By Elyssa Goodman
Photography by Anne Podlecki
After working on private yachts, Fort Lauderdale-based entrepreneur Courtney Wilkins noticed a problem: There wasn’t a way to safely and effectively wash her clients’ fine swimwear. In less than a year, the 27-year-old developed Bikinis Over Everything, an eco-friendly, chemical-free, gardenia-scented swimwear wash that comes in a glass bottle and is now available across South Florida. We spoke to Wilkins about her love of swimwear, how the company developed and the importance of sustainable swimwear care.
How did you come up with the idea for Bikinis Over Everything?
I work in the yachting industry. When I was on a charter boat in the Mediterranean last summer, I remember finding it difficult to wash a lot of guests’ clothing by hand because we didn’t have anything specialized for swim materials. There are specialized caring methods for leather, suede and many other materials—but few for swimwear. I thought that was a great niche. Bikini wash is our starting point, and hopefully from there we can grow.
Why did you want to work with swimwear?
It’s been one of my favorite pieces of clothing since I can remember. I grew up by the beach, and my family always vacationed by the water. A lot of women struggle with body image, and swimwear can have a negative connotation to some, but since I grew up wearing bathing suits year-round I never really had the mentality of needing a perfect body for a bikini. And there’s such a positive image for women of all sizes right now. There are so many styles and shapes, and you can express yourself in so many different ways. When you’re wearing a swimsuit you’re usually having fun—you’re not sitting in the office or at the airport. I’ve loved swimwear for those reasons, and now I love it because the industry is growing so much.
How did growing up around the water affect the product’s creation?
It influenced me to create an eco-friendly product. My brother and I started surfing at an early age, and our surf instructor taught us if we saw plastic or trash in the ocean while we were surfing, we should take it out and put it in the recycling or trash bin. That stuck with us.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed how much our country wastes plastic and other nonbiodegradable materials. There are actions we can take to improve our practices. It’s as simple as using reusable bags when you go grocery shopping and not using plastic packaging or products. I didn’t want to contribute to the plastic waste that’s polluting the planet. It was really important to me to have eco-friendly packaging and an eco-friendly product, where there are no chemicals and it doesn’t affect skin, the ocean or sea life.
How do you think the product is especially useful for Fort Lauderdale residents?
We’re lucky in Fort Lauderdale: We pretty much get beach weather all year long. We don’t buy special swimwear for vacations—we buy it for everyday life. We’re constantly at the pool or the beach. It’s almost a facet of your lifestyle: You buy laundry detergent for your clothes, so you should buy swimwear cleaner for your swimwear. If you’re spending enough money on it and you want it to last—you don’t want to have to buy new swimwear every two months—then it makes sense to invest in a product you can use to safely wash it.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 Issue.