This story begins in Key West, Florida in 2008.
I, (Claire Forrest) fell in love with the reef systems at age 19 when I lived on a sailboat for the summer of 2008 as a snorkel instructor in the Florida Keys.
During that summer, I was snorkeling and free diving every single day, teaching young kids to do the same, safely, and guiding them along the incredible reefs absolutely teeming with vibrant fish, corals, and entire ecosystems. I got my PADI dive certification as part of the summer.
The summer was beyond magical and one I could never forget, falling asleep each night to the rocking water and 360 degrees of endless starlight.
I returned to my home state (Missouri) to finish college and started a photography business shortly thereafter. I never grew tired of traveling and returned to complete my advanced open water diving certification, as well as dives at other sites around the world.
However. . .when I returned to the same reefs I had visited at age 19, some 5 years later, it was very apparent to see the damage and bleaching that had occurred in what felt to me to be an insanely short amount of time.
To witness firsthand the absolute destruction of something that had meant so much to me was heartbreaking... and to research that we are destroying reefs at equally accelerating rates across the globe became a mission I was concerned with.
For reef systems that had been growing for hundreds of thousands of years, ten years is an alarmingly short amount of time to see such a dramatic impact on these systems.
The plastic problem, human activity, global warming... there are so many issues at hand. Landlocked in Missouri and very busy running my photography business, it wasn't something I knew how to take action about. Something that tugged at my heart at night and bothered me in occasional articles, but not something I knew how to address.
During the Pandemic of 2020, I had more time to sit and reflect on my part in this world, and the importance of our reefs. I began researching them, how endangered they have become, the incredible efforts by so many people currently attempting to isolate stronger coral populations and plant them, as babies, with the hope that they can grow and create a home for the ecosystems we have lost.
With just enough time to carve out to start learning, we have taken on fabric sourcing (recycled plastic materials only!), designing original patterns, and manufacturing in a way that is sustainable and ethical to everyone involved in the line. It is a very different type of business plan than what I am used to as a photographer, but I have such high hopes that through designing and selling swimsuits, I can become a bigger donor to the coral reef preservation efforts and partner with those who know how to make the difference we need to make.
With that, Coralee swimwear was born. I have such high hopes to bring this to you and join with other people striving to make a positive impact on our planet.
Just this December, we traveled to Key West, where it all began for me, and got to photograph the first coming collection. We even reunited with the Captain and ship (the WOLF) that I first lived on and fell in love with the oceans through.
If you've read this far, I'm grateful you're here and hoping we can create some change for the good!