Sustainability is one of the most important movements permeating fashion today, and this summer brands are making a splash about swimwear too. Given how much the sustainable fashion market has grown over the past few seasons, it’s unsurprising that there are more options than ever when it comes to sustainable swimwear. Unfortunately, conventional swimwear is often made from synthetic virgin materials such as nylon and polyester, but luckily, there are lots of brands making the most of incredible material innovations or natural fibres to facilitate the transition to more sustainable swimwear.
We’ve read about sustainable swimwear in the past and learned how the majority of eco-friendly suits are made from recycled materials, meaning that they’re far more sustainable than those brands which use new fabrics.
But that was before we learned about microplastic water pollution.
As you probably know, if you’re wearing any clothing made from polyester, acrylic or any other petrol-based, plastic material, every time you wash that garment, you’re contributing microfibre pollution to the oceans. Microfibres are too small to be filtered out by waste treatment plants, so they can end up in our waterways and oceans by the billions. All of which means you’re literally swimming in the ocean wearing a swimsuit made of this toxin.
The truth is, modern swimwear and true sustainability just don’t go hand in hand — unless you’re more interested in sunbathing than swimming. In that case, no problem: there are some incredible organic cotton and hemp based swimsuits that are perfect for soaking up the rays on a sun-lounger.
But when you go for a dip, there’s a problem: those organic fabrics sag when they get wet. Sometimes, just sometimes, the water makes them so heavy that they fall off. Oops, that itsy-bitsy-polka-dot bikini moment! As yet, there isn’t a sound fabric solution for swimsuits which doesn’t result in more plastic in our oceans and landfills — but don’t worry: there’s hope!
For example, several brands are using a material called ECONYL®, which is a regenerated nylon fibre developed by global textile manufacturer, Aquafil. It’s made out of offcuts such as fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring, and industrial plastic reclaimed from landfills and oceans all over the world. That waste is sorted, cleaned, and recycled back to nylon fibre through a regeneration and purification process. It has the potential to be recycled infinitely, which helps create a more circular fashion system.
Major sportswear brands like Adidas continue to expand their ethical offerings and introduce innovative new fabrics made from recycled materials and focused on performance. Then there are the indie, boutique labels that are showing that being eco-friendly and elevated aren’t mutually exclusive objectives, as evidenced by the minimalist maillots from brands like Ohoy and Reformation — plus, the playful suits from lines like Mara Hoffman.
If you want your swimwear to be sustainable, it’s really up to you to do two key things: 1) Wash garments by hand with cold water or 2) if you use a machine, you can use a GuppyFriend- a washing bag that protects synthetic garments and reduces the amount of microfibres that may enter the water.
Here are 10 sustainable swimwear brands that are using ECONYL® or superior fabrics which we hope you’ll consider wearing this summer.
This well-loved LA based brand is best known for its upcycled deadstock fabric, but their swimsuits are constructed from ECONYL® . Taking a holistic view of sustainability with the ‘Ref standards’, they also look at garment care and microfibre shedding while stating how much carbon was saved with each style. And now, to make their clothing even more eco-friendly, they’re offering a Guppy Bag with each purchase — just pop your suit into it when you washing and all microfibres are captured by the bag. Cool!
The world´s only not-for-profit sustainable brand using ocean plastics & empowering women entrepreneurs in 14 developing countries.
Affordable, ethical and active, this Brighton-based sustainable brand offers vibrant, high-quality, affordable swim and active wear for women who want ethical Gym to Swim wear. Whilst being made from cutting-edge sustainable materials such as ECONYL®, infused with Xtra Life Lycra that’s chlorine resistant for more than 100 hours of exposure, RubyMoon also helps women set up and grow businesses across the globe. This inspired and innovative brand is also validated to produce 42% less emissions compared to other high street swimwear by The Princes Accounting For Sustainability Project conducted by Ecodesignbloom.com. So, not only is no petrol involved in their designs but 100% of the net profits generated by RubyMoon are lent out as small loans, to empower women entrepreneurs in eleven nations. As a personal touch, the swimwear pieces are named after the women in whom we have invested- for example, Victorine, Solange & Zarina.
3. Mara Hoffman
Founded in New York in 2000, this is a truly mindful brand which continues to focus on sustainable materials, processes, and production in order to improve and extend each garment’s life. Mara’s designs show a devotion to colour, each inspired by and in celebration of women. With a strong focus on recycling, sourcing dyes and materials carefully and human rights, there’s also an entire page dedicated to how care for your swimwear and make it last. They’ve even implemented a take-back system for responsible repair and recycling for when you’re ready to let go of your garment, which won’t be for a while.
