco-friendly clothes,” they tend to imagine dreary and dull designs of drab fabrics. But not Papasree “Mint” Kiattipongthaworn and Sumet “Chung” Kulsrisunwan, the founding duo of Thai swimwear brand Bullet by Army of Interns, who made it their goal to achieve both style and sustainability with their latest collection.
“We wanted to make clothes that people want to wear. … though they’re made from recycled materials, our goal was to make swimwear that’s flattering, functional and fashionable, ” 29-year-old Papasree told Coconuts Bangkok.
Their latest collection, featuring 90% recycled materials, launched in July to overwhelmingly positive responses on social media. Apart from complaints about sizing issues, Papasree said she hasn’t received any major criticism.
“The nylon fabric we use is 100% recycled. The only things in our swimwear that aren’t currently recycled are the threads, elastic and padding. But next year, we’re hoping to shift to only use recycled materials,” Papasree said.
They first met in 2014 while studying design and fashion marketing at New York City’s renowned Parsons School of Design.
“My emphasis in school was knit-wear, but when I graduated and came back to Thailand, I quickly gathered that I cannot continue making such heavy clothes,” Papasree said. The duo launched their company Army of Interns in 2015 and said they went through many different ideas including handbags and wallets before pivoting to swimwear. Since their classmates and friends really encouraged the idea of sustainability while at university, Papasree said she really wanted to make her brand eco-friendly and prove to environmentally un-woke Thailand how fashionable sustainability could be.
“Another important goal for us was to make the price accessible to the general public,” she added.
One- and two-piece women’s swimwear retails for between THB480 (US$16) and THB2,310 (US$76.)
After much research, the pair discovered an Italian company that manufactures 100% recycled nylon. They started importing it and in July, their first sustainable collection Bullet by Army of Interns was launched.
As of right now, Papasree said everything – from photoshoots, designing and manufacturing – is done in-house to control the design and workflow. This, she says, is the best way to ensure that the least amount of materials go to waste.
She hopes to expand her brand to incorporate other sportswear in the future as well as to move toward producing zero waste.
“I want to find a sustainable way for people to discard our clothes. In the future, I was thinking that people could maybe return the swimwear they don’t use anymore, and we can turn it into something else, give it a second life,” she said.
A promotional video about the line.
The name Army of Interns is an homage to their time hustling to get by in New York City, where she said she was a serial intern.
“When we started our company, it was also filled with fresh, young and new graduates, so the name Army of Interns is kind of an inside joke about that,” she said, chuckling.