Elsie Pinniger makes Neon Wetsuits in a studio overlooking the sea on the southwest coast of England. We wanted to know more, so we asked.
Why the name NEON?
Well, there’s no exciting story−sorry! My friend Nina and I had a little surf and were just sitting in the van chatting about the suits. This was about seven years ago, and I was only making them for me and a couple of friends. Anyway, I was trying to think of a name and everything just sounded stupid. We were just coming up with random stuff. I said, “Neon.” I like four-letter words, and it has nice aesthetics−like the ‘n’ at both ends. So yeah I was like, “Ok, ‘Neon’ it is!”
What’s the hardest part of making an awesome wetsuit?
It’s not hard to actually think about design and function. I just think it’s a hard market for the bigger companies that need to sell a million! It’s hard to please everyone and to stick to your guns with what you want to produce. At the end of the day, I wanted a functional suit that is great to surf in and feel good in… Am I there yet?
What voice do you think is missing in women’s surf apparel?
If you’d asked me that when I first started designing my own suits, I’d have said “Everything!” But things have changed heaps in the last couple of years, and there is so much more choice now. Women’s surfing is still in a bit of a weird place, but things have changed and smaller brands are flourishing and able to make the things women actually want and need. I think the biggest gap in what women need now is in boards. There aren’t many women shaping and getting a good understanding of what women are after. I guess it was the same with wetsuits, etc. The women’s side has always been seen as such a small part of the market, but those times have changed and it looks like everyone has noticed how neglected it was.
Would you ever make thicker cold-water suits?
Never say never, but not for the foreseeable future. I’ve got loads to still do with the Neon Wetsuits customized range, so keeping it simple and getting it right and keeping it fun is priority for now. Living in the U.K., we wear cold-water suits for a big chunk of the year, so it’s definitely something I know about.