Cutting a rash
Mona Walker knew she was on to something when her stock of 100 rash guards sold out in two hours last year. Lir Bermuda’s focus was sailing and custom corporate gear when it launched in 2016.
A year later, Ms Walker took over the company and had a rethink. The success of the rash guards led to custom shirts for water sports teams here and abroad and a Bermuda-inspired line of sustainable rash guards that she has named Salt Kettle.
She got the idea for it all while watching her daughter Leyli compete with the Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association.
“I am not a sailor,” said Ms Walker, whose husband Blythe sailed for Bermuda in the 1992 Olympics. “But my husband started my daughter sailing and she did quite a lot of travelling.
“I would travel with her and see the teams and what they were wearing and it gave me ideas.”
After “a lot of research” she decided to expand on what Lir Bermuda was offering.
“I had no intent of turning it into a business it just happened. I was watching and brainstorming and came up with different ideas for rash guards and it took off.”
Local designers helped. Sea turtles, Gombeys and Longtails are among the items featured on the shirts.
“The beach and Gombey designs were done by Lemoncello Design [a Bermuda company], and for next year’s collection I’m working with two Bermudian designers and I’m very excited about that,” she said.
Important to Ms Walker was how the clothing was made and who it was made by. Most of the sun shirts under the Salt Kettle label are made from recycled ocean plastics and recycled polyester. All are 50 UPF.
“Sustainability is a big concern for us, so we partnered with a company that uses no toxins in the dye sublimation process,” she said.
“There’s zero waste, as no dye will get into the water system and by using sublimation, very little water is used to print the shirts.
“If you have to wear plastic, you might as well wear something that’s recycled. The company that I chose made ethical [clothing]. It was small and paid its employees really well. I could have gone to China to a big factory where everything would have been cheaper, but I like supporting small businesses. This one is in Europe and they do a lot of work with professional sailing teams and other companies.”
Response from rowers, sailors “and even swimmers” has been good.
“A lot of the sports teams come to me and want them,” she said. “A lot of that has come through word of mouth, but even tourists we see on the beach stop and ask where they can buy them.”
The sales matter because they help causes that are dear to her heart. Lir Bermuda supports Olympic hopefuls Rockal Evans and Ceci and Mikey Wollman, and sponsors such sailing regattas as the BODA Open and the National Optimist Championships.
“We are also proud supporters of the Next Generation Sailing Fund which, [through the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club], aims to provide children from lower socio-economic backgrounds access to year-round sailing,” Ms Walker said.
“It’s not a huge moneymaker for me. I’m a mother-of-three and that’s my main job. It is a business, but giving back is more important to me than having a huge profit.
“We live in this crazy world and I’m fortunate. My husband has a good job, but I grew up in Brazil not having a lot. I know what it feels like so, for me, that’s my main passion. Wherever I am, I try to put myself in the community.”
• Salt Kettle is available at Flying Colours and lirbermuda.com. Sizes run from babies through to adults. Delivery is free within the City of Hamilton
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