Tribe Tropical is proof you don’t have to sacrifice style to be sun safe. The flourishing Bundaberg swimwear label is the creation of Emily Gradon – a fair-skinned, redhead who grew up in Papua New Guinea and Cairns.
Despite being lathered in sunscreen and forced to stay in the shade and wear “daggy” swim suits while her olive-skinned sisters and friends played, Emily still developed pre-cancerous lesions as an adult. After losing her grandfather to melanoma and having two daughters of her own, sun safety became all the more important.
“We all know the dangers of smoking, but when it comes to sun-safety we seem to be happy to take the risk for style,” Emily said. “Tribe Tropical is about showing people you don’t have to wear a bikini to feel sexy. It makes me feel sick when I see children in bikinis at the beach, as it only takes one burn to get skin cancer.”
Emily said she struggled to find fun swimwear she liked for her daughters. “With two-pieces, one part always went missing and their little backs would sometimes get burnt,” she said. “I wanted a one piece that zipped at the front so it was easy to get on and off. I got in contact with someone about having custom swimwear made for my own family. Turned out I could make my own patterns and it just grew from there.”
In 2018 Emily launched Tribe Tropical with two patterns for girls, aged two to eight. “I started with a few orders, with lots of support from family and friends,” she said. “I remember being pregnant with my third daughter, in that first trimester, trying to promote the brand in Noosa and feeling so ill,” Emily said. “Starting a small business is a hard road, but I was determined and passionate. People who buy my swimwear are not just buying a product, they’re buying the hours, and heart and soul, that goes into bringing every piece to life.”
In 2019 her swimwear won a prestigious Good Design Australia Award, prompting a flurry of orders. Tribe Tropical has since graced the catwalks of Gold Coast Fashion Week and Miami Swim Week.
Today, Tribe Tropical has nine patterns for girls and boys, aged six months to 14 years, and ladies sizes XS to 3XL. They also have a range of bags, hats and sunglasses for kids and ladies. “I’d love to offer some sun-safe options for men too, but that’s a little way off yet,” Emily said.
For more about Tribe Tropical, visit www.tribetropical.com.au