La Isla: Beachwear for a Better World

The La Isla brand is about bright colors, intricate South American patterns, and a whole lot of community involvement. The California-based swimwear line boasts deep roots in Cali, Colombia — hometown of brother-sister team Enrique and Ana Luisa Sanchez-Rivera, and the current site of their company manufacturing base.

The Sanchez-Riveras work hard and dream big. “We always wanted to have an island of our own,” says Enrique on the roots of their brand name. “[La Isla] is our first one!”

The company began as an experiment in sibling collaboration. Ana Luisa started working with various fabrics and designs in Colombia, while Enrique photographed the sample products. After a few years shopping around to potential buyers across North America, La Isla made waves at a Surf Expo Trade Show in Orlando, Florida. By the end of the first day, their booth had sold out of hundreds of bikinis.

These days, fashion-forward consumers can see La Isla bikinis featured in Vogue, Marie Clare, and Sports Illustrated. But, the Sanchez- Riveras don’t want the brand buzz to end with the pool and cabana scene.

They’ve always wanted the brand to embody their love of the planet and their deep connections with the people of their local community.

“In my previous line of work at a financial company, I realized that I wasn’t really giving back to my community,” says Enrique. “I made this one of my goals from the beginning.”

La Isla employs head-of-household women in Colombia to embroider the garments. The women get to work from their home, allowing them to tend to household duties and spend more time with their families while earning a living. The company employs up to 300 Colombian workers during peak season.

A new program, La Isla 360, is another way the company focuses its “people first” philosophy. The program donates one shirt to a child in need for every La Isla t- shirt purchased. Children of the Americas just received a shipment of 350 shirts from this campaign.

“We named it La Isla 360 because we are very aware of our surroundings,” says Enrique. “We try to be observant and respond to the communities around us as part of our business culture.”

La Isla also partners with environmental organizations including the Surfrider Foundation and Jean- Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society — proceeds of sales from certain garments going to each of these well-known groups. Enrique’s love of the ocean and surfing made these ocean-based advocacy organizations natural partners for the company.

“We’re implementing sustainability measures in waves,” says Enrique. La Isla will begin addressing the carbon footprint associated with purchasing, shipping and manufacturing of its fabrics. “That’s a big issue for us and one we need to tackle.”

Other responsible business practices include:
• Oeko-tex certified fabrics

• Contracted work force
• Digital screen prints with soy- based inks
• Website and email servers powered by AISO Solar
• Manufacturing facilities inspected by the La Isla team to ensure social responsibility standards

“For me, personally, it makes no sense to do business unless it’s being done ethically — with the environment and the welfare of people in mind,” says Enrique.

People, planet and socially-responsible profit — La Isla is an island of good intentions wrapped in beautiful handmade patterns and innovative designs.

Learn more about La Isla and their programs at:

By Eric Cardenas, LoaTree; Photos courtesy of La Isla. Note– This article appeared in Vol. 1 (Fall) of LoaLiving Magazine.

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