Jill Newbold is the CEO of Chapel Hill-based startup LoPo Diveskins. Cofounded by Newbold and her sister, Kelly, the online apparel brand makes its products from reclaimed plastic bottles that would otherwise be polluting the ocean.
The diveskins—full coverage swimwear that offer SPF protection—are made from bottles found within 70 km off the coast of Central America. The bottles are then washed, crushed and extruded in North Carolina, which become yarn for LoPo Diveskin products. The fabric is milled in southern California and the finished products are produced in the Southeast U.S.
The majority of clothing sold in the U.S. is produced overseas—a whopping 97%, according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association. Newbold said this is why she felt it was important to manufacture her products here in the U.S.
Newbold said LoPo Diveskins’ current target audience is women who are interested in both quality clothing and sustainability and who can’t get enough of the beach or pool.
“LoPo creates sustainable, premium performance apparel for people who love what they do in the water,” she said.
In April, NC IDEA awarded LoPo Diveskins one of its $10K MICRO grants, which the pre-seed-stage startup will put partly towards advertising. [We previously featured another 2023 MICRO grant winner, Algorhythmic Labs.]
Newbold earned an MBA at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School after attending the University of Michigan as an undergrad. While working in impact investing, Newbold became extremely passionate about companies that are founded to solve a social or environmental problem. Describing the ocean as her “happy place,” Newbold said each yard of her products’ fabric contains 27 ocean-bound plastic bottles.
The company was created in the summer of 2020 with the website launching in September of 2022. Newbold said LoPo Diveskins is about to launch a rebranding to LoPo.Life, a lifestyle brand empowering customers to live their best lives while making a difference in the ocean plastics problem.
Customers can look forward to a more diverse array of products in the near future. Those include capris, shorts and a full zip jacket coming out this summer.
LoPo Diveskins has reached out to several social media influencers for advertising and feedback about their products, she said. The Chapel Hill community is “really supportive and wonderful” for the type of sustainable products that LoPo Diveskins is advertising, Newbold added.
There may be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight) by the year 2050, according to the Plastic Soup Foundation. This alarming statistic was one of the motivators for Newbold and her sister to create their brand.
LoPo Diveskins are “anti-fast fashion,” Newbold said, part of its sustainability mission.
Says Newbold, “Using preexisting plastic to make beautiful, comfortable, durable clothes in the United States—that’s our North Star.”