The Sunshine Series is an accessible solution to reducing the single use plastic that seems to be everywhere we turn in our everyday lives. They’re showing us how little swaps here and there can have a major impact.
Can you give us a backstory on how the brand was born?
Sunshine Series was born by solving a problem. After bringing my reusable shopping bag to the farmers market, making an effort to do my part, it would be full of those awful plastic produce bags. Accumulating dozens week after week & hoarding them under my sink until a small mountain formed, I knew there had to be a solution. I wanted to figure out an alternative to hold myself accountable as I was struggling to make reduce my waste and knew other people were as well. After discussing this with my then fiance, Austin, it quickly became real. Shortly after, we created The Sunshine Series & have found an amazing community of like minded people & shops all constantly learning & growing towards a brighter future.
Our goal is to reduce single use plastic & our disposable lifestyle by making small swaps. We’re not perfect but constantly striving to do better & encourage others along the way. Together, we can make a major impact!
Can you describe the brand in a few words?
We’re providing swaps for people to develop more sustainable habits.
Tell us a bit more about yourself as the brand founder and how the work is divided between the different team members (if there are any?).
I’m Katie, the Ms. Frizzel of Sunshine Series. I’m the creator, designer & overall problem solver. I run the instagram, pack all orders & the lucky one who gets to work on Sunshine Series daily. I’ve been a swim & activewear designer for the past decade & have spent that time learning from some of my favorite brands.
Austin is our CEO & my husband. He wrangles my wild vision & makes the business run smoothly. He’s also an amazing Landscape Architect who specializes in designing with native drought tolerant plants.
Matt is an incredible film director, photographer, website developer & is filming our upcoming interview series!
Heathyr is the domestic developer extraordinaire. She works with our local factory to coordinate samples & production. Bonus: she’s also an amazing yoga instructor.
Carly aka Batty creates our patterns & is an absolute sustainability guru.
How is the brand currently sustainable?
On the product & manufacturing side, our textiles are sustainably grown free from pesticides, herbicides & Global Organic Textile Standard Cotton certified ensuring our fabric is soured in the most ethical & sustainable ways from seed to sew. Our brand has a strong focus on Hemp as it is one of the most environmentally friendly natural fabrics currently available. It requires half the amount of land as standard cotton & one quarter of the water. All of our dyed items are done locally in LA by a family owned dye house using toxic free low waste methods.
Our packaging is compostable, made from post consumer waste & plant material. For shipping, we use discarded boxes collected from our community!
On the operation side, our carbon footprint is as small as we can possibly be by working out of our small home & walking to drop off most of the packages. We can’t call ourselves fully sustainable yet as we have a carbon footprint but we do take measures to offset those & will be continuing to take bigger steps as we grow.
Did your personal convictions affect your desire to build a sustainable brand?
Absolutely! Growing up at the beach, Austin & I have seen the impact of climate change first hand. I wanted to do something but just felt so small. It was shortly before the US pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement that we stopped being bystanders & got involved. Were constantly inspired by the youth movement rising up to protect their future & not afraid of big ideas.
In what ways does the brand tend to constantly become more ”green”?
We’re continuing to improve our supply chain by partnering with more local factories to alleviate a majority of our carbon footprint caused by transportation. We’ve improved our shipping by using compostable mailers & paper tape as opposed to plastic & will continue to adjust as much as possible as we go.
Where does the brand derive its design inspiration?
We grew up at San O so I knew the ocean would be part of our brand DNA. We’re at peace & happiest around the ocean & wanted to convey a feeling of warmth & energy while protecting our home. Our love of picnics & french jams coupled with my Italian heritage has become a reoccuring theme.
Where are the items typically made?
Our market bags & hats are made locally in southern California a few miles from our home. We partnered with a small factory in China to produce the produce bags.
Tell us more about your process of creation, from an idea to how you determined the design, the sustainable (organic and natural) materials, to product development.
I created this product out of a frustration for limited options. It was incredibly important that we use materials that are as eco friendly as possible & avoided plastic so we left off the toggle. Each set comes with 7 bags: 4 organic cotton mesh bags for produce & 3 hemp bags for grains, flour & smaller items to ensure you have everything needed for your trip to the market. From point of purchase to end use, creating the bags in a way that makes them aesthetically pleasing so the user excited to bring them to the market was my goal. I designed the set to come in a roll with one of the strings out to allow for the set to be beautifully displayed at a boutique or hanging at a market & feel as though it was a present.
What kind of challenges did you encounter while creating the brand?
I think the biggest issue was adding more products to the world. It is a bit of an oxymoron to produce more in an effort to reduce waste. We encourage our community to reuse, borrow & diy & when you’re ready to purchase an eco friendly alternative to what’s out there, we’re here for ya. We’re constantly learning & tweaking as we go.
Since you are crafting an item with very specific types of materials, what are some of the difficulties that you face when it comes to manufacturing?
The hemp textile industry is extremely limited in the US. Unfortunately, most of our hemp is imported from China until the US gets going. This makes it difficult for us to accept the added carbon footprint of transportation. We’re working with other brands to support nation hemp farmers and textile mills & show that there is a market in the US.
What did you learn from these challenges and what would you do differently from today’s perspective?
I learned that, while Hemp is now legal, there is still a heavy stigma surrounding it. We’re excited to be part of the moment changing people’s perception of the plant. It’s okay to launch without every detail being perfect. Learn, grow, improve where you can & stay flexible.
Does the brand use compostable packaging or working toward doing so? Do you even have packaging when shipping?
