Diversity Outdoors: telling our body stories

May 10, 2022

Diversity Outdoors: telling our body stories

The core of Deakin & Blue’s ethos is the same as what’s underneath our swimwear – women’s amazing bodies. We don’t expect your body to fit our designs – we design our swimwear to fit your body, whatever shape and forms that it may take. It’s a subtle difference between us and other brands, but it’s important.

What’s also important is to understand our bodies beyond their aesthetic. How do we feel in our swimwear? How do we feel when we move? What makes us tick? How do we feel about our bodies now and how has our past shaped us?

The answers to these questions shape our designs and approach to business.

Deakin & Blue X-Back BlackBody Stories

Answering these questions also opens up important, relatable - and sometimes uncomfortable - conversations about our relationship with our bodies, with the beauty, fashion and diet industries, about fatphobia, racism, sexism - and how swimming and being outdoors and active makes us feel.

In the outdoor swimming world, there's a problem with lack of diversity. While community groups and individuals in outdoor spaces are starting to include more and more people of colour, brands and governing bodies still don’t reflect that diversity.

Here at Deakin & Blue, we’ve always shown women of all skin colours in our photography. But it’s simply not enough.

Our Body Stories given swimming women the space to share their experiences. And, our Diversity Outdoors Body Stories give the floor to people of colour who have a relationship with the great outdoors. They talk about their experiences good and bad, the magic of being on and in the water, forming a bond with nature and finding a desire to protect it.

History, her-story, our-story…

October’s Black History month is all about raising awareness of many different, previously untold perspectives in history. Because listening to stories from all different perspectives helps improve our understanding and connection with others it also helps break down barriers.

For example, in the outdoor sector, women of colour leading hikes and guided swims have been asked if they’re lost and given advice by well-meaning passers by (one of our Body Stories will explore this further). This isn’t usually done out of malice, but by making assumptions.

It is evidence of racism (and also sexism… women of colour deal with at least two -isms at once) in the outdoor sector. And that’s because the countryside is perceived as the domain of white people. According to a 2017 survey by Natural England, only 1% of climbing and hike leaders were people of colour.

Research by Sport England identified six barriers to participation in outdoor activities for people of colour: language, awareness, safety, culture, confidence and perception of middle-class stigma. And a diversity review commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) showed people from non-white backgrounds valued the natural environment but felt excluded and conspicuous.

Deakin & Blue Plunge Bikini Plum

What we can do

The important thing is that it’s not up to people of colour to affect change – it’s up to everyone. And that’s why hearing stories from as many different perspectives as possible will benefit us all. Story-telling isn’t just for brands, it’s an age-old human experience. Hearing relatable stories like our Body Stories creates connections, increases equality and builds stronger communities.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear as five wonderful humans – Kelly, Minreet, Pritpal, Abigail and Adya – tell their stories about their relationships with their bodies, with swimming and with the outdoor world.

As always, we’re very grateful to the women who take part our Body Stories for their openness and honesty. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed hearing them.