Origami Customs Handmade Swimwear, Lingerie & Activewear

Origami Customs Handmade Swimwear, Lingerie & Activewear
Photo Attribution: 
Stephanie Deline

Meet Rachel Hill, who owns her own clothing company called Origami Customs. A true entrepreneur, she not only thinks up the designs, hand sketches them and then brings them to life, stitch by stitch, she also  does all the web design, promoting, marketing, social media, photography, modeling and more.

Starting from a very young age, Rachel has always been interested in making her own handmade items. Designing definitely runs in her family as she has learned mostly everything she knows from her mom and great-aunts. Growing up in a community-oriented family, Rachel attended alternative type schools where creativity was highly valued. Naturally, these factors influenced her to pick a career that was sustainable and creative, feeling rewarded by using her passion and pouring her heart into her work.

After growing up in Victoria, Rachel moved to Central America and lived in Honduras for 5 years and Costa Rica for 2 years on an island that was a kind of heaven for scuba divers, where she meet a lot of people that were in the water all the time, and many complained that they couldn’t find swimsuits that would fit properly, or that they were happy with. Rachel started to hand make swimsuits for people. People are looking for something that is durable as they were in the water all day, every day. They fit people really well and they loved them.  Rachel always had passion for creating things that are unique and at the same time kind of enhance the personality of the person started to focus on making swimwear.

In 2011 she started to develop and work part time, mostly online, through the platform called “Etsy” which is like the “Amazon” of handmade and vintage goods where Rachel focused primarily on sweaters, shirts, swim wear and lingerie. After honing her skills over a year, in 2012 she decided to work full time and strengthen her business by dropping sweaters and shirts to focus on swim wear and lingerie. Origami Customs was created, focusing on handmade swim wear and lingerie. Rachel moved back to Victoria, BC to focus on her new business.

It took a few years to build it all. Rachel is busy with work most of the time, but still takes one day off each week to relax.  She truly is a jack of all trades: she designed a web site, did all her own promoting, marketing, social media, and designed all the clothing.

“It starts with just an idea in my head, says Rachel, as she will sketch-book every design before it is hand-made, then she models it  (using a self timer feature on the camera)  and uploads it the website. “The web site is directly linked to ‘Etsy’ so people can find my page and products as well as having the ability to have access to secure payment options such as shopping carts, and checkouts all online,” says Rachel.
This year, Rachel has focused on her web page. She wants to remain a small business while growing sustainably and hire people ethically. (Casting call: Rachel is always looking to work with talented local photographers and models!)
In her lingerie lineup she offers bras and underwear which offers a ‘soft style’ - no metal hardware – instead, she creates shapes using rubber elastic, creating comfort and flexibility. In her swim wear she offers bikinis. All of her swim wear is reversible and ‘multi-wear’ or ‘layering pieces’, and to answer the thought in your head, no, it will not cost more due to it being reversible; to make the garment you have to double the material regardless, so it is just good to use good material on both sides, rather than a liner material. People can use the garments in multiple ways as well; people have more ways to use her items creating a more sustainable product. Using a ‘soft style’ with ties and wraps, you can wrap the swim suits and lingerie so it fits well. What a great alternative to disposable fashion, multiple ways to wear it, wear it for longer, better quality, last longer, sustainable, use them more, reducing the amount of garments her consumers need. She is truly providing a ‘personal customizable service’. People believe in the product; she is busy and expanding fast, so she has hired an intern (who wants to learn the trade) to help. 

You can find Origami Customs garments online: www.origamicustoms.com. You can order a designed garment or she can customize anything for your needs. Click on an item, color, size (my size chart). Unlike most other clothing companies, Origami Customs offer no small, medium, large, they have real measurements, not one-size-fits-all scale.  People can request special ideas or like longer sleeves etc from what they see online. She will work with you to customize any garment and create your vision. It’s all about customization as we as people are all different proportions, we don’t fit into a size guide, small, medium, large, she believes in true sizes and working with her clients to help find something that works for them. 

Origami Customs caters to people of all shapes and sizes who don’t like to buy “off the rack” items. There is no size cap with Origami Customs. There has been a huge amount of discrimination in the fashion world, with people being charged for larger sizes due to material cost. Origami Customs has always maintained that there would be no cap to size and no extra charge for material.
On the swimwear side, Rachel’s personal favourite are the MONIKIEES (a popular one-piece swimsuit with a few different styles too) are the favourite to wear and also to make. Her true favourite, however, are the Boy Shorts, for women. 

Origami Customs is excited about opening a studio in Fernwood, near Avebury and Haultain Rd., for people to come in and have that one-on-one interaction to help create these designs and visions.
Origami Customs switched all the cottons to bamboo which is a huge eco-step-forward for the company. Some sustainable aspects of Bamboo include it is comprised of all natural fibres, bamboo is the largest members of the grass family, it grows really fast; in fact, within a 24 hour period, bamboo can grow four feet! It uses very little water, no pesticides or fertilizers are required, it is cut instead of uprooted, which makes for less land erosion. Not to mention the physical characteristics of bamboo - overall it is soft, incredible to touch and wear which makes it perfect for underwear. It regulates your temperature, so when you’re hot it will cool you, when you’re cold it will warm you, and it is naturally anti-bacterial. Why wouldn’t you want to use something like hemp?  Hemp is great for durability and longevity, but not soft to touch, so it wouldn’t be good for bikinis and swimwear. Bamboo is perfect with its durability and softness.

Rachel is ethically driven, uses principled practices and strives to run a sustainable business. She sources her bamboo fabrics from a local store in Victoria called Gala Fabrics. She has switched over all her packing materials, so she uses sustainable packaging for companies, recycled materials, biodegradable packaging and compostable packaging.

Origami Customs has been featured in magazines around the world. Some of her garments have been featured by a company called “Karmaloops”, (a Hip Hop fashion company - www.karmaloop.com) located in Boston and takes all the cool brands and cool garments from many different clothing lines and combine them all in one place online. (They ship anywhere in the world, from companies all over world). Origami Customs has been in “The Art and Found Clothing” (www.theartandfound.com ) which is a micro company and offers earth friendly fibres, recycled, up-cycled, eco-friendly products, sustainable practice and sweat-shop free.

With each piece of clothing that you purchase from Rachel, you can be assured that she has taken the time to think about each aspect of this, eco-friendly, sustainable, comfort and stylish, fitting to your body type. You also  get a card with the garment to include information regarding the piece, materials used and time spend to make it, creating a personal relationship and connection, which, she mentions, is the cornerstone of her business.

Support Origami Customs it’s as local as it gets!

Twitter: @OrigamiCustoms
Web: www.origamicustoms.com
Facebook: ww.facebook.com/origamicustoms

Article By Shane Nicholls
shanejnicholls@hotmail.ca

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