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Halla Halla turns plastic trash into bold beachwear

Chalvet and Valkonen design all the pieces themselves.Niko Soikkeli

Finland’s first sustainable swimwear brand was born out of two friends’ quest to find bikinis that both looked and felt good.

When Hanna Chalvet and Salla Valkonen decided to start their own swimwear company in 2016, not everyone was convinced.

“People thought we were crazy,” Valkonen recalls. “Summer in Finland is short and trying to make swimwear was seen as a big risk.”

The design duo, however, firmly believed in their own vision, which was to make fun swimwear suitable for active beach life and sports. They even had the right material in mind.

“Whilst travelling and surfing in Asia, we really came to think about the huge amount of plastic waste in the ocean and wanted to do something about it.”

Halla Halla specialises in playful colours and bold cuts. Image: Halla Halla

After some thinking, the women came across a fabric made of recycled maritime plastic waste such as plastic bags, fishing nets and empty drinking bottles. The plastic is collected by volunteers around the world and then turned into eye-popping nylon materials in Italy.

Chalvet and Valkonen design all the pieces themselves, and the swimsuits are manufactured in Bali, Indonesia.

No compromises on looks

Despite the initial scepticism, it soon became clear that Chalvet and Valkonen had developed a winning formula.  In just two years their swimwear brand, titled Halla Halla, has become wildly popular and turned two surfer girls into full-time entrepreneurs.

“It has all happened very quickly. We were lucky in that we immediately got some media attention, but we did also work around the clock,” Chalvet says.

Sustainability is an important aspect of Halla Halla swimwear but not the sole reason for its success. Playful colours and bold cuts have made the bikinis and one-pieces a hit especially among the younger Instagram generation.

“It was clear to us from the start that we wanted to combine eco-friendliness and fashion in our swimsuits.  These were two things we didn’t want to compromise on.”

Many customers also thank the designers for finally creating a swimsuit that both looks good and is comfortable to wear. The women behind Halla Halla know the importance of practical beachwear all too well.

“As surfers we pretty much used to wear bikinis all day. However, it was really difficult to find anything that suited our taste,” Valkonen explains.

Friends and business partners

Before becoming business partners, Valkonen and Chalvet were good friends. The couple met whilst studying clothing design at Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences and soon started discussing starting a company together.

Salla Valkonen (far left) and Hanna Chalvet (second from right) were determined to combine their interests of eco-friendliness and fashion. Image: Niko Soikkeli

The name “Halla Halla” refers to the Finnish word for “frost” but also celebrates the women’s friendship, merging the initials of both of their first names.

So far Halla Halla swimwear has only been available via the online shop, and each collection has sold out. The next chapter will be developing international audiences and expanding the product family. The women welcome the challenge:

“We have had the chance to see the world and our sources for inspiration are endless.”

By: Heini Huhtinen