Sustainable swimwear for every eco-consciousness babes out there who love the ocean. When buying regular clothes, making the Earth-friendly choices is easy: just buy vintage or second-hand. You can fill up a whole closet with almost every piece of clothing you’ll need for work and play without any of them being new. There is, however, one place where making the greenest choice can often be a difficult thing and that is in the realm of swimwear and intimates.
This presents us, planet-minded consumers, with a problem: we know we need to buy these items new but we are also very much aware of the fact that the artificial knits used in swimwear are made out of petrochemicals and use up immense amounts of water and energy during their manufacturing processes.
Lucky for us, swimwear has become one of the easiest garments to produce responsibly thanks both to the wave of environmental conscience that has washed over the fashion industry in the past decade and to the availability of better-recycled knits from which to make sustainable swimwear from such as Econyl. Since it’s introduction more than a decade ago, this knit made from recycled plastic waste went from being a novelty to one of the most sought-after materials by companies looking to satisfy customer demand for sustainable products.
Let’s talk a little bit more about Econyl, since you’ll encounter the name so often on this list: the process for making this knit takes materials such as fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring, industrial plastic, etc. and chemically breaks them down to reassemble them into nylon. Econyl is essentially trash that has been turned into high-quality fabric that is nearly indistinguishable from newly-made nylon. This reduces demand for petrochemicals, uses less water and less energy all while removing plastic waste from the environment.
The brands that made our list all use recycled materials such as Econyl for their garments and take steps to ensure that every other part of their production process, shipping and retailing is also done responsibly. Many of these companies are small, independent labels that produce styles in small batches to avoid excess waste and hire local seamstresses to cut and sew their pieces in an effort to contribute to local economies. They all eschew the use of toxic dyes, follow fair trade labor practices and take steps to reduce their environmental footprints by using compostable packaging, renewable energy, local production, among other environmentally and socially-responsible practices.
Check out my list below with sustainable swimwear brands:
1. Nu Swim
Best for: Swimwear that feels like a second skin
Leave it to someone who’s been wearing a swimsuit every day of her life to design some the most comfortable swimwear around. Nu’s collection is made up of simple, sporty pieces that are designed to move with you.
Their swimsuits fit comfortably – like a second skin – and are meant to be worn both in and out of the water, either underneath clothing or as pieces of actual clothing. The label is designed and manufactured in between California and New York by Gina Esposito, a lifelong swimmer who set to make her dream of designing swimwear a reality, supported by an all-female staff. Nu’s pieces are made using exclusively Econyl recycled knits plus recycled threads and feature simple, minimalistic designs that are meant to last you for many seasons
Best for: Trendy
Before Reformation, Earth-friendly clothing was the stuff of specialty brands and crunchy, gypsy types. Nearly 10 years after their founder decided to start a sustainable fashion brand with mass appeal, the LA label’s responsibly-made designs have amassed a loyal cult following both amongst celebrities and mere mortals alike and their clothes have become objects of desire for thousands of women.
Reformation aims to be a greener alternative to fast fashion that can actually keep up with the industry’s notoriously short turn-around times by designing, cutting, sewing, photographing and shipping all of its garments from the same site. This system on cuts emissions and water use and ensures smaller-scale production that generates less waste – information that they proudly display on a “RefScale” label in the info section of every one of their products.
The company has a transparency policy regarding the materials used to manufacture its clothes and has developed a grading system that goes from A to E taking into account elements such as water and energy usage, toxicity and microfiber shedding. You’ll be happy to know that they count the Econyl that they use to make their swimwear amongst their favorite fabrics to use for the opportunity that it offers to turn plastic waste into raw materials and its Oeko-Tex guarantee of no harmful chemicals being used to dye the knits.
Reformations ethical swimwear collection features the same vintage-inspired cuts, fabrics and daring LA vibes that the label has become famous for.
Best for: The design-minded
H&M’s artsier, more cultured and environmentally conscious sister runs under the motto of “Buy better, keep forever”. Their high quality, minimalist designs are inspired in art, architecture and design and aim to be the type of clothes that you reach for over and over again.
As part of their commitment to sustainability, COS’s pieces meet the quota of containing at least 50% recycled or repurposed fabrics and use only 100% organic cotton. Their recently-launched Recycled Nylon Collection of sustainable swimwear is made up of beautifully cut pieces in a variety of bright patterns and colors and contains – as promised – at least 85% fabric made from recycled post-consumer materials.
