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Here’s the think about shopping for sustainable bathing suits: no, you can’t get ones made without petrochemical-based synthetics. I’m sorry.
I know you’ve seen some crocheted bikinis made with cotton, but unfortunately, once that crochet cotton gets wet, it stretches out. Believe me. I had one, and when I complained to the brand, their answer was that it’s not supposed to get wet. Oh! OK. It’s just decorative, then?
So, the what is a conscious consumer to do?
First, look for bathing suits made with recycled fabric, either from fishing nets or plastic water bottles. Then, look at where the textile is printed, and where the bathing suit is sewn. You want to make sure it’s made ethically in a country with strong manufacturing protections.
Lucky for you, there’s plenty to choose from with that criteria!
Made from recycled polyamide and elastane, this quality swimwear is super flattering, UPF 50+, and shockingly cheap, for only $95. FYI: It used to be made in NYC when it launched, but has since moved production to China.
Do Good Swimwear handmakes classic swimsuits in a limited assortment of colors that can be mixed and matched for longer use. Each suit is made out of recycled ocean waste materials (like fishnets, plastic bottles, and old nylons) and they aim for carbon offsetting by planting trees with each purchase. Plus, a portion from each purchase supports a number of different non-profit organizations, from ocean conservation to girls’ education.
For the Dreamers swimwear is made mostly out of ECONYL, which is regenerated nylon is made from pre and post-consumer waste such as fishing nets from the oceans and aquaculture, fabric scraps from mills, old carpets destined for landfills and other nylon waste. In order to decrease their environmental impact, they work with a carbon-neutral shipping company and use more environmentally friendly printing machines for labels, recycled wrapping, and compostable shipping bags. Plus, 5% of every purchase is donated to an organization that provides clean water to those without access to it.
With swimwear created in Italy, CasaGIN attempts to work with the resources Earth offers, innovating with both the aesthetic and functional properties of different fabrics. Their swimwear collection is made with soft and breathable ECONYL, a regenerated fiber that can be recycled and remolded indefinitely to reduce its impact on climate change. CasaGIN follows an ethical production process, sourcing only Italian fabrics and ensuring safe and fair work for employees.
This is what socially conscious surfer dudes wear when they grow up and get sophisticated. Founded by a surf champion and menswear designer, Outerknown is partnered with the Fair Labor Association and certified by Bluesign, which ensures toxins are excluded from the manufacturing process. Even their packaging is non-toxic and water-soluble. Their swimwear is made mostly out of recycled material.
For 2020, Lively created its first ever eco-conscious swimwear line, with suits made primarily out of recycled polyester. The styles are timeless and meant to be mix and matched, and sizes go up to XXL/DDD.
Every brand that REI carries meets a minimum standard of ethical and sustainable operation. Although not every single item is made out of recycled and/or natural materials, they have a really wide variety of apparel to choose from that is not only made in a conscious way, but is also very high quality. Or, you can shop from their Used Gear section, which is perhaps the most sustainable (and affordable!) option. For more about REI’s sustainability initiatives in depth, read this.
Hirsuit Swim by Otherwild is an androgynous swimsuit designed for a wide variety of bodies and gender expressions. Hirsuit fills the hole left by a limited and patriarchal notion of swimwear, made for people whose style choices fall outside of the fashion industry’s antiquated assumptions regarding gender and identity. It’s reversible, designed and made in New York City, and made out of 82% recycled polyester (plus 18% long life spandex).
On top of Patagonia’s swimswear being made from a soft and durable 83% recycled polyester/ 17% spandex blend, all the sewing is done in Fair Trade certified factories.
As a brand, BOLD Swim showcases strength, sensuality, and playfulness through soft textiles, saturated colors, and a variety of silhouettes. Their fabric is a synthetic called Amni Soul Eco, which is not only soft and breathable, but also third-party tested certified to be biodegradable in a landfill!
Made in California, many of Vitamin A’s supersexy swimsuits are made with EcoLux™ fabric, a blend of Repreve® RECYCLED nylon fiber and LYCRA® XTRA LIFE™ fiber for a subtle sheen and gorgeous, long-lasting fit.
Made in the USA of Italian recycled polyester/spandex fabric, these bathing suits have SPF50 built into their colorful, patterned fabrics.
OOKIOH makes “modern swimwear with a splash of nostalgia.” The materials are sourced from an Italian mill and are 100% regenerated (meaning they come from ocean and post-consumer waste). The brand is currently working toward their goal of completely eliminating plastic from their entire system in the next three years.
Ethically made in Canada, Londre bodysuits and swimwear are made out of OEKO Tex 100 certified recycled plastic and chitosante. Chitosante is made out of crushed shells (a byproduct of the shellfish industry) and is used for its anti bacterial and odor resistant properties. Plus, it provides that smooth, controlled fit that you’d get from synthetics but is better for you and the ocean!
