What does a woman do when her values are increasingly at odds with her career? When she seeks, but cannot find, high-quality swimwear that is kind to toddlers and the planet? For Vero Beach native Jen Brannen, the answer was to create Good Weekend, a sustainably sourced, ethically made clothing brand for stylish children who love the earth.
Launched in August 2021, the company offers swimsuits, swim bottoms, rash guards, and accessories in neutral mix-and-match color palettes for boys and girls. “My son, Pierce, like many toddlers, would rather run around naked than wear clothes at all,” chuckles Brannen, “so the fabric is buttery soft, UV protectant, and has screen-printed labels rather than itchy tags. The pieces are so versatile, they look good on and off the beach. In fact, Pierce has worn his swim trunks to preschool a lot lately!”
Aside from delivering comfort, function, and versatility, Brannen is proud of the fact that her miniature designs fulfill a broader, personal mission to protect the environment as well as the people behind her products. Good Weekend garments are made from Econyl regenerated nylon, an innovative fiber that is crafted in Italy from 100% waste material.
“Old carpets destined for landfills, fishing nets discarded from aquaculture farms and offshore fishermen, and industrial plastics that would otherwise pollute the earth are purified and regenerated into a new polymer that has the same integrity as virgin nylon but uses less resources,” Brannen explains. “It can be recycled, recreated, and remolded indefinitely. The cool thing about using fishing nets is that many of them are collected by volunteer divers from the Healthy Seas Foundation, which helps prevent the derelict nets from killing marine life.”
Good Weekend swimsuits and accessories are made by partners in Bali, Indonesia, who pay employees a minimum of three-times above the country’s average salaries along with generous vacation, health, and pension benefits.
During the manufacturing process, garments are produced in limited quantities, and fabric cutters use high-efficiency machines to minimize scrap waste. Products are packaged in reusable mesh bags and shipped in 100% recyclable, eco-friendly packaging. As a member of a movement known as 1% for the Planet, Brannen donates 1 percent of annual revenues to supporting a global network of environmental nonprofits.
As Good Weekend celebrates its first anniversary, Brannen reflects on the journey that inspired her to create stylish, functional all-day swimwear that looks good, feels good and does good for the planet.
“My mom was a painter, and our house was filled with her artwork and creative DIY projects,” says Brannen as she talks about her parents’ influence on her values and career path while growing up in Vero Beach. “She was an entrepreneur with a tile and stone business, as well as a full-time mom. I admired her fearlessness and determination. I, too, always loved creating things with my own hands. As I got older, I became more interested in fashion design.
“I get my resourcefulness from dad, who grew up on a dairy farm in a small French village. He was a farm boy with a ‘waste not, want not’ approach, and we were raised that way, too. Things that seemed quirky to us as kids—like Dad pulling over to pick up litter on the side of the road—gave us an appreciation for the earth.”
After graduating from Vero Beach High School in 2004 and earning a degree in art history at the University of Florida in 2008, Brannen headed to New York City to study fashion design at Parsons School of Design. “I appreciated Vero, but I had a strong itch to see the world,” says Brannen, who instantly fell in love with New York and its bustling, creative vibe.
While at Parsons, she became increasingly interested in eco-conscious fashion design. “For a final project for one of my classes, I created a dress and jacket entirely from scrap fabrics,” she explains. “It had to be an environmentally friendly creation, and my design resembled sand and a cascading blue waterfall. I even had my parents bring me seashells that I sewed on.”
Following her graduation from Parsons, she remained in New York for the next seven years, designing mass-market children’s wear, loungewear, and swimwear. “I enjoyed my job and learned a lot, but there was a disconnect between the wastefulness of the industry and my values. Mass-market fashion takes a toll on people and the earth. I wanted to feel better about my work.”
Fortunately, one thing she did feel better about during this period was meeting and marrying Michael Brannen. In 2016, seeking respite from the hectic pace of Manhattan, the couple moved to France. “I have a dual citizenship, had studied in Paris, and had been on numerous family trips to France,” says the designer. “Michael was all in, and I appreciated that. He found work at a restaurant, and I freelanced for a print design studio. It felt nice to have a slower pace as we entered our 30s. We traveled all over Europe, taking advantage of airline deals.”
One day, following a transformative trip to India with her sister, Brannen pitched the idea of a long-term backpacking trip. Once again, Michael was open to her wanderlust.
“We had been conservative with our savings. We didn’t have a house or kids. We were living minimally and preferred to have experiences over things, so we reasoned that it was an ideal time to take this adventure,” she says. The couple agreed on a seven-month trip to six countries in Southeast Asia, where their dollar would go further than in Europe.
Throughout their travels to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and Indonesia, Brannen immersed herself in the rich textile traditions of various cultures and ethnic groups. She learned weaving and dyeing techniques and started collecting textiles as souvenirs. Along the way, however, the couple became disheartened by beautiful beaches littered with plastic debris.
