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Just Keep Swimming: Balancing Babies and Creative Practice

Adelaide swimsuit designer Susi Benger knows that the birth of your first child is a life-changer. But, to her surprise, welcoming baby Lilou brought a fresh perspective to her creative practice, with bolder colours, fun designs and the hugely-popular matching mums-and-bubs swimear. Previously Estive swim, she’s now rebranded as Coco and Shy to launch the SS18/19 collection of pieces in navy, clay, peach, and teal tones, with functional and gorgeous summer apparel like the market-ready round straw tote basket. Kiddo caught up with Susi to get the low-down on balancing babies and creative practice.

What inspires the design of your swimsuits?

I love simple, classic silhouettes that are timeless and easy to wear. Lately, I’ve found myself inspired by tailored styles and the challenge for me has been how to translate it to swimwear to create a tailored fit that is comfortable and functional. The design is also inspired by wanting to create less wastage in the cutting process by using offcuts—the introduction of baby styles has helped to use some of those pieces.

We use Italian-made, recycled, nylon lycra which is super soft, long-lasting and is made from post-consumer plastic waste, including fishing nets collected from the ocean. I love working with this fabric, especially, because it’s helping to reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans. The silhouettes are super simple and made to last, with an emphasis on fit and wearability. Each collection is unique, and pieces are made in small numbers by me, so you know it’s been ethically made.

Why did you choose to rebrand as Coco and Shy?

Meeting [now eighteen-month old] Lilou inspired me in a shift towards slightly more colourful and playful designs that are fun yet simple and easy to wear, especially with the introduction of more baby and kids styles and accessories. 

What is the role of sustainability in your manufacturing process?

Huge! I’m always looking for ways to use recycled materials and limit the amount of waste in the manufacturing process by keeping all fabric offcuts to recycle as inners for cushions, doing smaller runs, and creating more via made to order. Even small things like using thread with recyclable spools and business cards and marketing materials made from recycled t-shirts.To me, sustainability means making quality pieces that last, being mindful in the manufacturing process and using resources we already have.

How do you juggle motherhood and creative practice?

With lots of support from my friends and partner! Finding time can be really tricky, although I have definitely found that since having Lilou I’ve actually become better at managing my time. I can get a lot more done than I used to! Especially now that I don’t have time to spend hours doing “research” on the internet or revising that pattern for the millionth time, it has really helped me to appreciate the time I have to create and to make the most of it.

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge for me is the sleep deprivation. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for it! Making business decisions after only a few hours sleep was a little daunting, and also finding the energy to work. It’s still a work in progress, although I think I’ve learned how to relax into it a bit more and go with the flow—coffee and good friends have definitely helped!

What is your advice for new parents seeking to explore a creative practice?

Go for it! You might find you’ll be surprised with how inspired you feel, and how much you can achieve. Especially if you’re kind to yourself, take your time and keep your expectations in check. Having a good support group of friends and family happy to take bubba for walks can be a huge help, too!