Interview with the founder of Zealous surf wear brand
Updated: Jul 5
I catch up with Marie the founder and owner of Zealous - an eco conscious surfwear, apparel, accessories and lifestyle brand based in Germany.
Tell me a bit about your business? For more than 10 years now, I’ve been running Zealous. What started as a hobby biz making customized beanies for snowboarding season in Europe turned into a proper surf bikini and apparel brand for women. All our products are made by hand in Bali and under fair conditions. And we design what we want to wear ourselves but can’t find in any other surf store!
Nowadays Zealous’ collections feature surf bikinis that stay put in the surf, leggings for surfing and yoga, as well as surf suits and one-pieces. Besides that, we create surf inspired streetwear and apparel because we can’t be in the ocean 24/7 ;-)
What made you decide to start a business designing bikinis?
I only got into making bikinis through my 6-months trip to Bali, Indonesia! What started as a semester abroad quickly switched to setting up a complete network of suppliers and manufacturers for Zealous’ production of streetwear.
And bikinis? Well, I started surfing every day and couldn’t find a single bikini on the island that wouldn’t let me down in the surf! So, I got samples made of my own designs, field tested them, wiped out a lot, and after 6 months I was ready to go into production of my first ever surf bikini! The rest is history I guess :-D Stay-On surf bikinis are now the heart of my collections!
What's a typical day/week like in your shoes?
To be honest, I’m not an early riser. I like to sleep until 8am and have my first coffee in bed, while doing my physio exercise and meditation. If the sun is shining and the surf is flat, my fiancé and I take our two fluffy Bali doggos to the beach for breakfast and a swim. Otherwise, we jump into the waves of course!
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I often don’t get onto my laptop before 11am haha! But once I’m in the office, I’m hard to get out again. My work is super mixed up, I mostly work on at least 2 things at the same time and am still surprised how I’m managing It all. That means a day could consist of organizing my tax report, reordering bikinis for a wholesale customer in Europe, meet a customer for a fitting in my office, answer questions for blogs, and negotiate terms for future ambassadors. Let me tell you, it never gets boring ;-)
Before the pandemic I liked to work out in the gym once finished with work. Nowadays I like to use that time to hang out with my fluffballs and my partner or meet friends to play boardgames! Oh dear, how the times has changed throughout the last year… haha
Zealous is clearly very conscious about sustainability, can you tell us why this is important to you, the ways you make Zealous as sustainable as possible and what sustainability plans you have for the future?
The ocean / nature is our playground and if we want to keep playing, we gotta protect it. Seeing so much plastic trash first hand on Bali’s beaches has been an eye-opener to me, especially because that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We don’t see the CO2 that is causing rising sea temperatures, we don’t meet the people dying of pollution, it all seems too far away. But once you see and know about those issues, you can’t look away anymore.
Because I create and put those products on the market, I feel responsible for doing it in the most sustainable way possible or not at all!
Our sustainability efforts include CO2 neutral operations, donations of 1% of our sales to environmental issues, and the use of as many recycled and sustainable fibers as possible. In the future I also want to offset the emissions for the production of the products itself but that will require a quite a bit more research and calculation.
You wok with a small team of people in Bali to make your bikinis, have you had any issues with having your workforce in a different country?
Not really because they are based in Bali, cause I’m in Bali myself most oft he time. The problems occur rather because of language barriers and often differences in how we perceive a certain standard of quality and quality control.
But I’ve been working with them for several years now and it’s mostly all going well now. Even though we had quite some troubles with the streetwear collection lately with a lot of textiles not being delivered etc.
How do you stay motivated?
If I become unmotivated, I usually just need a bit of play time to be able to focus again. Play time for me is surfing, playing frisbee, or doing yoga
What's next for your business?
We have finally set up a company in Indonesia last year and are starting to conquer the Indonesian market which is super exciting!
Do you have any advice for other women looking to start their own business?
Do it! And don’t wait till everything is perfect, cause no one is!
What do you do to relax?
Ooooh, I’m the biggest sucker for some spa time haha! I need to go at least once a week for massage, and take care of the rest of my body with facials, scrubs, mani, pedi, you name it ;-)
But as I mentioned earlier, I need my work out too to relax my mind.
What did you have for breakfast?
I actually just landed in my hometown of Hamburg yesterday, and had my most favorite pastry in the world ever: Franzbrötchen! They are almost only available in Hamburg and similar to cinnamon rolls but better.
Used to like Rise & Conquer, The Healthy Hustlers and The Amy Rushworth show.. but lately I feel like all the podcasts are just turning into advertisement tools selling their retreats and I barely listen to them anymore.
Essential road trip soundtrack songs?
Too many to name, gotta cover quite a few hours on a roadtrip ;-)
Where are you hoping to go on holiday/visit when travel restrictions have lifted?
I just travelled to Germany again after staying in Bali for 2 years because of the pandemic. That’s already been quite a big decision for me. Besides that, not many restrictions are in place in Bali and we’ve been doing a lot of smaller trips throughout the past year.
What’s your favourite product you sell and why?
The surf bikinis! Because I absolutely looove to help and find the right fit for my customers and to
see them feeling happy and confident in their new swimwear is so rewarding for me!
How can people buy your products and connect with you?
Connect with me on Zealous‘ IG: @zealous.clothing
Or through my private channel: @balimariee
And you can shop in Europe via www.zealousclothing.de
Or from outside Europe via www.zealous-clothing.com
Thanks so much for chatting and hanging out with me, Sara!!