Designed to be flattering to all body types and created with sustainability and versatility in mind, Hackwith’s swimwear is created by hand right in their Minnesota studio. They use eco-friendly fabrics like Lyocell and cotton, any of the pieces are made to order to reduce waste.
Fauna curates sustainable, stylish and carefully crafted swimwear (in addition to clothing and accessories) from Brazilian brands and designers. Fauna takes into account the 3 P’s: People, Planet, and Product, and each brand the online boutique carries values decreasing waste, taking care of our environment, making high-quality products that last, and producing their clothing under fair labor practices. I personally have one of their suits, and I love it! It’s made of biodegradable polyamide, which biodegrades within four years of being disposed in a landfill, and the Brazilian cut is making my love my butt again!
Fair Harbor’s swimwear is made using recycled plastic bottles in factories that the team actually visit personally and regularly. Their seamless stitching allows for a super comfortable fit that actually stays in place, whether you’re swimming, surfing, or hanging poolside.
Vivida’s swimwear is transparently made using mostly post-consumer recycled waste (along with some spandex) and shipped in biodegradable bags. Their name, derived from ‘Viva la Vida’, “serves as a daily reminder to be grateful for this precious, beautiful life.” Use the code ECOCULT for 15% off your order!
Carolina K is a Latin American lifestyle brand created by Argentinian designer, Carolina Kleinman. Known for unique prints and inspired by a desire to preserve artisanal traditional of indigenous peoples, her pieces are handmade by artisans in remote areas of Mexico, Peru, and India. Carolina K bathing suits are made from ECONYL, which is 100% recycled nylon.
Wolven swimwear and athleisure is made from OEKO-TEX Certified Recycled P.E.T. plastic bottles and carbon-neutral modal fabric. They also partner with NativeEnergy to carbon offset their operations footprint and choose more eco-conscious packaging to ship products to their customers. Their Chinese manufacturing partner is certified by WCA for labor, wages, work hours, health, safety, and environmental practices.
Established in 2012, Arrow + Phoenix is a 90’s influenced sustainable swimwear line based in Los Angeles. It focuses on diversity and size inclusivity with bra cups ranging from A-H. The brand’s designs are made out of ECONYL, an Italian eco-luxe fiber made from regenerated nylon.
Jade Swim is a sustainable swimwear line using both deadstock fibers and Econyl, regenerated nylon from plastic waste such as fishnets taken out of the ocean and remade into new nylon fabric. Inspired by New York City and made in Los Angeles, the brand combines both minimal and sensual aesthetics that can easily transition into ready-to-wear.
BIKYNI sources their recycled nylon fabric from a mill in Italy that’s been knitting innovative, performance fabrics for over 50 years. Everything is designed and produced in Los Angeles so they can closely monitor quality and ensure safe working conditions and fair wages are provided to their factory team. Their modern but classic styles have minimal hardware and clean lines, and the seamless stitching and mix-and-match styles provide you with more options for less.
BAIIA suits are made completely from certified Standard 100 OEKO-TEX recycled nylon. They are made transparently in China and use only water-based dyes that are certified by either GOTS, OEKO-TEX, and/or Clear To Wear. They also give 10% of their profits to charities that support education for girls and women and the environment.
Natasha Tonic’s swimwear is made out of a natural, eco-friendly hemp fabric that is anti-microbial, UV resistant, durable, and better for your skin and the planet. Their suits also can do double duty as lingerie, bodysuits, or activewear. They are designed, dyed, and sewn locally in Los Angeles, California.
GREENLEE SWIM is designed and manufactured in Los Angeles, California, and made from 82-83% recycled fibers.
These sleek bathing suits are made with Econyl®, 78% recycled polyamide from post-consumer materials and 22% elastane. The Italian fabric is OEKO-TEX® certified, guaranteeing that it is tested for harmful substances and are made in environmentally friendly facilities and socially responsible workplaces.
The fun, print Hotcakes line is made in LA of Italian 78% ECONYL® Recycled Polyamide and 22% Lycra® Xtra Life™. The white one on the left was designed and made in Tulum by local artisans.
This brand is so cute, I’ve considered ordering it from Australia, where it’s made. The bikinis are reversable, and the rashguards and swim leggings are mix-and-match. Everything is made of Regenerated ECONYL® lycra.
Many of these brands are using recycled plastic to make their swimwear, which is amazing because it means less virgin plastic being introduced into the world. However, it doesn’t keep microplastics from gradually breaking off and getting into our waterways. Washing your bathing suit (or any of your synthetic clothing) in a Guppyfriend filter bag helps to decrease the amount of microplastic shedding from your suit polluting the water.
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