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The Ethical + Eco Swimwear Brands Making Waves This Summer

There’s increasing pressure for the summer-friendly category to mirror the efforts made by the wider fashion industry in terms of sustainability, ethical production and inclusivity.

In the wake of the pandemic, there’s a growing optimism about the summer ahead and with that comes a new opportunity for style-forward swimwear labels that uphold ideals of sustainability.  

Shopping for swimwear is not something that occupies much thought here year-round, so it may come as a surprise to learn that there’s increasing pressure for the summer-friendly category to mirror the efforts made by the wider fashion industry in terms of sustainability, ethical production and inclusivity.

While established brands and retailers suffered through a year devoid of travel, disruptor brands have emerged, finding new opportunities in becoming an extension of a lifestyle, rather than something people buy out of necessity.

It’s far from a quick-win space, something Girlfriend Collective, the beloved American activewear brand established on adding swim to their offering earlier this year. Previously, most swimwear had been produced using petroleum oil-based synthetic materials like nylon, spandex and polyester, which was proving problematic on several fronts. The first being that these materials are not biodegradable, meaning they ended up in landfill for hundreds of years. The second involves a smaller, lesser-known vector of pollution, and the label was honest about the limitations of producing low-impact swim goods.

“The bad news is there isn’t a good swimwear fabric out there that won’t shed plastic microfibers,” stated a press release that accompanied the launch in April. “We know because we looked.” (Synthetic fabrics are known to release microscopic plastic particles into the water supply as they break down.) To combat this issue, Girlfriend Collective donates 1 per cent of every swimwear purchase to a non-profit that collects discarded fishing nets from the ocean, and every piece in their collection is fabricated from Econyl® – a regenerated fibre indistinguishable from virgin nylon, that’s made from industrial waste such as plastic, fabric scraps from clothing manufacturing companies, old carpets and discarded fishing nets.

Girlfriend Collective

Consumers are clearly responding to swimwear brands that are paying rigorous attention to sustainability. According to Edited, the leader in retail market intelligence, swimwear products described as containing recyclable or sustainable materials are up 307 per cent year-on-year, with both luxury (Rixo, Paper London) and high-street brands (Hush, Arket, Boden) embracing versions of regenerated nylon.

Elsewhere in a bid to reduce waste, Hunza G – which launches into Brown Thomas this season – operates on a made-to-order system and crafts its pieces using an innovative stretch fabrication that allows a one-size offering, while luxury beachwear label Evarae no longer offers free returns in an attempt to curb impulsive online shopping.

Left to right: Evarae and Hush 

Things are changing when it comes to inclusivity too, with designers accepting that women of all body shapes and sizes are entitled to flattering, functional swimwear. By their nature, swim lines need to be SKU- heavy in order to give customers choice, and for too long it was assumed that the style or size needed on top would also be the same as that worn on the bottom. Brands on a mission to change that include; Monday Swimwear, an LA-based brand offering cup sizes in AAA through G+, Kitty and Vibe, a New York label that employs a clever sizing metric that takes your waist, hips and bum into consideration and We Are We Wear, a UK-founded brand with a size range of XS – 3XL.

For those with fuller busts, look to Lonely The Label, Elomi and Beija London, all first-and-foremost lingerie brands that have applied similar supportive design principles to their swimwear, so all that’s left to do is to go and chase that sun.

Left to right: We Are We Wear and Rixo

Read More: Summer Fashion Worth A Smile With Zalando