Sustainable Swimwear Lookbook
Given that we have way too many single-use plastics polluting our oceans and our natural environments, and given that we already have so many swimwear brands making bikinis and maillots out of recycled plastic, thus reducing demand for virgin plastics to be made, I'll probably never go back to buying another swimsuit from a brand that uses 100% virgin petroleum to make its polyester or nylon. 18 of 18 beaches around the world were found to have microplastic fibers in them (including polyester, nylon, and acrylic); and 1/4 of fish tested in seafood markets in California were found to have microplastics in them as well. The issues are that plastics don't readily biodegrade in natural ecosystems, and they're like magnet for toxins. When the get ingested along with the toxins attached to them and enter our food chains, they potentially can cause harmful health effects we've yet to fully understand.
But we're on our way to lessening the amount of new plastics we create and put out - I've rounded up my top 30 eco swimwear brands here, in case you're on the hunt for something for this season!
I'm a huge champion of progress over perfection, while still asking more questions on what we can do to keep improving. In other words, I embrace imperfection, but stay inquisitive and critical. So I do want to say that a lot of "eco swimwear" today isn't perfect, and that's okay. The two caveats to our options right now that I hope we can collectively address in the future are that:
Eco swimsuits today, even if they primarily use recycled nylon/polyester, still inevitably incorporate a solid percentage of Spandex for the important stretch needed for swimwear.
Even fibers made from recycled plastic can shed micro-plastics into the ocean, thus not being able to address micro-plastic pollution.
Then, of course, there's the issue of plastic recycling inherently needing energy and chemicals to process. This points to the importance of also wearing what we already have, and buying second hand where possible. Although I will be honest and say – while I'm o.k. with used clothing and moderately worn, secondhand shoes, I'm not comfortable with wearing used intimates, loungewear, or swimwear.
But as always, for me it's just about doing the best that we can, coming from a place of understanding for the limitations companies face right now, while also supporting those companies that are listening, asking questions with us, and constantly trying to do the best they can to continually break new ground for the industry. So for now, I'll be celebrating all the swimwear brands out there already using recycled nylon or rPET, are in the process of testing these things out, or are in the research & development phase to experiment with natural-fibre based swimwear fabrics!
Since I haven't bought any new eco swimwear this season, I'm re-sharing these old images of eco swimsuits I got a few years ago that I'd never published formally in a blog post. Something that I like to do to help me buy less and buy better is to have a hard look and dig through what I already have. Often, I find that I forget I have so many amazing things lying around in my closet, and a sift through these items reminds me that I don't necessarily need anything new just because it's a "new season." So I'm going to try to fight the temptation of buying new eco swimsuits this season by loving more on the ones I already have.
That said, I'm not quite a minimalist, and I'm very much still drawn to novelty and experimentation with fashion as a way of creative self-expression. Ultimately, for me it's really about finding that balance between reducing my needs to begin with and when I do intentionally buy something new, supporting brands that more mindful in their manufacturing practices.
Most of these pieces I got a few years ago are from Vitamin A Swim. The options I found then were way more limited than today. I easily found 30 to include in that list I made, but am still constantly stumbling upon new ones today. So, just keep an eye out and I'm sure you'll find a brand that's got pieces that really speak to your style. :)
This post contains referral links to brands I love. Photography by Justin Jay.