Meet the sisters making waves in the sun protection industry

A cancer scare inspired Naomi Collings and Kirsty Parnell to create designer-style rashies that catch your eye for all the right reasons.

Kirsty Parnell and Naomi Collings

A personal brush with cancer can change someone’s entire perspective on life.

For Naomi Collings, it was a chance discovery of skin cancer – by her sister, no less – which ultimately drove Naomi to launch a collection of revamped rashies and educate Australians about skin cancer in the process.

Naomi and sister Kirsty Parnell are the talented duo behind MARA Swim, and their foray into swimwear design is inspiring. A melanoma survivor, Naomi (inset, right) knows about the dangers of sun exposure.

“I’m alive today because my sister spotted a melanoma in its early stages, which was a total fluke,” Naomi says.

“Had it not been discovered then and there, who knows if I’d still be here to share my story.”

Kirsty developed a knack for detecting irregular spots while working as a hairdresser. “Skin cancer often develops on exposed areas that aren’t very visible, like the scalp and nape of the neck,” Kirsty says.

She believes people should prioritise skin cancer checks because suspicious spots are often invisible to the naked eye.

The siblings are based in Queensland, which has been dubbed the skin cancer capital of the world for having high melanoma incidence rates.

But figures show the sun safety message is finally being heard, especially by younger people.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study reveals skin cancer rates among those under 40 has dropped by 30 per cent since 2012.

“It’s great to hear skin cancer rates are falling, but more can always be done,” Kirsty says. “Irrespective of whether you burn or tan in the sun, they’re both forms of sun damage, so we need to stop glamorising the latter.”

The sisters’ desire to design rashies was based on practicality.

“Covering up at the beach wouldn’t be so passe if there were more fashion-forward options on the market,” Naomi says.

“We realised updated rashies were an obvious solution, and we shifted our focus to rashie designs.

“We really hope our designs revitalise the presence of rashies, not just on Aussie shores but also overseas.”

Covering up at the beach wouldn’t be so passe if there were more fashion-forward options on the market.

MARA Swim rashies boast eye-catching designs of the right kind, featuring unique prints, streamlined silhouettes and quality fabrics that are UVP 50+, creating a serious barrier between your body and the sun.

Other swimwear labels – including Lisa Marie Fernandez, Zimmermann and Seafolly – have also jumped aboard the rashie rehash.

“Sunscreen can only protect you for so long and if you go in the water and don’t re-apply, its effectiveness is greatly reduced,” Kirsty says.

“Rashies, on the other hand, provide truly durable waterproof sun protection.”

For this reason alone, it’s hoped that fashion rashies will persuade more swimmers to rock one at the beach.

Written by Charlotte Brundrett