Ottawa’s Jennie Condie is the founder of an ethically made, sustainable line of swimwear. We chatted about growing up in Ottawa, launching her brand, and the importance of sustainability and ethics in fashion today.
Did you grow up in Ottawa? Who were some of your biggest influences growing up?
I was born and raised in Ottawa! I adore this city, and it will always feel like home to me. Though, there is something telling me that I would prefer living somewhere where it is sunny all year round. In a perfect world, I’d be living somewhere on the coast of Malibu, seconds away from the beach. Ultimately, I would love to continue exploring and visiting new places before I begin settling down.
The first person I ever looked up to would be my Aunt Lynda. Her style is so eclectic and free, she always shared that with me. Her passion for photography interested me at a young age and definitely inspired me to discover my own creative outlets. I love that she wasn’t a trend follower, but rather stuck to what she loved. As for my fashion influence growing up, I was obsessed with every pop icon in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. From the Spice Girls, Paris Hilton to Gwen Stefani. Of course, I grew up watching every Britney Spears music video, vying to get my hands on anything she was wearing. In my opinion, those trends were so iconic and I’m so excited to see that some of the styles are coming
back! The mini purses, hair clips, flared jeans, colorful eyeshadows- I’m here for it all!
When did you realize that you wanted to go into fashion?
Growing up I had always wanted to be involved in the fashion industry. I began modeling at a very young age. Once I entered that world, I began to fall in love with all other aspects surrounding me aside from the camera. I had such an appreciation and love for the chaos happening behind the scenes. The long hours on set were always so rewarding after it all came
I was able to work alongside like-minded individuals and was fortunate enough to be able to learn so much from these experiences. It was my happy place. I loved seeing the designers/creative directors/MUAs’ visions come to life. I just knew that one day I wanted to be on the other side of it. I wanted to work in a space that allowed me to be myself and most importantly to make others feel beautiful.
Tell me about your swimwear brand, Nhude. Why did you start it, and what was one of your biggest challenges when you began?
Where do I even start… the thought of working in an office for the rest of my life was the most terrifying idea to me. I knew I didn’t want to settle into a position where I was comfortable. I wanted to be in a creative space where I would be constantly growing and challenging myself. The idea clicked a few years ago when I was on vacation in LA. Being in such an inspiring city, I was introduced to some of the most talented and confident people I have ever met, it instantly lit a fire under me. I knew I needed to start creating something that was all mine, something that I could be proud of. I’ll never forget the happy tears streaming down my face while driving along the coast of Malibu…the 16-year-old me had always dreamt of being there. I just wanted to stay in the sun forever!
Quickly after that, I tied together my love for fashion and being in the sun. Instantly I knew I needed to start designing bikinis. I started brainstorming what I could create as a new opportunity for myself. I wanted to bring that feeling back to Ottawa. The moment I got back; I spent many sleepless nights researching manufacturers, reaching out to designers and marketing professionals. It felt like I blinked, and then my first collection was designed!
My biggest challenge was the initial launch – I had never built a website, sold my own products, designed clothing, anything! I went into it blind but trusting I would work hard and learn from my mistakes along the way. Not to mention, I did this all during a global pandemic!
Why is ethical and sustainable manufacturing important to you?
It was important for me to choose ethical and sustainable materials because it’s a topic that is finally being acknowledged on a global scale. New businesses are beginning to embrace sustainable practices to protect the world that we live in. At the end of the day, I knew that my brand had to support ethical and sustainable practices, as I would not feel comfortable knowing that my brand was potentially bringing harm onto others. I knew I didn’t want to be like many other manufacturers, so I chose someone who donates proceeds from every bikini designed to an organization that supports the environment, women’s access to education, health, and business development. Quality was the most important aspect when I was searching for a sustainable manufacturer. I fell in love with an Econyl yarn that I was able to get imported from Italy, the fabrics used to make our bikinis are from recycled waste materials found in our oceans. I’m so happy I took the time to do my research and find a manufacturer that met all my needs.
Your brand supports a local charity, DIFD. Why is this such an important cause for you, and for your brand to reflect?
When launching Nhude, I wanted it to be more than just a bikini brand. I wanted to use my platform to raise awareness and add to the discussion around mental health. I have personally seen how negative mental perceptions can cause significant damage at a young age, and I have been wanting to be able to improve the lives of others who have suffered from these same issues. Daron was a beautiful girl who was taken by suicide at the age of 14, she had touched the lives of so many people in our city, including myself . I saw an opportunity to give back to her foundation.
What are your goals for Nhude?
My goals for Nhude are to not only be known for trendy sustainable bikinis, but also to generate a healthy online community that makes a positive difference on social media. I want to create an authentic space where you can hear the stories behind that “picture perfect day”. A trendy platform where you can connect to your favorite influencers, celebrities, musicians, CEO’s on a deeper level that we can all relate to. We’re all guilty of comparing ourselves to others’ “highlight reel” and sometimes it’s hard to differentiate what’s real or not. Our goal is to close that gap between consumers & influencers online, highlighting the fact that whoever you are, we all have a story that someone else can relate to. I’m currently working on some really exciting things with mental health specialists that will offer resources. We have a donation page on our website where people can donate to DIFD to help raise awareness for youth mental health!
What is your best advice for any entrepreneurs looking to follow in your footsteps?
There is never a right time to follow your dreams. People will tell you ‘you’re not old enough’, ‘you don’t have enough experience’, ‘you don’t have enough capital’; but if you wait for the right time, you’re going to be waiting forever. As long as you are passionate and driven about your work, I truly believe that you can succeed. It won’t be easy, and you better be ready to fail, but for every time you’re knocked down, and get back up (Chumbawamba style), you will be one step closer to your dreams!
Photography by Sean Sisk