At A Glance – Sustainable Swimwear
Craving the salty seas of foreign isles? Down to your sustainable skivvies, summer is almost here! Regardless of our ability to cross country borders, warmer months will soon be upon as which demands swimwear with aesthetics and ethics.
Last year, Missguided broke the internet with their infamous ‘£1’ bikini, a succinct summary of everything that is wrong with fast fashion retailers not bearing the true cost that garment production has on the people or planet.
For the majority, swimwear is seasonal, worn only on a handful of vacations, in heavy rotation with numerous other pieces to make a splash and parade poolside. Costume fabrics are often cheaply made, see through bikini bottoms or snapped elastic straps is something I’m sure many readers will have experienced. As a post mortum, these are then discarded, further fuelling our unhealthy relationship with landfills for barely used clothing. The plastic footprint of swimwear, despite its skimpy use of material, still accrues quite the environmental impact, whether its energy intensive processes of manmade textiles or the shedding of microfibres in washing. Preservation is equally as important as the quality of what you purchase. Appropriate care can prolong a garments life span as sand, sunscreen, chlorine or our favourite tanning lotions are all abrasive on our swimsuits. Learn some laundry trips on how to care for your swimmers here.
Whilst it seems like a mere drop in the ocean, there are an entourage of innovative brands taking the plunge to clean up plastic pollution and save the seas one swimsuit at a time. These durable high-performance pieces keep perfect after rigorous water sports or leisurely lolling on the sand. As smaller labels, they focus on made to order supply chain strategies, purposefully keeping collections conservative to mitigate unsold stock waste. What’s more, their charitable endeavours see many donate profits to organisations dedicated to cleaning up the oceans. (To read more about the ocean’s plastic problem read here).
So how do they do it? Fabric innovation is critical. If you’ve read my other spotlight features, you will be familiar with ECONYL® and other materials such as Tencel and OEKO-TEX® that embrace circularly to reduce waste. Material consideration is fundamental, especially for the lining, which makes up of 50% of swimwear fabric consumption and is often overlooked.
As a brief recap, ECONYL® has pioneered a closed loop regeneration processes to transform the abundance of nylon waste that resides in landfills and oceans worldwide into sustainable textiles. This motivation of biomimicry has seen the reimagining and development of a material that is 100% regenerated and 100% regenerable infinitely.
Their four-stage process of rescue, regenerate, re make and reimagine has seen that for every 10,000 tons of ECONYL® raw material, they are able to:
- Save 70,000 barrels of crude oil
- Avoid 57,100 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
It reduces the impact on climate and contribution to warming by up to 80% compared with materials from oil. Their collaboration with the Healthy Seas Initiative looks to eradicate and unsully the oceans of marine litter to combat ghost nets and ghost fishing.
(Read the full ECONYL® article here)
From top trunks, bottles turned into bikinis and pool side performers that fight against ghost fishing, these high-quality swimwear brands will help you make a sustainable splash.
Deep Dive – the Brands You Need To Know
Stay Wild Swim – whether you’re snorkelling or sun lounging, this brand uses ECONYL® as a positive force for nature. Founded by Natalie Glaze and Zanna Van Dijk, Stay Wild Swim is a London based business that has won the 2020 Positive Luxury award for Breakthrough Brand. Their pieces are feminine and functional and my personal favourite is the Nerida bikini.
Davy J – one for the water sports fanatics as they are ‘designed to survive the dive’. Another opportunity to champion a British business, Davy J ECONYL® swimsuits are as sturdy and durable as they are stylish. Their pieces have double lining with high elastane composition for extra strength and shape staying power. They also have rubber edging to ensure no slippages!
All Sisters – born in Barcelona, All Sisters is founded on the principle of being consciously strong. They use high quality recycled materials that carry the OEKO-TEX® certification which means they are tested for harmful substances as well as being socially responsible and environmentally sound. Their operations see them upcycle garments of stock materials from neighbouring local fabric factories. This enterprise raises money for biodiversity protection, collaborating with Surfers Against Sewage to tackle plastic pollution. When browsing, be sure to peruse their newly released a minimalistic sportswear collection.
Mara Hoffman – design queen and CFDA winner Mara Hoffman is no stranger to responsible fashion. The aim is to design and manufacture garments with care to reduce impact and increase awareness of challenges within the fashion industry. They prioritise fair treatment of skilled artisans and the minimisation of resources throughout the costume’s life cycle. As well as using ECONYL®, textured designs use REPREVE which is a polyester fibre that consists of 100% recycled plastic, including water bottles and uses less petroleum, GHG emissions and minimises energy conservation. Their mantra of wear more, wash less endorses correct garment care.
Vitamin A – having partnered with the likes of Patagonia, founder Amahlia was determined to transform the swimwear game. Vitamin A is a Southern Californian pioneer that uses ECOLUX, OEKO-TEX® and recycled nylon fibres to form its fitting pieces. They represent best practice as they not only do they use waterless processes to print their designs that reduce chemical and water usages, they partner with artisan groups in the region to strengthen community collaboration. One of my favourite things about Vitamin A is they measure the tangible positive impact they have made thus far. As of May 2020, they have: saved over 1.7 million litres of water, diverted 32,000 kg of waste, avoided nearly 300,000kg of emissions and saved over 938,000 khw energy through their processes. Production of their stretch ribbed swim fabrics, a breathable textile, is crafted by a mechanical regeneration system void of chemicals and per meter of fabric saves 63 litres of oil and 33 litres of water! They also use a BioSculpt material which is plant based and raw sourced from castor bean, a great alternative to nylons! Their enviable ethical loungewear is not to go amiss either.
