As part of our founder interview series, we speak with Rute Ribeiro Martins from Tuhkana about her love of the beach, travel and sustainable swimwear.
Describe the core philosophy of Tuhkana. Who do you envision wearing your pieces?
We at Tuhkana want to be part of the fashion revolution, so we have made our mission to produce ethical and sustainable products using techniques that respect both people and the environment without compromising quality, comfort or fit.
I would say Tuhkana designs are made for the curious and confident minds.
What were you doing before you launched Tuhkana? What inspired you to create a range of sustainable swimwear?
Before launching Tuhkana, I was working as a Project Coordinator in schools. I have a background in Social Work and worked in a Public School in Portugal for 5 years before moving to Dublin in 2013, where I worked for another 2 years in a School.
The lack of sunny days in Dublin and feeling homesick all the time was the spark that started it all. I knew I wanted to create something special. And I knew my brand would have to embody the same principles I follow, by respecting our planet the same way I do (or at least try to). So in the Summer of 2014, after a trip to Portugal with friends, I found myself talking about my passion for the beach lifestyle for hours and I finally decided it was time to make it happen.
You are originally from Portugal, live in Chicago and produce in Brazil! How do your experiences working and living all around the world influence Tuhkana?
And actually, like I mentioned before, it all started when I was living in Dublin, Ireland. Meeting new people, embracing different cultures and making friends along the way has been the greatest gift. I feel all these experiences made me appreciate the simple things in life and be more grateful for the world around me. Tuhkana embraces my experiences by keeping all our designs simple and comfortable, respecting people and our environment at the same time.
Ethical fashion is an extremely broad topic. How do you interpret the definition of ‘ethical fashion’?
To me ‘ethical fashion’ means ‘informed’ and ‘responsible’ fashion. We can only care about what we know. And it's all about taking small steps to make sure both people and the environment are being considered.
At Tuhkana we try our best to keep ourselves informed about the impact our business can have on a human and environmental level. I personally feel it's the only way we can ‘pay our rent’ for leaving in this beautiful Planet.
How does Tuhkana meet your definition of ‘ethical fashion’?
Waste is an issue that I personally really care about and, since I started Tuhkana, I knew I wanted my brand to follow the same principles I follow. After a lot of research we found this amazing biodegradable yarn, and the decision was made. Our fabrics can be recycled, which of course is always the best option, but if by any chance they end up in the trash it can fully degrade in 2 to 5 years.
We chose to happily produce our pieces in Brazil since it's where the biodegradable yarn is manufactured. This way we reduced our production footprint by not having to import the fabrics to another country and ship them again. By staying local we're helping the local economy and reducing our carbon footprint at the same time.
By working very closely with our partners we try to find ways to minimise our environment impact and we make sure we work with small manufacturers where fair wages, regulated working hours and absence of child labor are being respected.
What aspect of Tuhkana are you most proud of?
I'm really proud I started this business from scratch only 3 years ago and was able to move it from Ireland to the USA without compromising our values and what we stand for.
What is the meaning behind the name Tuhkana?
After many days and hours brainstorming with friends and family, trying to find a name that would describe the soul of the brand, we finally came to the name ‘Tuhkana.’
The aim was to have an unique name, easy to say in any language and that could convey an exotic feeling, while keeping a connection to Portugal at the same time.
The word ‘toucan’ (the bird) in english derives from the original word in Portuguese ‘tucano’. But the Portuguese got it from the native Tupi people of Brazil, who called the bird ‘tukana’. With some minor tweaks to make the brand name more unique, the word ‘tukana’ became ‘tuhkana.’ An exotic name the Portuguese imported from Brazil to the World.
When you aren’t wearing a swimsuit, what do you like to wear?
My style is very casual so you'd probably see me wearing jeans, a tee and some chucks. I really like to keep it simple and comfortable.
How would you like to see Tuhkana grow in the future?
I would love to grow our team and expand Tuhkana's footprint to different sustainable products.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to shop more consciously?
Start asking questions. It's all about making informed decisions and never think that your efforts are too little to make a difference! Every small change in our lifestyles can have a major impact in the future.