She’s the founder of “Nightswim”, a sustainable leisurewear brand based in Los Angeles and Costa Rica that is dedicated to the rights of consumers, workers, and the environment. We had a chance to catch up with Diana Ganem, and to discuss how she built a transparent, ethical, and ecologically conscious business from the ground up.
Diana Ganem’s early life saw her moving from Mexico, to the American Southwest, and ultimately to Los Angeles, where, discovering her life’s passion, she attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). After over a decade in various roles in the fashion industry, she decided to become her own boss, and began work on developing a socially responsible fashion brand that aligned with her values in sustainability and ethical practice.
Now based in both Los Angeles and Costa Rica, Nightswim, launched in 2018, is a conscious leisurewear brand rooted in respecting the planet and its people. The brand strives to empower consumers in making wiser shopping decisions, while at the same time providing high quality pieces that make women feel confident and comfortable.
Hi Diana, and thanks very much for being here! Before we dig in to the inspiration behind your business, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your background as it relates to leading a sustainable lifestyle?
Hi Unsustainable Magazine, thank you for having me! I was born in Mexico and raised in the Southwest. I eventually moved to Los Angeles to attend FIDM where I pursued my career in fashion as a market analyst, merchandiser and editor for 12 years. However, obtaining these roles exposed me to the truth and injustices of fast fashion which solidified my desire to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Nowadays, I enjoy spending time in nature, while living a simple and meaningful life with my other half and pups. I split my time between Los Angeles, California and the beach in Costa Rica; I absolutely love the balance that both bring to my life: One is my dose of zen and the other an infusion of inspiration.
You mention ‘truth and injustices of fast fashion’. Could you elaborate on these?
In general, there’s so much I can break down on fashion injustices. For example, in LA so many manufacturers still get away with paying below minimum wage. I find it unfair that brands and retailers are making the most profit, while the hands that actually create the product sold live in poverty. When will we begin to salute labor workers and artisans? I can only imagine what goes on outside of my immediate territory of LA, but I do know it’s unfair to pay less than $4 in labor costs for an intricate beaded dress sold of $300+ . It really doesn’t make sense to me and that’s the truth — we simply don’t value garment workers’ skills, time and dedication.
That’s a sentiment many of us can share. Is that what led you to discover your desire to be an entrepreneur?
Growing up with parents who were entrepreneurs, I always looked up to their hard work and dedication; in some sense I would even say it is in my blood. Naturally, I always had a drive to start my own business but it wasn’t until I worked in the fashion industry and understood how it operated that I felt confident enough to leave my job and dive towards the unknown. Once I saw the fashion industry was no longer serving me; I knew I wanted the freedom to express myself without boundaries and take control of my own time. To me, there was more to life than creating clothes, I wanted to make a difference in the world, so that was my calling to start my own brand, Nightswim.
Let’s dive a bit more in Nightswim. What are its mission and values; and how do you stay authentic and true to your brand’s vision?
Yes! Nightswim is my babe, I’ve worked so hard to design a socially responsible brand model that reflects my own personal values — of respecting and honoring the environment and its people, all while expressing my love of this craft. Nightswim is a conscious leisurewear brand based in Los Angeles and Costa Rica and we strive to empower consumers to make wiser shopping decisions through our brands transparency and quality clothing; all while following our eco and ethical values. Nightswim is also intended to make you feel confident and comfortable in your skin, while giving your heart and mind the satisfaction of knowing that what you wear is the most socially responsible option out there.
And the name? What does ‘Nightswim’ mean to you?
It’s actually a feeling of mine — growing up, my sister and I would swim at night in my grandma’s pool. I still remember the feeling and the visuals of it all. Fast-forward to now, and that mysterious feel of the night combined with the fluidity of the water inspires me. It’s a feeling of floating in stillness, it’s a light in the darkness, a shooting star in the sky.
Have any mentors helped you through this process?
