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Swimwear has often been behind when it comes to sustainability, and water wear is often marketed as fashionable clothing as well as functional swimwear. This leads to fast fashion, where new designs come out every season, and we end up with drawers stuffed with swimwear.
Swimwear does last, and that limits the need to buy the latest style, but swimwear is often not as durable as regular clothing. It does take a lot of wear and tear with chlorine and saltwater, but with the infrequency of use, we are tricked into thinking they are both durable and sustainable.
The ugly truth is that most swimwear is not built to last and is not created sustainably. Swimwear may last a long time before it is thrown out, but that translates into limited actual use. The solution is to buy durable swimwear that is created sustainably and can last a lifetime (if treated well).
Related: 10 Best Slow Fashion Brands
There is a brand out there for everyone, and we are on a mission to find the most eco-friendly swimwear for you.
Swimwear Has A Sustainability Problem
Swimwear has two main problems.
Swimsuits, bikinis, and other beachwear draw the eye more than most clothing, so they are often created as impact pieces. This has evolved into a style for every season. With that in mind, it is not hard to see why companies choose cheap and easy materials, creating planned obsolescence in many cases, but also knowing that many people are going to replace their swimwear the next season.
Swimwear comes into contact with water, sunlight, chlorine, bleach, salt, sand, and more. Companies want their swimwear to be comfortable, stretchy, water-wicking, and semi-durable enough to last through a season. There are many fabrics that fit this bill, but synthetic ones are the most popular.
Taking these reasons into account, it is easy to understand why fabrics like nylon, polyester, and spandex are used. They are versatile, inexpensive, and can be used to create multiple styles of garment.
They are also materials that do not decompose easily, and they will sit in a landfill for many years, creating waste that does not break down. They can also release plastics into the environment in the production phase and when in use (or when washing them).
Most materials used for swimwear are not sustainable.
Eco-friendly Swimwear Materials
But, do not despair.
You can also find some swimwear brands that specialize in using recycled materials to create the swimwear, helping the environment in the creation process.
More and more, swimwear brands are thinking about sustainability, and there are many to choose from. We have found some of the best out there for you to consider.
The Best Sustainable Swimwear Brands
1. Girlfriend Collective
For: Women | Price Range: $28 – $78 | Size Range: XXS – 6XL
Girlfriend Collective sells everything from bras to dresses and, of course, all kinds of swimwear. There is a size and style for everyone, and the company is completely committed to transparency and sustainability.
The clothing is high quality, and prices reflect that while still remaining affordable, and everything has been thought about, not only the materials and production. The facilities, employees, and partners are considered too. They care about where the clothes come from just as much as where they are going.
The packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable, and much of the materials that go into the garments are recycled too. For example, the leggings use recycled fishing nets, and the bras have up to 79% recycled polyester.
For: Women, Men | Price Range: $70 – $220 | Size Range: XS – XL
Wolven has set out to make sustainability sexy, and we will let you be the judge of that when you check out their clothing. The inspiration comes from eastern clothing, and that can be seen in the fabrics, fit, and style. The founders are artists and create the patterns for the clothing themselves, with a focus on body positivity along with sustainability.
The modal fabric in most of the swimwear is made from trees, so it is all-natural with no synthetic fibers. They combine that fabric with recycled PET fabric created from plastic bottles. When the clothing is created, they ensure fair treatment of production employees, a fair wage, and work/life balance.
Along with recycled and natural materials in production, Wolven invests in programs that offset emissions. They have partnered with Climate Neutral, and all emissions are measured with a goal to cut them completely.
3. Organic Basics
For: Women, Men | Price Range: $50 – $150 | Size Range: XS – XL
Organic Basics was created to promote sustainability in an industry that was focused on making money and pumping out new swimwear every season. They have a real focus on the materials used, the environment, and sustainability in the way they act. And, not only that, but they partner with people and factories who have the same vision.
They have partnered with sustainable factories across Europe (and you can virtually visit them through their website) and try to use recycled fabrics wherever they can. This includes recycled wool, nylon, and cashmere, along with SilverTech and Polygiene. The seamless knitting means more comfort and less waste.
They are a certified organic company, and the official GOTS license means that they actually follow through on their beliefs. Their people are paid a fair wage, and they believe in treating both their customers and employees as humans.
4. Vitamin A Swim
For: Women | Price Range: $150 – $270 | Size Range: XS – 2XL
Vitamin A Swim wants women to look and feel good, and that starts with the swimwear but continues on through sustainable design and production, and charitable partnerships.
They create amazing pieces using recycled and plant-based materials and have a focus on finding the most sustainable fabric out there and using it. When you wear their clothing, you can be sure that the fabric is the most sustainable fabric there is. And, it does not end there. They have an eye for technical details, and that leads to each piece fitting comfortably and looking stylish and flawless—swimwear that is built to last.
A portion of each sale is donated towards organizations and people that protect the environment, and that is done by mobilizing communities and giving voice to others. They also focus on the oceans, donating to environmental organizations that help keep the water clean for you to swim in.
