Born on the East Coast and traveling across the United States with her military family as a young girl, Abby Brown started connecting with the ocean early in life. She lived in Coronado as a toddler, and since then, Brown and the ocean have been largely inseparable.
“I’ve always had this deep connection to the ocean,” said Brown, founder and CEO of H2OM, a San Diego-based apparel and accessories company that sources premium recycled polyester fabric for its material.
“When things get tough or when life throws me a curveball, the ocean is the place I go to, to reset and recharge.”
Brown also runs OM on the Ocean, a company which offers different wellness events set on or near the ocean.
She founded H2OM in 2020, but because of other work responsibilities and the COVID-19 pandemic, the company didn’t start taking orders until late June 2022. H2OM expects to deliver its first products in August.
“I honestly feel like I’m witnessing this from an out-of-body perspective,” said Brown, 37. “I feel like it’s a dream, this idea has been in the works for three years.”
With “OM on the Ocean,” merging her love of yoga and the ocean, Brown has held some pop-up events and recently took a group of about 100 yoga aficionados on the Hornblower Inspiration for a two-hour yoga sunset cruise.
Called “SOULSEAKER,” the event featured yoga teacher Laura Monk and DJ Amanda Malcolm Brown. The yacht took participants from downtown San Diego and under the Coronado Bridge and points further south before heading back.
Yoga on the Water
Brown launched her clothing line at the event, which was purposely held on June 20, one day away from the summer solstice.
A raffle at the evet helped raise nearly $900 for the nonprofit I Love A Clean San Diego.
Brown said with both of these endeavors, she is always aware of coming back to her “why” – the deep motivation that fuels her life. For Brown, her “why” is centered around people, the ocean and the planet, and helping to educate others in best practices of doing the least harm to the environment.
“From start to finish, I want to do things smarter, and do things in more mindful ways,” Brown said. “I really think about that every day.”
She said her company is doing what it can to disrupt the fashion industry, which she said is the second-highest polluting industry in the world.
“The amount of waste, the destruction to the environment is incredible in the fashion industry,” she said. “I truly believe this has the potential of changing the way we produce and consume. I want to make sure we are not adding to that. As consumers, we need to do better. As producers we must do better. I want to be part of that. This is how I am working toward my why, every single day.”
Brown studied advertising at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, then traveled around southeast Asia after graduating.
It was while living in Bali in 2009 that she was horrified by the amount of ocean pollution she saw.
“The trash problem there, as well as in India, is like next-level bad,” Brown said. “The people there really didn’t have any education about recycling. I saw people on boats throwing plastic bottles overboard, mindlessly. It was then that I really noticed the serious global crisis on our hands.”
Ocean Awareness is CEO’s Passion
Since that time, Brown has made it her mission to bring ocean awareness to the world.
Starting in 2019 she began earnestly researching fibers and fabrics. She said that the COVID-19 pandemic gave her the opportunity to start researching ways and means of how using recycled materials and turning them into fashionable activewear could be done.
“I had heard of other brands using plastic into polyester, an innovative technology and then I went to a conference in Los Angeles and saw more about it and said, ‘I’m going to do this,’” Brown said.
She connected with a company called REPREVE, a leading manufacturer of recycled bottles that is under the umbrella of Unifi, a leading global textile solutions company.
REPREVE turns waste into fibers into material, offsetting the use of new petroleum, emitting fewer greenhouse gases and conserving water and energy.
Even the prints infused with color on Brown’s H2OM clothing line are drawn from sustainable sources.
Brown said that dyeing textiles contributes to nearly 20 percent of global industrial water pollution. The company does not dye its fabrics but rather sublimation to create prints.
Sublimation uses a high heat process to transfer artwork to material and it becomes part of the fabric, instead of adding a layer on top.
The Path to H2OM
Brown worked in several other fields on the way to her “dream” job. She was employed in New York and San Francisco over the years, working in marketing as a creative service manager, in brand and event management, as a graphics project producer, and project director at a marketing company.
But all along the way, Brown kept feeling drawn to healing and connecting to nature.
“Working in those spaces reminded me how imbalanced that world is,” Brown said. “In the event management space, I was stressed out. I saw people getting sick and unwell.”
During the time she was at those jobs, Brown would take time out to train to become a practicing yoga instructor. She taught yoga in Guatemala at one point and also helped open a retreat with a yoga school in Bali before moving to San Diego in 2017.
It was not long after living near the ocean in San Diego that Brown figured out how to be part of a company that would inspire sustainable practices and how to be part of an industrial movement demanding innovation in the way goods are manufactured – the way was to start her own business.
“Profit is important, and it is there because we need to get by,” Brown said. “But for me, it’s people, the ocean and the planet all the way. I am doing this to make a change, and I think with that will come success. I’m not so focused on the profit aspect as much as I believe that what you create and what you want is what you attract.”
CEO: Abby Brown
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: Apparel and accessories
SOCIAL IMPACT: 1 percent of H2OM’s annual sales goes to environmental causes.
NOTABLE: OM on the Ocean is the immersive wellness on water experience part of the H2OM business.