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Kilauea woman launches environment-conscious athleisure company

KILAUEA — A Kilauea-raised woman has launched an athleisure brand inspired by Kaua‘i, one year after returning to live full-time on the island.

Founder and CEO Bridget Thorpe’s company, Sol Vae (stylized as SOL VAE), designs and sells made-in-America “hybrid bras” that are equal parts gym gear and swimwear.

“There’s an entrepreneurial fire in my family, and I caught the bug,” Thorpe told The Garden Island (her mother, Barbara Cameron, is the principal designer of Lihu‘e-based design firm Yochi Interiors).

“In 2015, I was living on Kaua‘i at the time, and the idea dawned on me to create this product,” Thorpe continued.

It’s taken Thorpe, an environmental and sustainability consultant for Fortune 500 companies, six years to turn her idea into a business that matched her vision. That time included factory tours, bra design, materials testing and graduation from XLR8HI, a Hawai‘i business-incubator program.

Thorpe’s experience mapping out and marketing sustainability initiatives for clients including Walmart, Target, PepsiCo and Hyatt also helped make Sol Vae.

“I hit the point where I wanted to get in the game and do it myself,” Thorpe said. “I was telling people, ‘This is what you can do, this is what you can do,’ but I wanted to be on the other end and experience it.”

Sol Vae, which bills itself as carbon neutral for 2021, lists its business practices on its company website. These include a marketing manifesto, a breakdown of the brand’s carbon footprint and carbon-offset practices, a map of material and labor sources, and more. Its bras are made from a recycled nylon product from a factory in Baltimore.

A 2020 United Nations Environment Programme stocktaking reports the global apparel industry emits over 3.3 billion metric tons of green house gases per year.

But the Kilauea entrepreneur believes her new company can do better.

“You’re seeing a lot of those ethical-based and value-based companies out there. I’d be really proud to do something from Hawai‘i, because I think one thing that’s really special about Hawai‘i is we all connect through nature,” Thorpe said. “We have respect for it and the stewardship of it, and I think that was the underlying heartbeat of where my career took me.”

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Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or
Source: The Garden Island

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