The fashion industry may be a leading contributor to our planet’s pollution problem – but as shoppers become increasingly eco-aware, brand is being forced to revisit their manufacturing processes and make them more sustainable.
It is estimated that by 2050, there will be a greater volume of plastic than fish in the ocean, with 1.4 billion tons of waste entering our seas every year.
There are more than 600,000 tons of fish nets floating around, making up a tenth of all marine litter, killing animals and destroying coral reefs.
Every ton contains enough nylon to make over 10,000 swimsuits, which is why conscious fashion designers have been turning to techno fabric ECONYL.
This soft lycra is cleverly made from regenerated ghost nets and textile waste that can be recycled and remoulded again and again. It’s extra resistant to chlorine and sun cream, meaning it keeps its shape and colour for longer.
We’ve looked for brands that tick our ethical boxes without compromising on quality or style. These swimsuits and bikinis may cost more than the mass-produced, throwaway deluge found in many popular high street shops, but they’ll last you years and keep your conscience clear, without looking bland or frumpy.
Note that it’s always best to hand wash your swimwear to minimise the shedding of plastic microfibres and keep it in better nick for longer.
Based on the north-west coast, micro brand Batoko also makes swimwear out of recycled plastic waste. Collections are deliberately kept small to maintain quality and a slower, more planet-friendly pace, so there are just nine fun and colourful designs to choose from. Prepare to want them all, from orca whales to lobsters. The size range is wider than most we’ve found, from 6 (XS) to 20 (XL) and the cost is more than reasonable for the quality. Recycled packaging is kept to a minimum and a proportion of the profits go to the Marine Conservation Society. Mums may enjoy the option to buy matching mini versions for any little eco-warriors at half price.
“Water loving jungle cats” are the inspiration behind this wild animal print swimsuit that’s back for a limited run this season. Its cut is classic with a scoop neck and lower back, and it looks gorgeous under a long, loose-fitting shirt on the beach.
Gyko’s motto is “less mis-match, more mix-match”. These ECONYL bikinis are modular; finally, every woman can find their perfect combo from three styles of top and three styles of bottom. Everything is made under one roof in London by a not-for-profit social enterprise that provides full-time training and day courses for anyone considering a fashion career. The packaging is plastic-free. Sizing is currently limited, only going up to a DD cup and size 12, but the range is set to expand soon.
If you want to play it safe, top three offers the most support and bottom two the most coverage. If those factors are less of an issue for you, our favourites are top two with its vintage Hollywood vibe and the high leg of bottom three. The honey colour will look amazing with a tan but it also comes in red or black.
Selkie Swim Co is all about empowering open water swimmers of all abilities to push their boundaries. Its collection is made from ECONYL, reflecting the team’s love of our rivers, lakes and seas. The British designers take inspiration from the seaming in women’s sports underwear to enhance the streamlined shape, with a colour palette inspired by the tones and textures of water. Sizes go up to 18 and the packaging is fully recyclable.
Fashionista Georgia May Jagger is among the celebrity fans of snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing brand Volcom, which has sustainability at its core. This company takes its impact on the environment and the communities in which it operates seriously. Its swimwear is made from recycled plastic and fishing nets and is digitally printed, which uses less water than conventional screen printing. The designs are fierce and feminine; some have a grungy edge, others are more classic. Pop your measurements into the online size tool to find your best fit.
This modern take on the traditional swimming costume turned our heads with its strap detailing at the front and sides. It’s another one-piece that could take you from beach to bar, though the coverage is pretty minimal over the chest, so size up if you have a bigger bust. The striking floral print also comes in two bikini styles.
Tide + Seek’s summery swimwear is made entirely from recycled plastic waste, with each swimsuit keeping five plastic bottles out of landfill. Earthy tones have been banished in favour of pretty, playful prints in purples, pinks and blues for their new 30-piece range, handmade in Bali. It’s stereotypically girly, with “undercover mermaid” and “sea sparkle” among the designs, but oh so Instagram-friendly. There are plenty of different styles to choose from, including high leg cozzies and triangle bikinis, but this Cornish brand isn’t size inclusive; its bottoms only go up to a size 12.
Sportier beach babes will appreciate the adjustable, criss-crossed back straps of Tide + Seek’s bralettes, which help you find the best fit and support up top. For decent coverage over your bum, opt for the classic bottom cut; the cheeky cut is more daring. The price for the set is more affordable at under £70.