Practising active citizenship, Vitamin A donate a percentage of sales to organisations including 1% for the Planet
Batoko – famed for their distinguished prints, Batoko is rubbish, literally. The UK based brand is vegan, fully certified by the OEKO-TEX® standard and their workplace is even fuelled by renewable energy! Like many on this list, they favour small production to eliminate any surplus textile waste. Supply chain transparency is a priority which you can view in more detail on their website. Batoko’s swimsuit initiatives are award worthy, for example for every Lobster swimsuit sold, they rear a baby lobster and release it back into the sea – a win-win! Their partnerships see them donate a portion of profits to the Marine Conservation Society UK and collaborate with Mossy Earth for any carbon they can’t reduce by offsetting it by restoring native forests throughout Europe.
Paper London – this front row favourite is influenced by modern architecture and artistry when crafting their high-quality fabrics. With a mission that looks at responsible manufacturing to put the planet and people first, their pieces are dreamy. Paper London has won the British Fashion Council Contemporary Award two seasons in a row and boast more than just swimwear. My eye is firmly on the Coconut Swimsuit in Humbug.
Galamaar – has a commitment to do better by mother earth. Made lovingly in Los Angeles, this small family owned business minimise their footprint across all areas. From locally made pad inserts, to recycled hang tags and eco packaging, Galamaar make consciousness easy for their customers. Education is key in sustainable fashion and they have rigorous care instructions. They urge against using a washing machine for your pieces and provide tips that even body oils can break down the stretch fibres in our suits over time as well as wading against ironing, dry cleaning or tumble drying! Remember, loved clothes last.
Ganni – no stranger to your ethical wardrobe radar. Ganni outrightly state they don’t identify as a sustainable brand as they recognise the complexities of the fashion industry and its relationship with newness and consumption. Instead, they practice responsibility throughout every inch of their business and category, including swimwear. They work to deliver three of the UN Sustainable Development Goals; gender equality, responsible production and consumption and climate action. Ganni is committed to international targets dictated by the UNFCC, NPEC & GFA. They have introduced over 30+ responsible initiatives including a rental platform, take back scheme and integrated newly certified, recycled fabrics into their collections.
Ayla – pieces from this brand belong on exotic islands and are designed to see you from sun lounger to sundowner. The Ayla founders are from the Carribean and the Philippines, so they are well versed in conscious costumes for the tropics. Crafted in two small boutique factories in Bali, swimsuits are made from ECONYL® and Tencel.
Sébastien – personify long lasting luxury and their one pieces are to die for. Since its inception in 2018, the team behind Sébastien in Paris have fairly paid workers and benchmarked best practice. The costumes are fashioned in a Portugese atelier that has been in the industry for over two decades. Most of their cossies comprise of ECONYL® but other materials from recycled yarn are also used. They go above and beyond in minimising their impact. For example, they only ship with UPS Carbon Neutral to offset the climate impact of deliveries and they warn customers on the environmental effects of constantly returning items. What’s more, their packaging is made from recycled materials and fully recyclable.
Medina – from waste to wear, these ECONYL® swimsuits are UV proof, sun cream, oil and chlorine resistant! Purchasing from Medina contributes to saving the oceans as a percentage of each sale goes to organisations including The Ocean Cleanup Project , Parley for the Oceans, and Restore Coral.
Ohoy – this Scandinavian label believes bikinis aren’t just for swimwear seasons but for adventures throughout the year. Founded in 2016, Ohoy garments are perfect for land and water with the fabric tenacity of ECONYL®. The brand’s manufacturing is completed in a small family owned factory in Sri Lanka where they spend time with the team during production ensuring the highest quality of working standards. 1% of all profits go to the Healthy Seas Organisation.
Peony – this family run enterprise is rigorous in its approach to sustainability. An abundance of innovative matierls are used including GSR certified recycled fibre, such as Repreve® for their textured pieces. Peony’s suppliers are all SA800 approved and their packaging is entirely biodegradabale and compostable as it is comprised of cornstarch and wheat.
Elle Evans – supplying sustainable swimwear since 2013 in Australia, Elle Evans make their garments to order to reduce unsold stock going to landfill. Their designs only use discarded remnants that would end up in the bin or recycled lyrca which uses 80% less energy in production than virgin lyrca. The prints are done digitally using water based, non-toxic inks so no inks go into clean water streams and no water is required after printing. The Elle Evans carry bags are sewn in their workshop from deadstock fabrics and delivered by carbon neutral couriers.
If you’re still on the hunt for more, here are some other brands to check out:
If you want to read more about a particular brand, head over to the authority ethical ratings Good on You.
If you need inspiration on where to where to go for a dip, check out the S & S staycation recommendations.