By Jordan Gerard
Whether hiking Camelback, floating down the Salt River, or settling into your best warrior pose while watching the sunrise, being outdoors in the sunniest of all states requires some protection. A Phoenix-based recycled sunwear clothing company protects people from the sun’s harmful UVB and UVA rays, allowing them to enjoy the great outdoors without worrying about damage to their skin.
Somewhere Sunny protects skin while also helping the environment — a result of owner Shea Beck’s small business know-how and passion for the planet. Currently, the company has a line of men’s swimwear, along with joggers, tees, hoodies, and hats. Men’s swim trunks come in various prints, colors, and lengths, including six-, seven- and eight-inch inseams.
The best part? All of the clothing items are made with recycled plastic. It takes about 12 plastic water bottles to make a pair of swim trunks and about 19 to make a pair of lightweight joggers. For the clothing, empty plastic water bottles are melted down into fibers and sent to a fabric mill, then spun together with either virgin polyester or spandex and pieced together.
According to Beck, the primary goal is to employ some sort of recycled material in each design. When that’s not possible, he and his team strive to use material that is organic or sustainably grown. For them, this means being able to harvest a plant without using water or pesticides, or using a plant that’s abundantly grown.
Shea and his team spent about a year and half working with several manufacturers who helped find the best materials to use. The first step was finding factories and manufacturers that fit the company’s social code of conduct and supply chain code of conduct, especially ones that met human rights and ethical audits. Then the team met with each factory to develop a sustainable product, whether it was using organic cotton and hemp for the five-panel hats or using recycled polyester for the swimming trunks. Although they use a lot of different factories, they share shipping containers between each factory and bundle all of their products together.
“You can reduce waste by making garments that last a long time out of the recycled material. I’m passionate just because of the Earth,” he said.
There’s a lot of science that goes into one pair of swimming trunks, but for Beck and his family, it’s worth it. Once he understood the amount of waste that goes into apparel and fast fashion, and then learned that it was possible to create non-throwaway garments from recycled materials, he was on a mission to change the industry.
He learned everything about manufacturing from his first business, Foldies, a sunglasses company. Throughout that process, he also learned how much impact the manufacturing of consumer goods has on the Earth. After he sold his sunglasses business in 2021, he knew he wanted to make a premium sustainable product with a smaller environmental footprint.
Beyond manufacturing recycled plastic fibers, Somewhere Sunny ensures its supply chain is sustainable and held to a high standard. Each factory has to abide by and be certified through an approved audit association. Somewhere Sunny also attained “1% For the Planet” certification, which means they contribute 1% of their profits to the nonprofit, which is environmentally focused.
“I have a daughter that’s two years old, so I’m trying to make a good path forward for her,” Beck said. Small business know-how is in their DNA, he added. “We like to take on challenges and make things better.”
There’s more to the name of the company than imagining a bright sunny day or area. It pays homage to Beck’s struggles with depression and anxiety, but despite that, he enjoys sunshine and it makes him happy, he said.
“So we kind of spread [the message] that finding your sun is finding what makes you happy,” he said. “Everybody needs to find their happiness because it’s not just going to come to them.”
That’s the overall goal of the company. Beck wants to create a platform to speak about mental health, specifically about how anxiety and depression affects everybody differently.
Looking ahead to a bright future, Somewhere Sunny is developing its womens swimwear line available this summer. Those items will be made with recycled polyester.
Their biggest goal is creating and funding their own team to recycle plastic found floating in the ocean. He’s open to creating a cooperative network with other brands that have the same goal of reducing ocean-bound plastic.
Beck has two full-time employees, and a large network of freelancers in Phoenix who help with everything from researching and creating new fabrics and designing prints to bringing new prototypes to life.
The shop is currently online only, but Beck notes that he’d like to expand to pop-up boutiques and existing retail stores. One day, he’d like Somewhere Sunny to be known as the premiere swimwear and sun protection brand in Phoenix, and when people visit, they’ll know the brand because it’s Phoenix homegrown.