I do have a business mentor, a close friend, a fellow entrepreneur. He’s been my saviour in hard business times, and I’m truly grateful that I have this support. He comes from the finance world and like me lives in Costa Rica most of the time to establish a successful business in the jungle.
Can you tell us about an average day for you?
There’s no particular average day for me, sometimes you will find me in Costa Rica at the beach, lounging and responding to emails on my phone or taking lifestyle photos for our blog content; and the next I’m in LA sourcing fabric in showrooms or taking meetings with creatives. I also travel to Texas quite often to meet with my pattern makers and sewers. Being an entrepreneur really means I need to be able to pivot fast in order to complete day to day tasks, while also carrying out what needs to get done in order to thrive.
Sounds like travel is an essential part of your routine, something that’s been quite a challenge for many people this year. Has the pandemic affected your ability to manage your various teams?
Absolutely, just like everyone else I buckled down. I decided to stay put in my home in Costa Rica and use the time to create and pause. I was able to design my new collection PAUSA during this period and reevaluate how to move forward. We did pivot, had weekly meetings and stayed connected as much as possible but labor creativeness was done on an individual level. For me, it was important to slow down and it felt natural to live that same ethos at Nightswim.
After a few months, I did have to travel to LA to shoot the new pieces and work with my samples and pattern makers. It all felt a lot more intimate and slow.
Your manufacturing and production model focuses on producing high-quality craftsmanship with a strong ethos around sustainable and ethical practices; is that something you could elaborate on?
Yes, of course. When I first began the development stage of the brand, at the time, eco materials and sustainable practices weren’t as accessible as they are today. In fact, for one of our fabrics (our main Terry fabrication), I developed it directly with a mill to mix the right fiber contents: organic cotton and recycled P.E.T. That being said, this sort of mix isn’t available in fabric showrooms, so I took the extra step in finding adequate manufacturing facilities with like-minded individuals to our brand’s values. One of my main concerns, living in LA, is that most facilities often pay their workers unfairly, sometimes even below minimum wage. For us, it’s important to partner with the right people who value our workers as much as we do and are fully committed to our ethics. Additionally, we ensure that we guarantee the quality of our products to meet our customers’ expectations: it’s more of an on-hand experience for me that allows me to stay connected to our manufacturers and the workers making Nightswim’s garments.
As far as our dyes and printed garments, we design our pieces to represent us as expression of the self: It conveys fragility and fluidity. I want each piece to feel light and bare, as if you were in your own skin–– soft and confident. The fabrications themselves are sourced locally in LA with mills and sewn garments made with love and attention, from the hands of mostly minorities in California and my hometown of El Paso. It’s a long process and journey that is so gratifying to see: I often imagine what each item’s path will look like whether that is being worn during yoga practice, dancing, swimming, frolicking the beach, in kundalini practice and more. Afterall, it is leisurewear and it’s exactly how I intended Nightswim to be worn, I’m grateful to see that it follows through in alignment even after it leaves our nook.
All of Nightswim’s manufacturing is currently on the West Coast of the United States. What are both the advantages and challenges of manufacturing in Los Angeles?
For me, manufacturing domestically was never a question. I knew that I wouldn’t have the first-hand experience of developing products if I manufactured overseas. I wanted to see where the workers work, see the facility, have a relationship with them and truly connect to the makers. I’m able to look at every stitch and understand what it takes to make pieces come to fruition. This is a huge benefit when it comes to quality, observing the pieces every step of the way. Of course, this comes with a high-price; we can’t compete with overseas manufacturers, the labor costs alone are drastically different especially when we manufacture with facilities that pay fairly. Just because you manufacture in the US doesn’t mean it’s ethical. In fact, as I mentioned previously a majority of factories pay below minimum wage. It was quite difficult, but I had to find the right partner who fought for workers’ rights and was an advocate in fair wages. Nonetheless, this search is worth it if it means knowing the hands that stitch each seam and at the end of the day be blessed enough to have food and shelter. I just hope that the consumer, at the end of this, truly understands that the cost on that hang tag reflects how people are treated and how the planet is treated. It simply costs more to care.