Californian in style and spirit, Galamar swimwear is a balance of east and west coast style with sensibility is at the heart of the brand. Timeless swimwear for the contemporary woman, the collections are made from environmentally sound fabrics and proudly produced in Los Angeles, CA. With swimwear and body-confidence rarely the best fit, the flattering and empowering styles celebrate the female form and are made for comfort and functionality, allowing women to elevate their beachwear ethically and enjoy the summer in style. Body-confidence beachwear with a sustainable soul.
Inspired by the 1970’s glamour icons — think Bo Derek running along the beach in that halter-neck one-piece — this is a women-for-women brand that’s all about effortless, natural sexiness and that laid-back West Coast vibe. Vitamin A gives back a portion of proceeds directly to environmental organizations protecting the oceans, combining feminine design with sustainable innovation. The bikinis and bodysuits are designed and produced locally in California using their signature EcoLux fabric, the first premium swim fabric made from recycled nylon that combines sustainability and technology, to fit like a sexy, second skin. Thery also support body-confidence initiatives in conjunction with International Womens Day, so it’s a smart and sexy solution for the modern woman. If you’re keen on taking the plunge this summer in more ways than one, you’ll love the fearlessly deep plunge necklines! Plus, during the spirit of Earth Month, you’ll receive a free limited edition organic cotton bag when you spend $300 or more.
6. Le Buns
If shopping for swimwear makes your blood run cold, you’ll love Le Buns. It could be the brand you’ve been searching for your whole life.
Hello Bridget Bardot! Inspired by a desire to solve the eternal search for comfortable, eco conscious basics that can still be effortlessly sexy and feminine, this independent Australian brand produces timeless styles with versatility which can be incorporated into your wardrobe season after season. Driving positive environmental impact is at the heart of this young label and every piece is made using only natural, organic and regenerated luxurious fibres. Offering a great range of sporty bralettes and high-waisted styles, their intimates are as much of a draw as the beachwear. This is a true problem-solving brand.
Those plastic bottles look really hot now! If you’re keen on saving the planet but not keen on tan lines, you’ll love this brand of seamless swim styles with the popular ‘Cheeky bottom’ style offering minimal rear coverage. With a core belief that style shouldn’t be sacrificed for ethics, Ocin uses 100% recycled polyesters from plastic bottles saved from landfill and recycled nylon in its fabrics. Another supporter of ECONYL®, the garments offer UPF 50+ protection from the sun too and are made with quick-dry, super soft, 100% recycled and regenerated nylons. They’re also Standard 100 certified by Oeko-Tex, meaning they are free from any harmful chemicals.
8. All Sisters
If you fancy taking the one-shoulder theme to the beach, this one’s for you. Sexy, sporty and sustainable, this is very much an empowering label which respects women’s bodies as much as it does the environment. Using the highest quality of recycled fabrics with OEKO-TEX® certification, this Barcelona brand creates high-end swimsuits for a modern, eco-conscious woman, while paying great attention to responsible pattern-cutting. With a great range of surfsuits as well as cut-out styles and barely there bikinis, All Sisters is a super option for those who want an active lifestyle this summer. The designs are multifunctional and flattering and promise to make you feel at ease with your body, and at the same time beautiful and sexy.
Founded in 2016 by Scandinavian duo Anna and Henna, OHOY make swimwear from 100% ECONYL® regenerated nylon. When purchasing one of their swimsuits 1% of sales go to the non-profit Organization Healthy Seas in support of volunteer divers that help recover said fishing nets before they are sent to the regeneration facility. Plus, looking at their clean-cut, flattering styles this is one brand for all seasons and really inspires adventure. And don’t think that sustainability will compromise endurance, since OHOY products are tested in real-life conditions, their swimwear is twice as resistant to chlorine, sun creams, and oils than most other fabrics. And best of all, they are made to stay put and beautiful, no matter what.
It’s not only the Stella McCartney range which meets eco-creditials. Like its activewear, Adidas’ Parley swimwear meets the quality standards of both the Better Cotton Initiative and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which makes finding sustainable performance suits and separates that can stand up to SUP sessions, open swims, and other watersports, a cinch. They’ve partnered with Parley to produce and strong and stylish swim collection made of regenerated Econyl® yarn — upcycled plastic waste spun into chlorine-resistant fabrics.
Melissa Wheeler has worked in the fashion and retail scene for over 17 years. Writing for both trade and consumer titles, ghost writing or contributing opinion columns on industry platforms and blogs, she’s developed a solid reputation in fashion media and editorial with a reputable niche in the subject of sustainable and luxury fashion. In addition to creative writing, Melissa is qualified in Marketing and Communications, providing support for a range of clients in the fashion industry alongside copy writing services with a broader remit. As a freelance writer and consultant, she welcomes all business opportunities and requests for collaboration, especially being drawn towards the way in which fashion and style reflect and affect wellbeing and social times.