Words: Charlie Newman
With wellness and sustainability becoming the best known buzzwords of the moment, it can be tricky to find someone who really knows what they’re talking about. But, Alicia Rountree – founder of the upcoming sustainable swimwear brand Alicia Swim, contributor to Byrdie, health and wellness curator at Spring Place and model represented by Models 1 – is the woman to talk to. So, we sat down with Rountree to have an honest chat on how it really feels to manage multiple commitments, to hear her thoughts on sustainability and to have some truthful insight into the buzzword of the moment: wellness.
You are a most inspirational woman with your fingers in many pies. What do you do for yourself, to chill out, to relieve stress?
I am lucky to spend a lot of time in Mauritius at the moment because of manufacturing my swimwear line on the island. Being there, I feel so grounded, so inspired and so happy to be close to my family and the home where I grew up. After so many years traveling the globe non stop with modelling, it’s a nice change to feel more grounded. That doesn’t mean I don’t travel anymore, I still do, less, but still more than the average person! I have a few things I do daily that keep me energised and focused. I have a journal next to my bed and I write down my thoughts first thing when I wake up. This helps me start my day with a clear mind and it helps me notice if something’s bothering me or something I need to focus on. If I keep repeating myself about something then I know I need to address it (that’s when I noticed I kept writing that I’d love to have a sustainable swim brand! For years!!) I also like to meditate. I learnt TM meditation with Bob Roth in NY. The benefits are amazing, people don’t realise how impactful it can be on your life! I know for a fact that on the days I don’t meditate and “don’t have time to”, I am less productive and focused. Self care is so important. I love massages, especially reflexology. Sometimes all I need to relax 10 mins of time-out with a warm cup of Matcha latte with almond milk to help me refocus on my days work.
Can you tell Noa Vee exactly what you do as a Wellness curator at Spring Place in New York.
I have been appointed the health and wellness curator at Spring Place. We are a highly sought after member’s only collaborative workspace located in the heart of Tribeca, New York, LA opening in September as well. Spring is a singular, aspirational community. We forge connections, influence, inspire, and innovate together. I am creating immersive symposiums and starting partnerships with experts in the health and wellness/fitness fields including: nutritionists, meditation experts, etc, any- thing to do with wellness, I will bring in to the club for talks, workshops etc.
I am also launching the new ‘wellness restaurant menu’ at Spring Place which will be focused around nutritious bowls. The dishes will be simple, tasty, nourishing- Smoothies, juices and healthy nut milk lattes, superfood salads, grain bowls… Foods that make you connected to yourself and make you feel better after your meal then how you felt before. The menu will explain what each dish brings to you from a nutritional standpoint. Something to help you focus, something to calm you down, and more.
You have ten of thousands of followers on social media? Do you ever feel pressured by the unattainable standards of the internet?
I used to. I came to a point where I had no idea what I should be posting about and it wasn’t fun anymore. Should I post another selfie? It started to become boring and stressful actually! Also the modelling world changed, clients now look at the number of followers you have and your content, so there is an added pressure. Now, I don’t care about it anymore, and I just post about things I like and what I am working on. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I like my images to be pretty and the grid to look nice visually, so I’ve made it more like my little magazine. I post about health, wellness, swimwear, fashion, sustainability, and Mauritius, all things I love!
With fame comes responsibility, what message would you like to emit to all the many young girls who look up to you?
I think it’s important to know that happiness is not something you find somewhere. It’s inside you and you have control over how you feel when you wake up in the morning and you deal with situations each and every day. It took me a while to understand that! I also think that one must try to approach life and anything you do with love, you must think of how you want the outcome to be. I think it’s important to spend time looking after yourself and to know that people’s judgments about you often stem from fear they hold inside themselves. So it’s never really about you. I’ve also understood that life is a journey and we are here to learn and evolve. If we didn’t make mistakes we wouldn’t grow. It’s important to take mistakes made as guidance to next chapters in life. Although I don’t really believe in mistakes, I consider them more like stepping stones.
I hate the phrase “not just a pretty face”-I bet it gets repeated to you a lot. Do you ever come up against scepticism, especially being a model, whilst you were exploring (and nailing!) other ventures?
Yes I get it all the time. Whenever I speak about the other projects I am doing or working on, peoples eyes always get bigger and I feel like they sometimes think I am lying. I think as a model, or a pretty girl, people don’t expect you to be smart or want to achieve anything. Also, people think modelling is easy and glamorous, although most times, it’s not as you know! You are often jet lagged, tired and alone while still having to be upbeat so that the client that booked you is happy and you don’t mess up your chances to be re-booked. You are also constantly judged by your looks and most of the models I know end up becoming severely insecure.
‘Whenever I speak about the other projects I am doing or working on, peoples eyes always get bigger and I feel like they sometimes think I am lying.’
Having encompassed the entirety of the fashion industry, as both a model and designer, what would you like to see change within the industry?