4. Love Street
Best for: Swimwear made in the USA
This Salt Lake City-based online apparel store named after a song from The Doors started out as a small Etsy shop. They offer a hand-picked collection of vintage, upcycled, hand made and independently-designed items and beauty products. The swimwear section is filled with a variety of options that go from heavily detailed to classic basics that are all made to last from sturdy materials in the USA.
Best for: Plus size eco-conscious shoppers
The Saltwater Collective has a commitment, not only to the environment, but also to towards people. Upon taking charge of the company, Camilla James realized that she had a golden opportunity in her hands to create a space where diversity and inclusion were celebrated – something nearly unheard of in the swimwear industry. Their website, look books and Instagram feed are populated by an astoundingly diverse group of women that are far from the cold-faced, cookie-cutter looks most brands go for and they have a policy of not retouching any of their photos.
The Saltwater look is comprised of well-constructed, hardware-free basics in bright and neutral hues made with a blend of Econyl and Lycra Xtralife knits. As part of its efforts to support the Canadian economy, Saltwater commissions a team of independent seamstresses in its Toronto hometown to sew its pieces.
6. Mara Hoffman
Best for: High fashion swimwear that does no harm
In 2015 Mara Hoffman took a big decision: “Change or die”. After more than a decade working in the fashion industry and witnessing first-hand just how damaging every aspect of it was for the environment, she’d had enough. None of it aligned with her personal ethos of doing no harm to anyone or anything and so she upended her very successful company and turned it into a sustainable and responsible business that took into account the impact of every single aspect of her brand’s design, sourcing and production processes.
By using better fabrics for her garments, such as Econyl for her swimwear, and investing in digital printing and dyes certified to be non-toxic, Hoffman was able to continue making the colorful and pattern-heavy designs she became known for sustainably without having to compromise artistic vision.
7. Vitamin A
Best for: Luxury swimwear you can feel good about
Vitamin A is straight up vintage SoCal beach glam with plenty of ribbed fabrics, metal hoops, rusty colors and teeny bikinis. Their pieces are everything but basic and feature an interesting variety of colors, prints and textures. All other brands on this list can thank its founder, Amhalia Stevens, for coming up with the idea of using sustainable fabrics in swimwear 20 years ago. She was inspired to start using knits made from recycled materials for her swimsuits after a stint at Patagonia, which had been turning plastic bottles into fabric for their signature fleece jackets since the early 90’s. After realizing that there were no recycled knits that would be appropriate for swimwear, Amhalia worked with manufacturers across three different countries to develop EcoLux, a soft and luxurious jersey that is exclusive to Vitamin A and used in most of their pieces. Both Vitamin A’s swimsuits and almost all of their fabrics are made in California.
The company hasn’t stopped innovating in the textiles department and recently launched two new exclusive knits that have further allowed them to offer a variety of textures in their pieces named EcoRib, for ribbed pieces, and EcoTex, for textured pieces.
Best for: Affordable pieces with a conscience
Did you know that your go-to for perfectly-fitting jeans and laid-back tees is making strides in becoming a socially and environmentally responsible company? Madewell’s Do Well Initiative tackles everything from the materials and chemicals used during manufacturing and the rights of the people making their clothes to the use of low-waste packaging, making their offices and stores more energy efficient and recycling their fabrics. Their Second Wave swimwear collection aims to give plastic waste a second life by using fabrics made from recycled plastic to make affordable, easy-to-wear pieces with Madewell’s signature bohemian spirit.
Best for: Hand-made swimwear
Thanks to it’s rep for cloudy skies and bad weather, most people forget that the U.K. is a collection of islands with plenty of coasts and water for swimming – when the weather decides to cooperate, that’s it. Stidston Studio was started by a Devon native who’s spent her whole life doing exactly just that. Most this label’s beautifully cut and tailored pieces use Econyl knits and are all expertly made in the UK.
The company’s made-to-order style of production guarantees, not only that there will be minimum waste from extra fabric and unsold products, but that you will also receive a very special piece that has been hand-cut, hand-made and hand-finished just for you.
Best for: Children’s eco-friendly swimwear
While you were busy ignoring it, this old-school casual-wear mainstay decided to clean up its act and start being more responsible towards the planet and the people it employed.
