Sun-Protective Apparel Brand Sun50 Gives Back During COVID-19

FWMN to You: Sun50 plans goes virtual for fashion week and launches a campaign to raise money for food banks
From left: social media and community events manager Madison Hibbs in centro travel jacket and beach pants, creative director Jaymi Michael in the beach wrap and beach sun hat
From left: social media and community events manager Madison Hibbs in centro travel jacket and beach pants, creative director Jaymi Michael in the beach wrap and beach sun hat

Courtesy Sun50

Between local brands Sun50 and Wild Isles, plus the tropically decked out restaurant Hai Hai, we were going to have a very resort-ready show in this season’s Fashion Week MN. Wild Isles has already been making a splash since its creation in early 2018 with its high quality swimwear for women with D-cups and larger, and for the past few spring fashion weeks, it’s done a few shows with the Fitting Room. For Sun50, though, it would have been a Twin Cities runway debut. With the show’s cancellation, CEO and co-founder Christie Covarrubias and her team have created a virtual fashion event from their homes, complete with runway walks and a stay-in-place look book.

“The inspiration behind this stay-at-home fashion week is that we know sunnier days are ahead,” Covarrubias says. “We know that the sun is going to rise every day and that this is a temporary reset on how we’re doing life. We wanted to be fun and a little cheeky and show each other how we can be fun and fashionable and forward thinking in our own homes yet come together.” 

Director of ecommerce and marketing Ashley Hadfield, wearing beach shirt and riviera resort pant (on Harold is a beach sun scarf)
Director of ecommerce and marketing Ashley Hadfield, wearing beach shirt and riviera resort pant (on Harold is a beach sun scarf)

Courtesy Sun50

From Cali to the Chain of Lakes

Sun50 is a sun-protective clothing line that straddles California and Minnesota, just like Covarrubias’ lifestyle. Covarrubias was born and raised in California, spending her childhood years with her cousin Renee on the beach of Lake Tahoe, beginning a career in marketing and public relations in southern California, and starting a family. In the midst of it all, Renee died of skin cancer at age 32. 

When Covarrubias and her family moved to Minnesota in 2013, Renee’s death still affected her, and she wanted to do something to help others avoid the same fate. So she and her husband, Jim Lockhart, founded Sun50. While the company is based in Eagan, Covarrubias returns to California at least once a month to find inspiration, stay in touch with the lifestyle, and check in with her production houses there.

Since launching in January, Covarrubias already feels that her brand has started making a footprint on the coasts, and she’s hoping to create a greater ripple in her adopted state. The big pitch? Convincing winter-hardy Minnesotans that investing in her sun-protective clothing is worth it even if we’re not lounging on the beach all day.

“What’s happening is people aren’t getting their skin checked because they think either, ‘Well, I have this or that descent, so I don’t need to,’ or ‘I’m in Minnesota’—who’s one of the top five incidents in skin cancer—‘[and] we’re so excited to see the sun; I’m only getting burnt once a year.’ Unfortunately, that stuff really takes its toll because UV is really cumulative,” Covarrubias says.

From left: CEO Christie Covarrubias in centro travel jacket, Turtle Bay sun scarf, and oceanside handbag; product development and sourcing director Angela Twohy in central travel jacket and tropical palm sun scarf (on Zip is the beach sun scarf)
From left: CEO Christie Covarrubias in centro travel jacket, Turtle Bay sun scarf, and oceanside handbag; product development and sourcing director Angela Twohy in centro travel jacket and tropical palm sun scarf (on Zip is the beach sun scarf)

Courtesy Sun50

Luxury That Protects and Gives Back

Sun50 is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and uses luxurious, Bluesign-certified fabrics such as SolaMar and Summa that have on average between 45-50 UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor. Average clothes have a UPF level of five. (Simply put, SPF is used to measure sunscreen’s protective value in sunscreen, and UPF is used to measure the same characteristic for clothes.)

For the FWMN show, Sun50 was going to show a little bit of everything it had. This included the line it launched with, called Half Moon Bay (a resort wear line available in May), and the summer line of ‘60s-inspired men’s sport and resort wear. With the COVID-19 pandemic, apparel manufacturing has come to a halt. While their clothes are all hand cut, their manufacturing house has switched to making masks, pushing out the menswear from June to an undetermined later date.

Even though the pandemic halted Sun50’s production, it also sparked a whole new campaign. “Starting next month [April], we’ll have a 25% discount to all consumers, which we’ve never offered before,” Covarrubias says. “Ten percent of [Sun50 product] sales we get for the next 30 days—and we’re willing to extend it depending on the situation—will have 5% go to Second Harvest food bank here in Minnesota and 5% of sales go to an L.A. food bank.” The promotional code is WECARE25. If Covarrubias wants to introduce Sun50 to the Twin Cities as “a small company with a big heart,” this is a good way to start, Fashion Week MN or not.


Supporting Creative Businesses like Sun50

Covarrubias hopes that people continue to support businesses like Sun50 that are intentional about their environmental impact and worker conditions. While these fair and eco-friendly practices are so important, oftentimes they can cause apparel prices to be higher than their fast fashion counterparts.

FWMN to You is a series of blogs covering a few of the designers of Fashion Week MN’s cancelled spring lineup. Make sure to check back with Minnesota Monthly’s blog to get the scoop on Ramadhan Designs‘ Eid collection (and improved face masks); Rebekah Anne, who is putting on Belle Epoque with Feta Alpha Gamma and drag queens; and Laura Fulk, who is creating a collection around the watercolor paintings of Laura Weber.

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