Being a designer is new to me, so I can’t really speak too much about that yet – I would say that it is possible to create more sustainable and eco-friendly products. If I did it, anyone can and should. It might cost a bit more to make, but the rewards are endless. As a model, I have seen (and lived through) times where people you are working with do not treat you as if you are a human being. For example speaking about you as if you are not there or don’t understand anything. I’m not saying this happens all the time, definitely not, but it does. Models are normal people like anyone else! So it would be nice if everyone was treated in a way that they would be happy to be treated.
As a model, trained nutritionist, wellness curator, restaurateur and designer, what have you found to be your biggest challenge thus far and how have you overcome it?
I think every day brings up a new challenge, whatever you do. It can be small or big. I have some days when I think what am I doing? I have taken on too many things and I don’t know how to do this or that! Then in the end I figure it out, the universe always has your back and doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. Although sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. My biggest challenge at the moment is to launch my swimwear brand; it has taken longer than it should have and there are so many moving parts. I am learning as I’m am going along and hoping it all works out! And if it doesn’t that’s ok too-I have never been happier working on this and have grown and learnt so much.
Huge congratulations on your new eco focused swimwear brand Alicia Swim. Please can you tell us at Noa Vee about the aesthetic and values behind it.
Thank you! Simple, well-cut swimsuits crafted from high-performance, sustainable Italian fabric are the core of my line. ALICIA SWIM suits are lined in the same eco-friendly fabric used for the exterior, which allows them to have a sleeker, more flattering fit, without any bunching or lines. The solid colors are vibrant and flattering to all skin tones; the prints, based on my own watercolor sketched, are inspired by the marine life and tropical natural beauty of my island. I believe that once you find a suit you feel great in, you can never have enough of them, so the line is designed to be mixed and matched, and any top will pair with any bottom.The pieces are named after the great supermodels of the ’90s – the ones I grew up admiring from halfway around the world ! The Kimonos and headpieces feature the same prints in a cotton-and-silk blend, and can also be mixed and matched perfectly with any of solid or print swim pieces.
The swimwear fabric is made in Italy using Econyl , a high-quality technical yarn created from regenerated nylon. Most of the sources for Econyl raw materials are fishing nets intercepted in coastal areas, which otherwise would end up in landfill or would endanger marine animals. Every 10,000 tons of Econyl saves 70,000 barrels of crude oil and 57,000 tons of CO2 emissions that would have been used in the production of new fabric.
More and more marine mammals and turtles are killed by getting trapped in “ghost gear” (abandoned fishing nets).The United Nations estimates that 360,000 whales, dolphins, seals, and turtles die in this way every year. Some sources estimate that ghost gear is four times more deadly to marine animal life than all other forms of marine debris combined. The kimonos and headpieces are made from a mix of cotton and silk and use 50% less water in the printing process. Every little bit helps!
Being eco-conscious is an important part of the ALICIA SWIM brand identity. There is no reason why swimwear cannot be beautiful, durable, and sustainable.
‘There is no reason why swimwear cannot be beautiful, durable, and sustainable.’
We manufacture our pieces in a small factory in Floréal, a neighborhood in central Mauritius. The factory, which employs only local women, is run by a school friend of mine. Being a perfectionist, I work closely with the women at the factory throughout the whole production process, from the initial selection of colors and materials, through the cutting and countless fittings, to the final construction. No detail is overlooked. All pieces in the line are cut, sewn, and finished by the hands of these women—there is no assembly line.
When you make a purchase with Alicia Swim, you automatically contribute to sustaining marine life in the delicate ecosystem of the Indian Ocean. A portion of the company’s profits are donated to the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society (MMCS). MMCS is a non-governmental, non-profit organization dedicated to providing education and conservation of the marine environment in and around the island. The MMCS offers programs and innovation aimed at preserving the island’s delicate ecosystems, works to protect marine areas from development and destruction, and also campaigns to raise awareness about the island’s rich marine resources.
Often many successful people believe in following 5 year plans-what would you like to achieve in 5 years and further along the line?
I would love to have my brand in shops all around the world and I would love to branch out into activewear and natural beauty products. I can visualise many things under the Alicia sustainable umbrella! Wellness oriented and caring for the planet in as many ways as possible. Watch this space!
Living on a island yourself I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the BBC radio show “Desert Island Discs”-it’s my personal favourite. On the show, the successful guests are asked to choose 8 tracks, a book and a luxury to survive on if they were stranded on an island. What would you pick?
Bruce Channel – Hey Baby
Vanessa Paradis – Joe le Taxi
The Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the devil
Beyonce – Love on top
James Arthur – Say you won’t let go
Richard Cocciante – Le coup de soleil
Louis Armstrong – What a wonderful world
Mozart – Piano Concerto No 21 in C Major
You’ll see it when you believe it – Wayne Dyer