Emily Ratchford, a Mississauga-based yoga instructor and mom of three, is changing the game with a new line of eco-friendly activewear. It all started in the winter of 2018, when she went on a trip to Bali and was confronted with the horrific state of the beaches, buried under mounds of garbage and plastic. Motivated to do what she could to help, she launched Free Flow Active, an activewear brand that uses Econyl, a material developed with regenerated nylon from ocean waste—so not only do her clothes not add to the problem, but they’re part of the solution.
Here, we chat all about her career path, her passion for sustainability, and what her favourite Free Flow products are.
To start, how did you get to where you are today? Walk us briefly through your career path.
My previous career was that I was a retail buyer for over 10 years. I went to school at Seneca College for Fashion Merchandising, started my career, and moved to various buying roles with The Bay, Indigo, and TJX. I always wanted to create my own business and hence, Free Flow was born.
Tell us about Free Flow Active! What is it and what inspired you to found it?
I was on a yoga and surf trip in Bali in February 2018 and was really horrified at the state of the beaches. They were completely overrun with garbage and trash, which was absolutely heartbreaking. With my background in product development and buying, I knew there had to be a way to create products made from recycled materials. My intention with Free Flow is to bring awareness to the plastic crisis and provide a solution without sacrificing technicality, design, or affordability.
What year did you start Free Flow Active? And how has it evolved since?
Free Flow officially launched in June 2019. We have launched three collections and are hoping to add childrenswear this year.
Have you always been passionate about sustainability and specifically the future of our oceans?
I learned how to surf about five years ago and, at that time, I developed a deep love and respect for our oceans. The ocean provides 70% of the oxygen that we breathe as humans and our lives literally depend on it. The power and beauty of the water is completely inspiring to me and it is my passion to put my energy towards protecting it in whatever way I can.
More in detail, how exactly does your Free Flow Active help plastic pollution in our oceans?
Our apparel is made from recycled materials, mainly “ghost nets” (abandoned fishing nets) and bottles that have been pulled out of the ocean. We partnered with Ocean Mimic, which organizes beach cleanups all over the globe. Every Free Flow purchase picks up to 5 kg of trash off a beach worldwide.
Tell us more about your partnership with Ocean Mimic.
I met Emma and Chelsea in Canggu (in Bali) and we were starting our business’ around the same time. Ocean Mimic is an organization that launched a swimwear line made from recycled ocean waste (the same fabric as Free Flow) in order to bring awareness to ocena plastic pollution. They have evolved into organizing beach cleanups around the world and go into schools to educate kids on plastic consumption. So, every Free Flow purchase picks up to 5 kg of trash off a beach worldwide through Ocean Mimic. It made natural sense for us to partner as our missions are so aligned.
In what ways is your activewear brand changing the game?
Free Flow is changing the game by bringing sustainability to the forefront without sacrificing design, technicality, and affordability.
What do you love about your work?
I love building a brand that I feel makes a difference in the world. When I share the vision and purpose behind Free Flow, I can really feel it land in peoples’ hearts, and that makes me very happy.
What sorts of challenges have you faced as you’ve built your business?
It can be overwhelming to stay motivated and keep going, especially as things have progressed steadily but slowly. I have made sure to keep up with my meditation and yoga practice to stay focused and limit negative self-talk.
What’s next for you and Free Flow Active?
We are continuing to continue spreading the word and adding new items. I am hoping you will see us soon on Dragon’s Den!