As an entrepreneur in the fashion industry; why do you think it is so important for small-business owners to consider sustainability when it comes to their business practices?
I’m not sure that I would push sustainability onto a small business owner. It’s a tough path. I want to pressure and push sustainability onto big corporations and mass retailers that actually do have the power to make a massive change. I often see small business owners trying hard to reach sustainability and yet I also see corporations jumping onto sustainability like it is a trend. Greenwashing is one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s just not fair for those who truly operate ethically and eco-conscious at its core. Nonetheless, I do hope that everyone would consider sustainability because we desperately need to change our habits but, as an entrepreneur, I can share that it isn’t the easiest road to take.
Greenwashing can often be difficult to spot, as well. What’s the best way for consumers to avoid supporting such practices?
I get it, it’s even hard for me and I tend to always ask questions. I honestly recommend doing the same— asking. It’s important to get down to the root of a company’s principles. The more you know and research the brand, the more you’ll be able to spot their authenticity. I believe most large corporations are only jumping on this as a trend so go small first.
While living in Costa Rica and managing your business operations in Los Angeles, what are some ways that you stay motivated on a daily basis?
I love this question! I find as an entrepreneur it is very important to also give back to yourself and live a fulfilled life. When I’m not working you can find me at the beach, hiking, having dinner with friends, meditating, in the yoga studio or exploring new places. I treat life as an infinite adventure, there’s always something interesting to discover. I also absolutely love meditations, sound baths and moving and living mindfully through these practices. I treat Costa Rica as my zen place, it’s slower and I truly get to change my mindset. It’s simple and I feel a shift of what I consider of value. Pura Vida is a bit challenging when it comes to operating a business though, it’s like island time. I’m not always super on top of my work there, but it’s the reminder that I need this to nurture my spirit. Nightswim is supposed to feel light and I achieve that with my lifestyle in Costa Rica. I’m all about enjoying the journey, not so much focusing on the outcome.
Where are some of your favorite places to hike?
Hiking I do in Costa Rica, and trails don’t have names, they are remote trails — Playa Vaca, across Super Joseth in Manuel Antonio, through Tulemar and parts of Reto Mae are my usual spots.
Aspiring entrepreneurs want to know: Is there ever a right time to start? What are the biggest hurdles to sustainability on a business level and what advice can you give our readers?
There’s never a ‘right’ time to start, just start! There were often times where I doubted if I was taking the right path, as an entrepreneur there will always be ups and downs. The answer is to never give up, if you have a clear vision of where you want to be, keep going! That’s how I continually stay motivated and face my biggest challenges as an owner of a sustainable business. To any new entrepreneur, I’d say to keep your vision clear and make sure you dive into what you truly love doing. I couldn’t imagine pursuing Nightswim if I wasn’t inlove with my craft. It takes dedication and determination but above all, it takes loving what you wake up to do each day.
Do you have any favorite books or podcasts that you use for inspiration and or business advice?
I’m big on podcasts and usually play them on the go. A few of my favorites right now are: Conscious Chatter, Highest Self, Spirit of 608, Yoga girl Conversations from the Heart, GaryVee, Make Art Not Content, and The Business of Fashion.
With such a busy schedule it must be tricky to keep up! When do you find the time to listen?
Ironically, I find the most time to listen when I’m moving — traveling, driving, or hiking.
Finally, in terms of Nightswim, what are you short-term goals, and long-term vision?
My biggest goal at the moment is to share Nightswim with more of my type of people. We’re still new and premie in my eyes so I want to grow the brand and eventually build a community. Then I want to build a Nightswim destination where I can have a multi-use space, one which welcomes people to stay, shop or experience the Nightswim lifestyle in Costa Rica.
Thank you so much, Diana! We loved hearing your story; where should readers go to learn more about your work and potentially show their support?
My pleasure! Thank you so much again for having me. To find us you can follow us on Instagram @nightswimbrand and to learn more about us you are always welcome to visit our website: nightswimbrand.com.