10 Questions with Canopea Founder Constance Hartig

We chatted to Junior Design Award winning swimwear brand, Canopea's founder about her favourite travel accessories and what family time means to her...

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If you’re looking for beautifully cut, eco-friendly swimwear with built in UPF50+ sun protection, then Canopea is a must for your basket. We loved the brand so much we gave it a Platinum Junior Design Award and every season, we marvel over French designer and founder Constance Hartig’s impeccable eye for colour and silhouette and her distinctive chic-meets-cute aesthetic. We asked her 10 questions to find out what makes this successful businesswoman, creative and mother of three tick..

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  1. What have you been doing to keep yourself and your children occupied over lockdown?

During lockdown, we went through lots of stages of craziness. In the beginning, we entered survival mode trying to do fit everything in a normal day, with homework for all three kids, cooking, cleaning on top of our own work schedules. We would even receive homework for extracurricular activities so when Zoom meetings kicked in, that took us to a whole new level of multitasking. All of this while stirring a small brand through a storm, orders being lost by the Post on a daily basis, unhappy customers and – like most of us, very little visibility on what the near future reserved. We didn’t really have time to get bored but weren’t enjoying this period very much so after a few weeks, we decided to limit our efforts to the bare minimum, stop work at 6pm to do something else, go for a run, have a drink with our kids, do an hour of gardening before launching into dinner mode and that made all of us much happier.

2. Where do you find your inspiration for each collection and what was the inspiration for the current collection?

I am fascinated by 1930’s beachwear fashion, when sports and fashion merged so perfectly and women broke free from traditional roles and aesthetics. All of our collections are deeply rooted in the idea that beauty can be found in simple lines and that true style is timeless. This is an endless source of inspiration for me. Having lived abroad my entire life, including several years in Italy, I am also very much inspired by travels throughout Europe. For this collection, I was particularly drawn to Puglia in the south of Italy, its colours, its smells and Mediterranean agricultural history. I tried to convey all of these through the choice of styles and colors in this new collection, many of which borrowed their names from places we visited during shooting, Bari green, Grenada red, Ostuni Ash blue to name a few…

Having lived abroad my entire life, including several years in Italy, I am also very much inspired by travels throughout Europe.

3. Apart from a swimming costume, what are your essential items for holiday packing?

XXL cotton towels for laying down anywhere from beaches to rocks, my large custom printed bag from Factory Chic which is so useful to carry tuba masks, snacks and shells from my three little explorers and a pair of Mr Boho sunglasses, my post-confinement fashion crush.

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1. Constance and her son wearing Canopea 2. Business & Pleasure Cotton Beach Towel, £53, Smallable 3. Sunglasses, £75, Mr Boho 4. Ottolenghi Simple, £27, Waterstones

4. How important was it for you to create an eco friendly swimwear collection from the off?

Hugely important. When I started brainstorming about ideas for a new brand, I knew I wanted to do something, which combined style and a sense of purpose, social or environmental. Fashion being one of the most polluting industries in the world, I had the opportunity to build something from the ground up, questioning how I could do things right, every single step of the way. Then in September 2015, a friend of mine passed away from skin cancer age 32 and the same month, my mother started showing first signs of carcinoma. Back then, very few brands were talking about sustainability and most of us were still so ill informed about sun damages, so when I found fabric made from Econyl®, a recycled fiber made from fishnets, which is certified UPF50+ without chemical filters, I knew eco-friendly sun protective swimwear was the right idea for me.

5. Your swimwear is super stylish and unfussy. Would you say this is a reflection of your general style?

I try not to think about trends or style too much. I often find that looking at other brands is distracting and most often counterproductive. I find photographers such as Stephen Shore or William Eggleston, which truly capture a sense of places through light, colour and spontaneity much more inspiring. When working on new collections, I tend to draw new styles dozen of times, gradually reducing them to the bare minimum until the essence of the original idea only remains. These simplified lines evoke a kind of poetry for me.

6. If you could go anywhere in the world for a family holiday, where would it be?

If Covid taught me anything, it is to treasure the present moment with my loved ones, and to cherish beautiful places near our home. This summer, we decided to holiday in France and booked ourselves a little cottage on the Atlantic island of Yeu, with one idea in mind, to do everything we possibly can out of confinement, including sailing, fishing, cycling and cooking great seafood and taking our kids on daily adventures.

Back then, very few brands were talking about sustainability and most of us were still so ill informed about sun damages, so when I found fabric made from Econyl®, a recycled fiber made from fishnets, which is certified UPF50+ without chemical filters, I knew eco-friendly sun protective swimwear was the right idea for me.
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Constance and her family on holiday

7. What book or books are you looking forward to reading this Summer?

I am really bad at staying awake at night to read so I have been struggling on my current book for a while but I am looking forward to moving on to Joel Dicker’s latest novel The Enigma of Room 622, which takes place in Geneva where we now live.

8. Are your children a helpful audience when it comes to giving feedback and testing out your swimwear?

Yes and no. My children are too young to give constructive advice on anything besides candies but I often think of what they might need as sun protective swimwear as they grow up. For instance, this year we launched LOUIS,  a short sleeve UV rashguard, which is great for boys from age 6 onwards who still wear UV protective tees but who want to upgrade from our long sleeve best seller TURBOT. For girls too, this year we are offering lots of new models, including LAUREN  our romantic swimsuit for girls with ruffled straps and a graphic back or DAISY, our baby UV romper with an adorable frilly collar.

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  1. Joan Swimsuit, €45, Canopea 2.  Large Holdall, €49, Factory Chic 3. Lavender from Constance’s garden is a favourite smell. 4. L’enigme de la chambre 622 by Joel Dicker, £24.99, Amazon 5. Palerma one piece (for women) €85, Canopea

9. What is your favourite perfume/scent?

Any herbal sent from our garden, lavender, thyme, mint or oregano. In summertime, I love rubbing them in my hands to free up their magical smell.

10. What is your family’s favourite meal to eat together?

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Anything from Ottolenghi’s “Simple” cookbook. My sister got us all addicted a few years ago when “Jerusalem” came out, so confinement gave me the opportunity to test every single recipe from the book. Each recipe has the brilliant potential to transport you to different places through your own palate. The success of each lies in the right balance of ingredients with a little twist of surprise. The end result might seem like an easy task but the most simple ideas can sometimes be the most difficult to find.

>> Visit Canopea to see the full collection