Whether you’re an year-round pool dweller or just in it for the summer dips, you’ll likely have come across a torrent of swimwear brands shouting about their sustainable credentials in the last couple of years. And with recent reports of a consumer shift away from so-called fast fashion toward brands with sustainability at their core, the changing tide of swimwear seems to be coming at just the right moment. That being said, you’d be forgiven for exercising caution before adding any old board shorts or bikini to cart with an environmentally friendly tagline in its product description.
The majority of labels producing sustainable swimwear sing the praises of one fabric in particular – Econyl. The regenerated nylon fibre is made entirely from recycled plastic polymers such as fishing nets, rigid textiles and even carpets. The material comes from leading Italian nylon manufacturer Aquafil Global, whose chairman rightly stated ahead of its 2011 launch that “Either you become sustainable, or you will have to exit the business.”
In its commitment to recycled materials, Econyl is also responsible for helping to clean up our oceans and protect sea life from entanglement in fishing wastage, which accounts for 10 percent of ocean junk.
There are other important factors in the quest to make truly sustainable swimwear too, including the use of non-toxic dye ingredients and environmentally-compliant factories. And while mass-market eco-friendly swimsuits are still lurking in the shallow end of production, waves are being made by a choice few brands – the most notable of which, we’ve listed below.
10 Of The Best Sustainable Swimwear Brands
Made from 99% of its own signature Amni Eco Soul fabric, BOLD Swim is committed to sustainability across every point of its supply chain, including fair wages and eco-friendly practices throughout. Along with swimwear produced using recycled water, any production waste from its biodegradable fabrics is donated to local artisans who reuse for textiles. At the end of the supply chain, it uses minimal and 100% recyclable packaging.
All of Fisch’s swimwear is made from Italian Econyl woven in Lombardy, located in close proximity to the factory they then produce it in to minimise their carbon footprint. What’s more, Fisch is dedicated to supporting Healthy Seas – a team of skilled divers dedicated to cleaning up our oceans from both plastic and ghost fishing nets – donating 10 percent of its global profits to the initiative every year.
Patagonia started life as a climbing equipment brand but has since become an industry pin-up for ethics and eco-consciousness. Since 1986, it has donated 10% of its profits to grassroots movements, and it was the first brand to officially join the network of bluesign system partners to ensure all chemicals, processes and materials are safe for the environment, workers and customers.
Few brands love the sea quite as much as British surf brand and fellow B Corporation Finisterre, so it’s no surprise that the label was an early adopter of Econyl yarns for its swimwear. Varying percentages of Econyl are used in conjunction with organic cotton and other post-consumer recycled materials on board and bikini shorts, plus rash tops and leggings primed for cold water pursuits.
The Hladky brothers who founded Everest Isles saw firsthand the impact of ocean pollution and sought to create a brand that always kept this front of mind. Even the brand name is derived from the threat that climate change brings to the Himalayas. Their latest designs are made from bluesign system textiles and 100% Econyl yarn.
Premium Swedish men’s underwear brand CDLP delivered its first foray into swimwear in 2018, collaborating with Italian institution, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, on three shorts styles designed in a colour palette inspired by the picturesque Como lakeside. Off the back of this early success the brand is continuing to push its beautifully-made swimwear hard, with a range of swim briefs, trunks and shorts all made with Italian-sourced Econyl and handmade in a family-run fábrica in Portugal.
Laguna Beach-based Vitamin A opts for EcoLux over Econyl – a fine, matte jersey swim fabric locally produced in California. In blending the recycled nylon fibre with a lycra material known for its longevity, it extends the life of a swimsuit far beyond throwaway fast-fashion labels. What’s more, its prints are often created using a waterless digital technology at factories which prioritise conserving both water and electricity.
A pioneer in high street adoption of Econyl for its swimwear, Arket champions the material across much of their men’s and women’s lines. Those seeking to be truly eco-conscious in their purchases are right to be wary of its fast fashion roots, but the widespread adoption of the material in their latest designs is a step in the right direction for larger enterprises such as this.
Stay Wild Swim
The brainchild of bloggers, Natalie Glaze and Zanna Van Dijk (both keen scuba divers and passionate ocean lovers), Stay Wild Swim is another big Econyl fan. Sourcing its regenerated nylon yarn from Italy, the brand then produces its swimwear in a small factory in London with a stringent zero-waste approach and a concerted effort to bring sustainability into every step of the process, including the use of recycled hang tags, compostable hygiene liners and carbon neutral shipping.
Away That Day
Designed in London and manufactured by a family-run supplier in Bali, Away That Day, uses the sustainable swimwear gold standard, Ecoynl, when making their swimsuits, while its packaging is all sustainably wrapped up in compostable mailing bags and recycled tissue paper. The latter comes from a company called No Issue which plants a tree in areas stricken by deforestation for every order Away That Day makes with them.