We understand sun danger and damage first-hand, and as parents we understand how challenging it can be to keep kids protected in it.
We want to help the other super mums and dads in their quest to keep their tribe safe under dangerous UV rays.
Tribe Tropical™ is an Australian designed, owned and operated swim & beach wear label.
We are also the proud winners of a prestigious Good Design Australia Award.
Designed by a sun-sensitive red-head with first-hand experience with skin cancer, Tribe Tropical are the swimsuits and accessories founder Emily wished she’d had growing up in tropical climates.
Fashion + sun-safe didn’t go together back in the 80s/90s, especially not for a red-head!
Hi! I’m Emily Gradon, an Australian mother of 3 little girls.
I founded Tribe Tropical further to struggles I had finding suitable sun-safe swimwear for myself and my family; I also wanted others to be able to enjoy time in the sun without the consequence of prolonged sun exposure.
Growing up in tropical Papua New Guinea and Cairns as a fair-skinned redhead in the 80s/90s wasn’t always easy – my parents always ensured I was well-covered in the sun, while my olive-skinned sisters and friends ran off to play, but this ‘daggy’ swim attire wasn’t really socially accepted or favourably seen amongst young kids back then, so I was often teased and left to feel outcast – sadly there were none of the trendy, sun-safe swimwear options around then that are available today!
Despite regular use of sunscreen and whatever coverage was available growing up, the damage from the sun became apparent in my early 20s, when I first had numerous basal cell carcinomas (BCCs, pre-cancerous lesions) either surgically removed from various parts of my body, or treated with aggressive, topical, chemotherapy-like treatments lasting up to six weeks in duration. I've since had countless lesions treated and now have skin cancer checks every 6 months.
You can learn more about my journey here
My three children and a love of tropical Australia are the main inspiration behind the brand, however it is also a lot bigger than that.
I launched Tribe Tropical in December 2018 with the view of not only protecting my own young family in the sun but also with the goal of creating a ‘tribe’ of like-minded people, who wish to protect themselves in the sun, in a range of swimwear that they would enjoy wearing – sadly Australian beach culture has been all about tans and bikinis for decades but I hope to be part of the change towards choosing sun-protection over sun burn; this change is desperately needed, especially in Australia where we have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.
I don’t want my children or anyone else’s children to go through the skin issues that I have had to endure further to UV exposure; my grandfather died from cancer due to melanoma so this has further enforced this desire.
Inspiration for Tribe Tropical’s original patterns come from my love of Tropical Australia and are designed to transport people to the country’s most idyllic places.
After struggling to find attractive, quality, sun protective swimwear for my daughters, I decided to create my own, so Tribe Tropical was born - little did I know about what it meant to start and run a business!
I started the brand from my kitchen bench, with a $100 website, a $20 logo (I've since invested thousands of dollars upgrading these!), 2 patterns for girls ages 2-8, and did all I could while my children slept, while also working part-time in corporate travel. I worked countless hours, cried many tears of frustration and wanted to quit many times, but my passion for what I was building kept me going. When I received the first lot of samples and saw them on my excited children I knew I had to keep on moving forward.
Our 3rd daughter decided to join the family a month after launch so I spent the first year of Tribe Tropical juggling pregnancy, two little ones under 5, and trying to build the business. Our sweet 3rd daughter joined us the day after I launched our second range in October 2019, which also included options for boys, babies and teens. (I’ll never forget being on my way to hospital while trying to track down a missing parcel for a customer, then a week later unpacking boxes with a newborn strapped to my chest!)
There have been lots of highs, from winning a Good Design Award only months after launch, and taking part in both Miami Swim Week and Gold Coast Fashion Week, and being on national TV, along with many lows too, including having to change suppliers 3 times in 3 years (the expense of re-sampling each time is beyond words!), copping huge customs bills, website issues (I’ve also had 3 website builds in 3 years too!), unpaid bills from a retailer who went into liquidation, finding my designs immitated & sold by three different multinational retailers and more – it has been a wild ride!
OUR FOUNDER, ME!
Aside from my passion for Tribe Tropical and love of my family, I have a great passion for travel and other cultures. I have lived in 8 different countries and visited almost 70 different countries around the world. I've studied 5 languages and have passed my love of French on to my children, conversing with them & reading to them in French from the day they were born.
I studied post-grad International Relations and had goals of working for the United Nations before meeting my Kiwi husband in Sydney and moving to regional Queensland only four months after we met!
A few fun facts:
- I used to be the lead singer of an indie-pop band - we had some radio play in Sydney, performed at iconic venues in Sydney & Melbourne, and were on Triple J Unearthed. We also had one of our songs played on the TV show 'Neighbours'!
- Pre-kids I was passionate about bellydancing, and performed regularly at weddings and in restaurants all over Sydney on weekends.
- I have done some fun jobs, from teaching English & French in Japan for 3 years, to working as a Nanny on the Upper-East side of New York right after 9/11, to working with Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic. I was also the first female to work for Etihad Airways in Australia when they first launched (I managed their Groups Dept. in Sydney so was on the ground, not in the sky!)
- I could talk about travel for hours! My favourite countries are France, Japan, Nepal, Egypt, New Caledonia, and my favourite city is New York.
- I love SUP-surfing! I started learning in early 2021 and have really fallen in love with the sport. I've always loved surf culture but never felt I could be part of it due to my inability to be in the sun for long periods.
- I never considered myself to be a business person, designer or entrepreneur but I sure give everything my absolute best! I nearly fell over when I was featured by Auspreneur recently!!
Thank you for taking the time to learn about me and Tribe Tropical!