Safety has never been a sexy subject. It’s always been a difficult sell, especially for fashion brands.
Ironically, it’s a world that attracted Monique Moore and Anne Botica Reilly to launch their sun-protective label Mott 50 (mott50.com).
The brand is named after their old apartment’s street (Mott Street, New York City) where the concept came to fruition in March 2011.
Moore and Reilly intended to take full of advantage of the female shift in attitude towards tanning and skin preservation.
Reilly explains, “I have a history of skin cancer in my family, so I have seen the direct effects — my aunt passed away and my mother is currently affected.”
However, despite advances in skin care, the reality is that skin cancer among young people is on the rise. The World Health Organisation states that every year 132,000 melanoma skin cancers and two to three million non-melanoma skin cancers occur globally and this is set to rise. This can be attributed to the depletion of the ozone; however, that doesn’t free us from our responsibility for self-preservation.
Luckily, UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing doesn’t have to resemble a poncho or be as coarse as a hair shirt.
“We could see that a lot of the stuff was not that desirable for women to wear — it’s uncomfortable on the skin.” Reilly adds, “We have customers who like the fabric and the way that it looks — the added value is the UPF50 element.” The failing of many other UPF labels is that they allow the safety aspect to dominate the aesthetic at the expense of the look.
Reilly admits, “It isn’t a high-end fashion brand at all but we do try to play on the trends.” Currently, Mott 50 offers wardrobe staples such as cardigans, crewnecks, henleys, tunics, shifts, maxi dresses and short and long-sleeved shirts for guys.
“We look to the designers like Ralph Lauren, Burberry Prorsum and Thakoon, so we do try to make our label a little more funky,” says Reilly. The biggest challenge for the design duo is sourcing fabrics. At the moment they use materials such as cotton poplin and bamboo spandex but they’re working on expanding their remit.
The way that the process works is that clothing manufacturers pour in a blend that closes the porosity of the fabric to prevent harmful UV penetrating the skin. Alarmingly, “the average white T-shirt only has a UPF of five,” says the Chicago native. Shocking, but does such a limited collection have any real future, given the amount of skin sun-care products now available? Reilly certainly believes so,
“Advances in sun care actually helps our business. It raises awareness for our products and stresses the need for labels like ours.”
As well as being stocked in stores such as Neapolitan, New York, the girls plan to increase their men’s wear line next season and are hoping to launch a children’s wear collection next summer, which Reilly describes as “a huge market.”