“There was a cove in Vietnam where the trash was so high you couldn’t see the sand,” recalls Brannen. “It was heartbreaking seeing the impact of plastic waste. Every bit that is produced still exists. It doesn’t decompose. Eight million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean each year,” she points out. “It’s the equivalent of a garbage truck dumping plastic waste in the ocean every minute.”
Six months into the trip, the travel-weary couple decided to plant themselves in Bali for the remainder of their journey. “Our host family was incredibly kind, and we instantly fell in love with the beauty of the island, the people, and their culture,” remarks Brannen, who recounts magical memories of men and boys playing traditional Indonesian gamelan instruments, women carrying multilevel stacks of fruit and flower offerings on their heads, and artisans engaged in wood carving, basket weaving, mask making, and batik dyeing.
“Michael learned to surf, while I became more focused creatively on sketching and batik dyeing. I felt confident that I was ready to start a kids’ clothing line as well as a family of our own.”
The only hiccup was finding the right clothing manufacturer. On their last day in Bali, Brannen made it her mission to meet with Luh Dewi, a local woman who owned a manufacturing company capable of producing clothing with ethical practices, fair wages, positive environmental policies, and support for surrounding communities. Brannen felt good about working with Dewi, but the partnership, along with Brannen’s business plan, was put on hold.
Following their seven-month sojourn to Southeast Asia, the Brannens moved to London, where Jen soon became pregnant with their son, Pierce, and continued to freelance. “I dove into being a mom,” says Brannen, “and then COVID hit right after Pierce’s first birthday in March 2020.” When Michael lost his restaurant job at the outset of the pandemic, the couple moved to Vero Beach and stayed temporarily with Jen’s parents.
Back in her beachside hometown, Brannen searched for swimsuits and rash guards for Pierce but couldn’t find anything she liked. “I was looking for a European aesthetic with minimal color and pattern,” she says. “Something neutral that could mix and match with other pieces. Something comfortable and functional with UV protection.”
Sensing an opportunity, she used the downtime during the pandemic to kick her business plan into high gear. She worked day and night sketching a children’s clothing line and choosing a color palette. When the styles were in place, she reconnected with Dewi, who helped source the Econyl regenerated nylon fabric from Italy and construct the pieces Brannen designed. Now, the complete line of clothing and accessories is sold online through the Good Weekend e-commerce site as well as through other e-commerce retailers.
Although Good Weekend is primarily a one-woman show, Brannen is quick to acknowledge the support she has received from her family, friends, and community. “My parents are retired and incredibly generous with their time and energy. They’ve been essential in helping me out with Pierce when I need space to focus on the business.” Her dad, she says, is on call to jump in and help with just about any project she gets into—whether it’s painting the office in her recently purchased home or helping to pack up, unload, and set up a booth at local markets.
Pierce, now 3, is the top model, wear-tester, and Brannen’s No. 1 muse. “Now that he is more communicative, he certainly lets me know when something is uncomfortable and not working. He will continue to dictate the needs of the product by offering feedback such as ‘This would be better with a pocket, Mom’ or ‘This sleeve is too tight.’ I’m prepared for constant feedback going forward!”
Michael, who works for a local insurance company, is Jen’s ultimate sounding board for all aspects of the business. “Even when I’ve already determined my answer, he gets the luxury of hearing me talk through everything,” she chuckles. “He has a great eye for design and is constantly sending me inspiration from men’s streetwear brands that he likes. Our latest four-way color-blocked swim trunk was his idea, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it so far. We love dreaming up a bigger future for Good Weekend that involves men’s and women’s wear.”
Brannen relishes opportunities to collaborate with old and new friends in the Vero Beach community. “My principal photographer has been my best friend since high school. Another childhood friend who is an artist hand-painted artwork for some of our packaging materials.”
As for her pint-size brand ambassadors, Brannen is quick to point out that there is no shortage of cute kids in Vero. “I love having my friends’ children model for photo shoots at Round Island Park, Atlantis Beach, and Fort Pierce Inlet. I’m so lucky to have this local paradise serve as a backdrop for the product!”
Even though Brannen sees the brand as global, she is determined to continue to tap into, support, work with, and be inspired by our local community. “When I came back to Vero, it quickly felt right and natural to stay here,” she says. “I saw it with fresh eyes. There’s an exciting shift in momentum here as new creative and mindful small businesses, so many female-founded, keep popping up. I enjoy watching the evolution of new development complement Vero’s small-town charm.”
While raising her family and growing her business, Brannen is eager to share the knowledge and insights she gained abroad about making intentional choices to help our ecosystem. She is becoming increasingly involved with local nonprofit organizations committed to a cleaner environment. Along with some like-minded friends, she hosted a clothing swap to reinforce the concept of extending the life cycle of clothes. She has helped organize a group of female small-business owners, and she regularly posts DIY tutorials on social media about topics such as hand-dyeing and upcycling clothing.
“Coming back to Vero put everything into place,” reflects Brannen. If I had stayed in London, I would probably be designing children’s rain gear!”