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Doing good with Candice Rose O’Rourke of Zulu & Zephyr


The woman behind your favourite swimwear is proof even 1% can make the world of difference.

Candice Rose O’Rourke stands beside sister Karla at the helm of label Zulu & Zephyr, beloved for its high summer swimwear and easy ready-to-wear pieces — which inevitably become a go-to 365 days a year. From her home of Byron Bay, Candice helps balance the brand’s beautiful design with clever and conscious business acumen. Along with being a good human Candice is the mother to little ones, so her bona fide approach to Zulu & Zephyr’s footprint is always informed by the need to look after the world we’re helping shape for them. (We told you she was a good human.)

Words Elle McClure | Visuals provided Candice and Zulu & Zephyr 

While the Zulu & Zephyr ethos might be decidedly laid back, the Byron Bay born-and-bred brand is going full steam ahead. Their knack of imbuing their stylish swim, ready-to-wear and accessories with an inimitable ‘high summer’ vibe has earnt them fans in Margot Robbie, Nicole Trunfio and Gemma Ward — along with swathes of like-minded women who look to the brand to keep the warm-weather feeling alive year-round.  

While the brand has always operated with sustainability front of mind, they’ve doubled down on those principles of late. From exploring more sustainable fabrications and the use of recycled materials; to responsible sourcing processes and strides toward a more ethical supply chain; along with a commitment to work placements for BIPOC students and women, Zulu & Zephyr are making a habit of progress.

Now, they’re launching the classic swim and ready-to-wear styles that make up their ‘Signatures’ collection, but in a range of sustainable fabrications - which means you can shop the Zulu & Zephyr shapes you already love, in colours you’ll want to wear, but in fabrications that are as good for the environment as they look. The Econyl rib fabric is made of regenerated nylon, and has been developed exclusively for the brand. They also intend to make the range more sustainable from end-to-end, down to landing in your hands in minimal and biodegradable packaging. 

The brand is also a member of 1% for the Planet, the organisation co-founded by Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard which helps to fund environmental organisations through contributions from a global network of businesses both large and small. It’s based on the notion that: “Because companies profit from the resources they take from the earth, they should [in turn] protect those resources.” As part of the brand’s ongoing involvement with the organisation, one per cent of profits from this new sustainable Signatures range will go to environmental organisations they’re aligned with. Win win.

We’re thrilled to support this mission, stocking pieces from this innovative range so that you can update your warm-weather wardrobe with swimwear you’ll feel good about living in all summer long. We thought it was a timely chance to pick the brain of co-founder Candice Rose O’Rourke on the company’s sustainability learnings, her own plans for summer, and to get a book recommendation or two for whiling away hours by a body of water. 

What’s been the biggest learning curve or myth-busting exercise when it’s come to building on Zulu & Zephyr’s sustainability credentials?

How important this process was not just for us, but for our families and for the industry as a whole. Once we got into the headspace of prioritising our moral obligations, there was no other option for us but to flip all of the outdated existing practices on their head and reinvent our business, in order to contribute to change. 

What do you wish more people knew about sustainability and the fashion industry?

That they have the power to ignite change big or small. There is still work to be done, but voices and demands are being heard — and that’s powerful.

What’s a good habit you’ve recently adapted at home or in your wardrobe to help do a little good?

This sounds really simple, but passing down my clothing to friends and new mums and continuing the lifespan of clothing. I have also limited my personal purchases and investments — though it’s diverted to furniture! 

What’s something the Current You would like the Young You to know?

That you can exist and live outside of what is expected or predicted of you. Broadening your opinions, knowledge and pushing the limits takes you to some far away places. When I was younger, I lived by the rule book. These days, I have sort of thrown that out the window and embraced the idea of living a little left of centre. 

What’s the last book you finished and what did you love about it?

I currently have a bookmark in the Gurrumul book [by Robert Hillman] and Acid for the Children (by Flea of Red Hot Chilli Peppers). They’re two humans who have lived outside of society’s expectations and elitist standards. 

Where did you last explore?

We recently spent some time as a family in Iluka in a riverside cottage and Burleigh Heads in a high-rise. It was fun to sink into a place and share it with our kids who loved it! 

And where’s the first place you’ll be heading once we’re able to travel more freely?

Home! We have finally finished our home build here in Byron Bay so I will be going nowhere. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Two things: one being, “Just do your best.” The other is: “Would your business stand up if social media disappeared, and how?” I’m currently receiving some online marketing coaching that is blowing my mind and challenging me to think outside the box. I always suggest that people keep pushing forward and learning new skills and ideas. 

And the worst? 

That a third party knows your business better than you (they don’t).

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Everyday my kids and my husband make me smile! Life is fun but fleeting. Grab onto it.