Yes! The paper on our labels & hangtags are compostable & the text is free of heavy metals. Our compostable mailers are made from plant material & can be planted in your garden. For shipping, we collect used boxes from our friends & my mom’s work & we recently switched to using recycled paper tape.
How do you go about attracting new customers who aren’t necessarily seeking out eco-friendly items?
That’s a great question & one that I think we’ll constantly be learning. For now, I understand them. I’m one of them. I would rather spend my money on food or …more food. Good design that solves a problem will always find it’s way. We’ve been so fortunate for our customers to share the bags online & spread the message for us. So far, we have not spent money on advertising, it’s just truly been word of mouth & the support from our community & stocklists.
Does the brand have any collaborations or upcoming campaigns your excited about? Any new product launches planned for the future you want to tell us about?
Yes & yes! I don’t want to jinx us so I will share as soon as I can but we’re currently in development for 2 new products launching Spring 2020. For campaign, we’ve been so fortunate early on to be featured in Goop’s Holiday Gift Guide & recently named one of their Kitchen Essentials.
What we’re most excited about is our upcoming interview series with Matt where we get to learn from companies cleaning up our oceans, reversing global warming & changing the world.
Thoughts on how Amazon shopping has changed the marketplace, consumerism, and online shopping?
Amazon has revolutionized the marketplace & made people more comfortable shopping online.. Unfortunately, it makes consumerism easier than ever. It’s not realistic that it will go away so how we can use it responsibly? A few ways would be to reduce your consumption of new products, demand Amazon use better practices & immediately use recycled materials in all of their shipping.
From a business point of view, does investing in quality over quantity doable?
Absolutely! Our customers are using their original bags and will be doing so for quite some time. I am so happy with the high quality of our product. For all other aspects of life, quality over quantity has proven to be the best bet but that is not always realistic for everyone. Buying second hand is the best option if you do not have the means to invest in a quality piece & if you do by new, take the effort to care for your products to help them last longer.
How important are brand identity, marketing and communication when launching a sustainable brand?
Incredibly important. We’re extremely fortunate to live in the instagram era & be able to reach our community easier than ever before. Having a strong brand identity has been beneficial by separating us from other brands that may provide similar products. We are nothing like our “competition” and are constantly separating ourselves by creating unique products.
Tell us more about the power of brand transparency as a key component to success.
We recently launched our Journal on the site & are excited to tell more stories of the creation of our brand & the people who make the products. Allowing our community to see where their purchases come from deepens the connection to the item & includes them in our journey.
How has social media changed things for the brand in general?
It’s our life blood. It’s how we thrive, communicate & grow this community. We are so connected to our audience on instagram & blown away by all of the incredible support & sharing that is happening. It’s such a supportive environment full of people helping & not judging one another regardless of what level they’re at on their zero-waste journey.
What are your long-term plans for the brand?
Innovate & provide people with alternatives to single use items with a strong design aesthetic in an effort to encourage people to swap out bad habits for more sustainable ones. Share what we’re learning from these incredible companies that are changing the world. Grow this community.
Where do you see the company in 4 years from now?
Learning from experts and providing people with ways they can be a part of the solution..
What are the top 5-6 things you use the produce bags to hold regularly?
You can always find me with bags of fresh seasonal fruit, veggies, basil from our garden, baguettes in the large hemp bags, nuts & some sort of tasty treat.
What are some of the other purposes you’ve found for the produce bags?
I love putting my sun block & phone in the grain bag for the beach. They’re also incredibly useful for packing & traveling! I put my swim suits in one, socks & undies in another, dirty clothes in a big one & shoes in a different one. (Yes, they bags are washable!) I love any hacks to keep me organized. Friends also use for school, around the house to keep kids & pet toys organized & also make cute gifts. Lately we’ve been using the large mesh bags for beach cleanups so the sand can fall through!
We love that you have access to an amazing recipe on your journal. What are your future plans there?
So many! Since our bags are designed for produce & farmers markets, I love featuring seasonal recipes from incredible chefs. I’ve personally been compared to a feral cat when it comes to cooking so I’ll leave that to the experts but can make some mean smoothies, cocktails & salads. We’ll also be using this platform to share what we’re learning from experts on living a more sustainable life, a farmers market series & behind the scenes look at our brand & mission.
Who are some of the brand’s favorite influencers and why?
Greta Thunberg @gretathunberg she is the definition of The Future is Bright.
Ron Finely @ronfinleyproject his urban garden project & message of growing a garden anywhere is incredibly inspiring
Hanalei Reponty Gudaskas @hanaleireponty She lives and breaths a slow lifestyle & constantly pushes Abysse to become more and more sustainable regardless of profits. Her latest venture, Motu, is a dreamy ethical retail space packed with the best vintage & sustainable brands that I love getting lost in.
@nycbambi, @deborabrosa, @lucywilliams02 & @sarahshabacon their aesthetic is drool worthy with a focus on slow fashion.
@theinycanalcottage I discovered Whitney & her tiny home shortly after moving into our home and hashtaging The Tiny Casita. Her Tiny Canal Cottage kept popping up & i’m so glad it did! She’s been an incredible resource & inspiration for living in a small space.
@goop, @capbeauty & @rootslagunabeach for all things clean beauty, self care & incredible wealths of knowledge!. Our bags evolved from a slow lifestyle & eating whole organic foods from farmers markets that go hand in hand with clean self care & nutrition.
@kenzieburke has been an incredible supporter from day 1 and is encouraging a legion of young men & women to be more conscious of eating whole organic foods & reducing plastic in their shopping.
I have a strong love for all things art & design & am constantly obsessed with the work of @_maggiestephenson_ , @rexdesign.co & @_lauraberger_
I could go on forever on this one!!