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sustainable swimwear

Is There Such a Thing as Sustainable Swimwear? 8 Brands That Are Doing It Better

Summer is well and truly here. We know this because every content creator we follow on Instagram has made their annual pilgrimage to the Greek Islands and is now posting beach snaps of themselves in whichever latest celebrity swimwear collection has most recently been gifted to them from PR firms. ‘Tis the damn season.

Whether you’re sipping cocktails on the Med, or partaking in the other classic summer ritual — the ol’ “lounging in my sweats on my bed scrolling through aforementioned beach pics,” the process of acquiring swimwear can be difficult. For many of us, it is uncomfortable (why is it that every suit fits so differently?), and perhaps for those of us on the search for sustainable swimwear, downright confusing. Frankly, the search for sustainable swimwear feels nearly impossible, and well, that’s because it is.

The debate surrounding “sustainable swimwear” has begun to gain more public traction amongst consumers as the climate crisis remains at the forefront of our minds and we are forced to grapple with the question of whether swimwear can ever actually be truly “sustainable.” While there is no perfect alternative to the stretchy synthetic fabric that nearly every swimsuit is made with, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some brands that are doing it better than others on the inclusivity front while also taking steps to minimize the environmental impacts of their products.



As a notoriously exclusionary industry, swimwear brands have long marketed a completely one-dimensional idea of who swimwear is even for. Fortunately, as fashion evolves into a more inclusive industry, there are brands emerging that are disrupting the status quo and ushering in a new era of acceptance and inclusivity within swimwear. In addition to creating bathing suits that are, for example, size-inclusive or gender-inclusive, many of these companies have taken steps to minimize the environmental impacts of their products by sourcing deadstock, or leftover, fabric that can no longer be used for its original purpose and those made from used plastic bottles, fishing nets and other recycled materials. While it is not an entirely holistic solution by itself, this more conscious use of fabrics is an important initial attempt to reduce the use of virgin oil-based synthetics or plastics within the product group of swimwear that is almost entirely reliant on these materials.

As conscious consumers, we want to take the secrecy out of our clothing and push for a more transparent and inclusive industry. Here are eight brands to check out in your search for sustainable swimwear this summer. In addition to their use of recycled and deadstock fabrics, these swimwear brands are also championing racial-, size- or gender-inclusivity.

DOS Swim

 

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Brands founded by customers in a quest for a specific product are often the most thought-through. The two friends Shay Johnson and Paula Hess created DOS Swim in 2019 after struggling to find high-quality, sustainable swimsuits living up to their standards. Since then, the brand’s mission is to create swimsuits that fit comfortably  and celebrate women’s bodies to highlight their confidence. Their colorful swimsuits cater to a modern silhouette and offer flattering fits. Produced in a women-owned factory in the heart of New York City’s Garment District, the all-female team works on limited quantities in a size range from XS to 3XL. DOS Swim fosters personal relationships with its suppliers and source deadstock lycra for their print swimsuits in NYC’s Garment District. For their standard solid colorways, they partly use ECONYL®, a recycled nylon alternative from post-consumer waste.

Humankind Swim

 

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Swimwear is typically a very binary industry with bikinis for the girlies and shorts for the boys. Humankind’s queer founder Haily Marzullo wanted to take account of non-binary people seeking comfort and confidence in gender- and size-inclusive swimwear. All of the company’s designs are made from ​​a blend of recycled polyester and spandex, are fitted on multiple body types, and are later wear-tested “during real-life activities.” Humankind features products in a size range up to 6XL from swim trunks to loose-fitting swim shirts to compression tops, providing a solution for everyone.

Jade Swim

 

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Former fashion editor and stylist Brittany Kozerski founded Jade Swim in 2016 in a quest for high-quality, well-cut, sustainable swimsuits that also offer UV protection. By producing in Los Angeles and designing in New York, the label’s supply chain stays manageable and emissions can be kept in control through carbon-neutral shipping. The brand mostly uses ECONYL® from fishing nets, plastic bottles, and fabric scraps. The remaining portion of its swimsuits consists of regular nylon and spandex. Jade Swim ensures that its dyes don’t contain hazardous chemicals and deliberately only sells solid colorways to avoid excessive water usage.

Nettle’s Tale

Pledging to value inclusivity and produce ethically and locally, Nettle’s Tale began after a successful crowdfunding campaign by founder Julia Church in 2014. The brand prioritizes offering fits for all different body types which later lead to its Community Fit Guide where customers can specify their body measurements and the size of swimwear they chose, helping other customers in making a sound choice. 90% of Nettle’s Tale’s swimsuits are cut and sewn in a women-owned and led factory just ten minutes away from the brand’s office in Vancouver, the rest is manufactured in two family-owned factories in the USA and Taiwan. The brand’s swimwear is made from recycled polyester and spandex (many of them OEKO-TEX 100 certified), ensuring no toxic chemicals are used.

Palo Rosa Beachwear

Reflecting the founder Carolina Ordoñez’s Colombian heritage, Palo Rosa Beachwear sells colorful, vibrant, patterned designs referencing  the 1960s music scene. Its collection features colorful velvet styles and patterned two-pieces as well as eye-catching cover-ups, scarfs, and bucket hats. Since 2013, Palo Rosa’s collection has been handmade in Columbia, using partly recycled fibers from post-consumer waste. However, it’s currently unclear which percentage of their swimsuits is made from regenerated fibers, with the remaining part consisting of polyester, spandex, and elastane.

Ocean+Main

Instead of selling swimsuits, Ocean+Main has specialized in selling caftans and beach cover-ups mostly made from upcycled deadstock materials and avoiding toxic chemicals. The brand offers many products with zero-water production and uses regenerated water as much as possible. All caftans are produced in Los Angeles, rendering the supply chain and labor conditions manageable. They claim to use no single-use plastic in production, applying to both their cover-ups and their packaging. Their primary fabrications are high-quality natural fibers such as silk and cotton.

Riot Swim

 

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At Black-owned, body-positive label Riot Swim, coverage meets confidence and luxury meets minimalism. The brand aims to provide every woman with flattering, sexy swimsuits in high quality – no matter the body type. One of their bestsellers is a one-piece with a high-legged cut, an intricately ruched waist, and beautiful decolletage that seems to flatter every bust size. Founded in 2016 by Monti Landers, Riot Swim works a lot with customers’ feedback to design just what the community desires.

OOKIOH

 

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The LA-based swimwear brand OOKIOH was founded in 2017 by Indian entrepreneur Vivek Agarwal. Focusing on vintage-inspired and size-inclusive silhouettes at accessible price points, OOKIOH is all about traveling, female beauty, and living in the moment. In their swimsuits ranging from XS to 4XL, they claim to use 100% regenerated fibers from an Italian fabric mill which in turn sources them from ocean waste such as fishing nets as well as pre-consumer waste (bigger companies’ surplus). One of their goals is to eliminate plastics from their supply chain over the next two years. To further mitigate the consequences of plastic pollution, OOKIOH partners with Coral Gardeners and donates 1% of its revenue to the coral restoration organization We The Reef.

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