One of my favorite things about Austin is that there is an almost never ending list of activities to do and events to attend. At the top of that list of activities are all the things that allow one to splash into some water-filled fun: swimming in Barton Springs, paddleboarding in Lady Bird Lake, or even heading out to San Marcos to float the river. Anything to get some relief from the Texas summer heat, right?
And when you’re swimming, you’re going to need something to wear into the water. Enter House of ZZ. They are a local brand that sells sustainable swimwear for women – so you can feel and look fabulous while out in the water.
Diving Into New Adventures
Owners Morgan and Michael Rizzuti started their careers in fields much different from where they’ve ended up. They both attended the University of Texas in history and engineering, respectively. While their educational journey didn’t teach them the inner workings of running and operating a business, there was something about Austin’s creative pull that made them realize that this was the place for them to start House of ZZ.
Morgan initially joined the corporate world after finishing college at UT. Over time, she knew that she wanted to leave her corporate job for something more, but wasn’t sure what the future held for her. It was her love of water that eventually inspired her to look into starting a swimwear brand. She had no design experience at the time, but wasn’t going to let that stop her. Morgan loves the power a good outfit – or bikini – has on a person and wanted to share that feeling with the world.
A Focus On Sustainability and Fair Trade
While a love of water was a big part of the business idea, the other reason that Morgan and Michael decided to dive into House of ZZ was the sustainability aspect that they could incorporate. Their initial research on manufacturers and fabric suppliers opened up a whole new world to them. They learned about the (non-)sustainability practices being used in the fashion industry. So instead of using nylon and contributing to all the pre and post-consumer materials that find their way into the ocean and landfills, House of ZZ is using recycled materials to create their bikinis. Their fabrics are derived from industrial plastics, unused fabric scraps, fishing nets, and more – which also results in a stronger, higher quality material.
But Morgan and Michael didn’t want to just focus on sustainable products. They planned to work with an overseas manufacturer and wanted to ensure that they found an ethical facility that cared about the employees who worked for them. After doing the research, they made the trip overseas to visit the facility they’d chosen. They learned that not only was this facility the right choice, but it was also more transparent than the U.S. companies they had considered. The bonus perk about the facility they had chosen? Their manufacturers donate a percentage of profits back to ocean conservation initiatives.
“All of this comes with a price, of course, but I’m not doing this because it’s easy. It’s hard, more time intensive, and significantly more expensive,” Morgan said. “But I don’t care. Making a quick buck isn’t the point. Doing something bigger than ourselves is.”
Now that’s a brand message that we can all stand behind.
Behind the Design
House of ZZ draws its inspirations from a multitude of things: places that Morgan and Michael have traveled, swimwear and models from the 80s and 90s, and current trends from influencers. But whether they are worn on a casual day out or a fun vacation to the beach, all House of ZZ pieces are made with one intention in mind: to make the wearer feel good about themselves.
As Morgan explains, none of the suits are worn to cover up bumps or curves or what people misdefine as “flaws.” The female body is like a piece of art. Morgan loves to show it off and complement and accentuate every square inch. All bodies are beautiful and she wants her customers to feel that way when they wear her swimwear.
The 2020 collection includes both bikinis and one pieces. They feature colors like black, white, bronze, and Maya blue as well as a cute floral print called Orange Blossom.
Tackling Challenges Together
Launching is an adventure within itself, but to do so during a pandemic is a whole new battle. Morgan and Michael have been able to face these challenges together while providing support to one another. This means that arguments over bikinis might happen in the kitchen every now and then. But it also means that they have each other’s backs when talking strategy and operations. The Rizzutis understand that they cannot ignore any business-related problems. They are open about providing feedback to each other and accepting constructive criticism.
One of the big challenges that they’ve had to face is learning to take advice from others with a grain of salt. As any new business owner will find out, there will be many people that decide to share their ideas of how you should operate or what you should do with your business. The Rizzutis learned over time that following the advice of others – no matter how experienced they were – can sometimes lead to wasted time and money spent on something that just doesn’t work for your business.
“Soak it all up like a sponge,” Morgan shared with me, “but take it with a grain of salt. Trust your gut – always. Most of the time, it’s probably right.”
From providing an engineer a ton of bikini knowledge to giving a corporate employee the satisfaction of starting her own business based on her passion, the House of ZZ has been quite an adventure for the Rizzutis. I, for one, can’t wait to see what comes next.
Learn more about House of ZZ and shop their bikinis on their website.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite water activity in Austin?