For: Women, Men | Price Range: $110 – $230 | Size Range: XS – L
When Outerknown was created, the challenge was to create a company that was ahead of the others when it came to style, durability, and radical sustainability. They want to show that you do not need to compromise any of them and can achieve all three simultaneously.
90% of the fibers used in the swimwear are organic, recycled, or regenerated—and they are committed to driving up that number until it reaches 100%. In fact, most of the swimwear comes close to 100% if not hitting the target already. They were also one of the first brands to pursue Fair Labor Accreditation (FLA) before they had shipped their first product.
Through Fair Trade USA, they invest in the workers that bring their garments to life. They use over 5,000 workers worldwide, and they ensure that they are treated and paid fairly.
For: Women | Price Range: $50 – $125 | Size Range: 2-22
Summersalt creates women’s swimwear that is comfortable, and takes the hassle and stress out of being underdressed at the beach (or anywhere else). The clothing is comfortable, stylish, and sustainable.
There is no intermediary in the creation of the clothes, and that saving is passed onto you. That ensures that the swimwear can be designer quality without the prices that are often associated with it. They have taken over 1.5 million body measurements to ensure that the fit is exact.
Recycled fabrics are used to create both the swimwear and the packaging, resulting in fewer plastics (and other materials) in the landfills and oceans. They want to take care of the world so you can explore it in your stylish swimwear.
For: Women | Price Range: $50 – $150 | Size Range: XS – XL
The goal when Ookioh started was to create swimwear that was nostalgic, adding some retro-chic with the comfort and sustainability that comes with modern fabrics and production practices.
All of the fabric used in the swimwear is sourced from an Italian mill and made from 100% regenerated materials. The Italian mill takes in ocean waste (plastics that can be found in things like fishing nets) and pre-consumer waste products (materials that are thrown away) and converts them into luxurious materials that are soft, comfortable, and sustainable.
They are actively working to reduce their carbon footprint, and they have a goal to remove plastic completely from everything, including packaging, products, and processes. They are a sustainable brand but are constantly making decisions to be completely sustainable in every possible way.
For: Women | Price Range: $45 – $110 | Size Range: 2-22
Boden talks about the most sustainable thing you can do when buying clothes is not to buy any at all but, if you are going to buy clothes (and we kind of have to), you can’t go wrong with this sustainable company.
When they are setting out to make swimwear, they want the clothes to have a life beyond your wardrobe and not end up in the landfill. They have created a swimwear range that will last, and that means they can be used again and again, mended when they are broken, shared with friends or family, or passed on when you don’t need it anymore.
They choose the best materials, and the clothing they create is 95% polyester free or made from recycled polyester. 60% of their cotton comes from sustainable sources (with a goal to hit 100% by 2023). They save water by sourcing better cotton. And they have donated over 1.5 million to charitable causes in the last decade.
9. Peony Swimwear
For: Women | Price Range: $80 – $200 | Size Range: XS – XL
Peony care about the environment and community. They want to consciously create beautiful swimwear that does not take a toll on the environment, and they are constantly driving towards better sustainability, inclusivity, and transparency.
100% of their swimwear is created from recycled material. This includes any of their printed fabric, custom textures, and linings. All of the textured fabrics are created in-house using REPREVE regenerated fabrics that are unique to Peony. This REPREVE fabric is created from received plastic bottles, waste that often ends up in landfills or the ocean.
All of the printed fabrics are digitally printed, removing the need for plastic screens used in screen printing (plastic that is often disposed of). This allows for shorter fabric runs and less waste. The suppliers that they do use have international certifications in sustainability, and everything is transparent and traceable.
10. Kitty and Vibe
For: Women | Price Range: $46 – $110 | Size Range: S – 5XL
Many items of swimwear are too skimpy or overly saggy, so Kitty and Vibe set out to change that. They got rid of traditional sizing and focused on the hips instead, taking the rear into account too, creating the best fit they possibly could. They wanted to create swimwear that was about self-love, and fit plays a big part in that.
All of the factory workers are paid above minimum wage, and all have retirement and healthcare in place. The mailers that the swimsuits come in are made from recycled content and will soon be fully biodegradable. Half of the swimwear is crafted using 82% recycled polyester. They are also certified by the Environmental Management System, showing a commitment to mitigating environmental impact.
This is a company that is as focused on sustainability as they are on creating swimwear that actually fits.
For: Women, Men | Price Range: $60 – $180 | Size Range: XS – XL
Patagonia is committed to making a difference to the planet. They start by being completely transparent with their information, and you can find out anything about their owned facilities and suppliers across the supply chain, finding out exactly how the swimwear is made.
They have implemented social responsibility programs to ensure that products are created in safe, fair, legal, and humane conditions. This, by extension, ensures that employees are treated as people and not numbers. Added to that are robust environmental and animal legate programs to ensure that the production of products does not disturb natural biodiversity.
Patagonia deals with recycled materials, Fair Trade products, living wages, renewable energy, and a focus on the climate crisis.