Boden company has become especially committed to reducing its environmental impact the improvement of the lives and the rights of the people that work in their supply chains with and emphasis in ending modern slavery. A big part of their plan to reduce the company’s environmental impact is making a shift towards sustainably sourced and recycled textiles. Their recently-launched capsule line of planet-friendly & ethical swimwear is made using Econyl knits and includes options for children and babies plus four styles for women inspired by hot summers in the Greek islands.
Best for: Pieces that you can wear as outerwear
If you’re tired of flimsy swimsuits that are see through and won’t stay put, Galamaar is the place for you. Their ultra sexy swimwear collection features construction and tailoring reminiscent of vintage lingerie and a structured fit that adds support and just enough coverage.
The company believes that polluting nature, especially in order to create garments meant to be worn in it, is just plain wrong. To avoid this, they rely on a combination of practices that include the use of Econyl knits and recycled hardware and hangtags, use local manufacturing in their LA hometown and make creating well-made, long-lasting pieces their number one priority.
Best for: Vintage pattern lovers
Alyned’s retro-inspired pieces will make you want to hop on the next flight available to somewhere sunny where you can sip Mai-Tais by the ocean. Their all-female design team is focused on offering an alternative to the tired basic and plain choices most sustainable swimwear companies have by using bright, colorful prints and stitched and pleated details on their pieces. Designs are made with sustainability and inclusivity in mind: all garments are made with recycled polyester and their super flattering styles go up to a size 3X.
Alyned also offers a line of eco-friendly men’s swimming trunks made out of recycled polyester and featuring more masculine versions of their summery tiki-inspired patterns.
Best for: Bohemian luxury
Amara’s daring pieces are the true embodiment of Tulum’s bohemian and artistic spirit. Their effortless designs are exquisitely cut using soft curved lines that lay beautifully on the body for a flattering fit. The label was started by Lisa Jackson, a Canadian expat and former New Yorker who first visited Tulum on vacation and simply never came back. Her brand’s sustainable ethos was born after she had the misfortune to directly witness the environmental destruction going on in Tulum – a lot of it being done by businesses that claimed to be “green” and “eco-friendly”.
Amara is on a mission to help people get more out of its products by making all of their styles reversible in mix-and-match colors and patterns and using a blend of Econyl and Lycra Xtralife knits to ensure sustainability and durability. In addition, the company is committed to giving back to it’s adopted hometown by helping the local economy with local production and job creation and making sure that Tulum remains a paradise by organizing to beach cleanups, using clean energy and managing their waste responsibly.
14. Davy J
Best for: Watersports lovers
Davy J’s swim suits are not for lazy beach bunnies looking for Instagram-ready styles. The label describes it’s garments as “designed to survive a dive, pull off a cliff jump or handle a waterfall” and it’s made for women who need swimwear that can handle their active lifestyles. Forget tiny bikinis made up of three pieces of fabric held up by four strings: Davy J’s swimsuits have thick straps that will stay in place during a long swim, a double lining for structure and worry-free coverage and rubber edging that eliminates all the pulling and re-arranging we’re so used to doing whenever we’re in a swimsuit. Unlike most brands, Davy J’s website embraces its native UK’s often gloomy weather with images of women of all ages and sizes daring rough seas and stormy conditions in their pieces.
The company not only aims to create sustainable swimwear but also to create a closed loop system in which they commit to being responsible for all the pieces they create, starting wit the design and manufacturing process all the way down to their disposal, by encouraging their customers to return their worn items for recycling.
15. Ohoy Swim
Best for: Catching waves
OHOY’s swimsuits are tried and tested to comfortably stay in place through swimming, surfing and any other water adventures you heart wishes to undertake. The brand was created by a duo of Swedish surfers who had grown tired of having to choose between unpractical swimwear that wouldn’t hold up to the normal wear-and-tear of an active lifestyle and the uninspired styles of traditional sports swimwear. True to its Scandinavian roots, OHOY offers simple and functional designs made sustainably in Econyl fabrics that are chlorine, oil and suncream resistant and provide 50+ UV protection. If Scandi minimalism is not your thing, OHOY’s Maryam capsule collection features more elaborate pieces in classic styles that will have you channeling 90’s supermodel vibes in high-cut, vintage-inspired silhouettes.
Make sure to couple that new sustainable piece with appropriate care by always hand-washing it in cold water and hanging it to dry. This will extend its life, help it keep it’s original shape and avoid the release of polluting microfibers into the water. Don’t forget to dispose properly of your old swimwear by bringing it to a textile collecting center near you where they will either be reused or recycled into new materials.