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Two friends launch a fashionable sun protection clothing company, Mott 50

IN THE FASHION GAME: Monique Moore, left, and business partner Anne Botica model clothes from their line at the Viceroy Miami.
IN THE FASHION GAME: Monique Moore, left, and business partner Anne Botica model clothes from their line at the Viceroy Miami. Miami Herald Staff

Sun protective clothing is turning fashionable, as two friends launch a stylish line of apparel this week that protects the skin from the harmful rays of the sun.

The company, Mott 50, was conceived one summer day when roommates Anne Botica and Monique Moore were sitting on the beach in the Hamptons with friends, lathering up with sunscreen. They started chatting about how they once practically lived in tanning booths and now worried about possible sun damage.We decided it was time to create some more fashionable clothing with sun protection, said Botica, 27, who has a family history of skin cancer. She lost her aunt to melanoma, and her mother has also battled it, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.One and a half years later, the first collection is for sale, with T-shirts, tunics, dresses, skirts, pants, jackets and more for women, and T-shirts, polo shirts and long-sleeved shirts for men, in a variety of colors and patterns.Mott 50 is named for the street in New York where the co-founders live and where their clothing line has become a reality; 50 is for the UPF ultraviolet protection factor that blocks both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning rays).The clothes are geared for everyday and resort wear for the golf course and tennis court, as well as for boating, or for going for a walk or taking your kids to the playground, Botica said. Items retail for between $55 and $145 for women, and $45 to $65 for men.People can mix and match these pieces and be as covered as they want, said Moore, 28.The clothes are made in three fabrics: A cotton poplin and a cotton pique, each treated with sun protection, and a blend of 92 percent bamboo and 8 percent spandex, which naturally achieves a UPF of 50. The fabric is made in China, where Mott 50s fashions are also manufactured.We use natural fibers, not synthetic, so the clothes are breathable and feel normal, Moore said. The clothes are certified as UPF 50 by the International UV Testing Laboratory and have earned the seal of recommendation of the Skin Cancer Foundation. To earn its seal, the organization requires that clothing reach a UPF of at least 30, and retain its sun-protective qualities after numerous washings and exposure to sunlight. A UPF of 50 is considered excellent protection, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.Typically, regular clothing provides a sun protection factor of 5. So, if you put a coverup over your bathing suit, thinking it will protect you, think again.The advantage of sun protective clothing is that it offers much higher protection and its easy for everyone, said Dr. Amy Ross, a Palm Harbor, Fla.-based dermatologist and educational spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation. For people who dont like sunscreen, its a great alternative.In sun-drenched South Florida, skin cancer is a growing concern. Ross, who spends most of her work week cutting out spots of skin cancer from patients, has found the incidence of the disease rising, and the age declining.Its definitely a problem, Ross said. And were seeing it in younger and younger people.Yet at the same time, there has been a dearth of stylish sun protective clothing, she said.Most of the brands are kind of frumpy and unisex, she said. Theyre not designed to be stylish and trendy.Botica and Moore have targeted Florida for their first sales trip. They have spent two weeks traveling up and down the state, meeting with retailers and displaying at trunk shows. The line debuted Tuesday on their website, The two plan to market heavily online, using social media, as well as sell their pieces to boutiques, hotels and spas.Their clothes are carried at Sandpiper Clothiers, which has boutiques at Ocean Reef in Key Largo, as well as in Marco Island and Naples. Moore and Botica hope to offer at least two collections a year, with their next collection coming out late summer or early fall. We wanted our first collection to have basics and soft, well-cut fashions, Moore said. And from there, expand the collection to a little more fashionable, with embellishments and beading, and have some [pieces] with more function, as well.Mott 50 is the first venture for the two women, who grew up in the Midwest Moore in Minneapolis and Botica in Winnetka, Ill. and met in college. They were roommates at Boston College, where they both graduated in 2005, with majors in communications. In New York, both worked in online marketing and digital publishing before quitting their jobs last April to devote their time to Mott 50, which they incorporated in February 2010. Their company is backed by angel investors, but they declined to provide details. They hope to break even within three years, Moore said.Ann Keller, an investment manager who lives in Naples, just purchased several items from Mott 50 during a trunk show she hosted there. Active in golfing and boating, she said she was impressed with the quality of the materials and that they combine style and function.The jersey cotton is very soft and the brushed cotton is breathable, she said. I actually would have bought these items even if they didnt have sun protection, so it is a nice bonus.