Last month I bought myself this new bikini top. It took a while to find – while there are plenty of eco swimwear materials around, there aren’t as many affordable brands selling in the UK!
But with a summer holiday coming up, and a recent hotel and spa stay with much swimming just past, I thought it was about time to update my swimwear collection. And so began my endeavour into finding this simple, black bikini top, which I intend to pair with my previously gifted Davy J’s briefs (pictured).
A note on sustainable fashion: it’s only sustainable if you buy pieces you’ll wear over and over again. These briefs fit really well, and suit almost any top because of their simple black design, so they were the perfect piece to keep (rather than replace altogether)
So if you’re looking to update your swimwear, here’s what you need to know about materials and the best ethical options out there.
Which swimwear fabrics are eco-friendly?
I’m no fashion graduate, but I am aware that most swimwear is made from fabrics that aren’t environmentally-friendly, nor do they last a long time.
Standard materials: nylon and polyester
According to Wikipedia, most modern swimsuits are made from nylon. Nylon is a good material for swimsuits as it’s strong and lightweight, but it doesn’t hold dyes well, and is usually mixed with polyester to create patterned and colourful styles that are also chlorine resistant, and lycra or spandex for that body-hugging elasticity.
The problem with this is threefold: first, both of these materials are virgin plastic. They create more demand for plastic (and crude oil), which isn’t eco. Second, when these fabrics are washed, they release nasty microfibres that have now been found in our waterways, oceans, and fish. And finally, this mix is almost impossible to recycle.
Eco materials: recycled nylon and natural fabrics
During my searching, the fabric that I found popping up all over eco swimwear is econyl. In fact, I’ve featured econyl previously: in last year’s swimwear piece featuring Maari Porto Cervo, I explained that econyl is made from a combination of ocean plastic waste and nylon waste (from fabric recycling and elsewhere).
Econyl is essential recycled nylon (or as econyl’s manufacturers like to call it, regenerated). It saves on the demand for crude oil, and it creates a nice, clean feel that is indistinguishable from virgin nylon (as far as my fingers can tell!)
Econyl isn’t totally clean: it’s still plastic. It still produces microfibres when washed (so make sure you use a guppybag*). And it’s still often mixed with the previously-mentioned materials. But if you want eco swimwear that is essentially the same as high street options, look for econyl.
It’s worth mentioning that there are other options available, too. A few high-end swimwear brands are creating their collections using:
- Hemp: A naturally grown fibre, which can be mixed with cotton and stretch fibres, as seen in Natasha Tonić’s range*
- Linen: An age-old material, similar to cotton but grown even quicker, used in Arkitaip’s unique crochet swimwear that’s lined with econyl
- Repreve: Recycled plastic bottles that create a textured fabric, used in everything from t-shirts to Mara Hoffman’s waffle-textured swimsuits
If you do choose one of these options, I’d love to hear how you get on with the difference in feel, and whether they last longer than regular nylon.
36 of the Best Eco Swimwear Brands
So, onto the eco swimwear brands! I’ve compiled this list from many hours of research, and highlighted where garments are made (when the information was available) as well as fabrics and styles. Happy
allSisters: Eco-conscious bikinis and one pieces made in a socially responsible factory in Barcelona, Spain
Amara: Minimalist swimwear with reversible designs, made in Italy using majority recycled post-consumer materials
Arkitaip: Crochet-style swimwear and loungewear, handcrafted in Europe using linen
ASOS Design*: Low cost swimwear made with a recycled nylon base
Aurai: Biodegradable and recycled swimwear made in Brazil
Azura Bay: Eco and recycled fibres made in low energy factories in India
Bower: High design swimwear using eco fabrics with 5% profits going to Healthy Seas Foundation
Bromelia: Brazilian-made swimwear with tropical designs supporting local women
Camp Cove Swim: Australian swimwear made from recycled fabrics with retro prints and patterns, printed in Sydney
Davy J: British-made leisure and performance swimwear created in bold colours and shapes using 100% recycled nylon
Deakin Blue: Body sculpting ocean-waste swimwear for a range of body shapes and sizes
Dedicated*: Recycled polyester swimwear in bold patterns, made in China
Discover Boutique: Handmade beachwear using sustainable materials
Dock & Bay*: Recycled polyester men’s swimshorts in colourful stripes
Fair Harbor: US-based brand making sweet and simple swimwear designs at good prices
Fisch: Handmade swimwear woven from abandoned fishing nets
GREENLEE: US-based swimwear brand using fabrics sourced from recycled and sustainable origins
Know The Origin: Basic one pieces made by Australian-based Good Studios for KTO
Londre Bodywear: Sexy swimwear and scrunchies made from double-lined recycled fabrics
Maari Porto Cervo: Luxury swimwear inspired by the ocean and made from recycled ocean plastics.
Mara Hoffman: High end swimwear designs with cute detailing and textures made from recycled fabrics
Natasha Tonić*: Minimalist swimwear created from hemp fibre, made in California, USA
Noma Swimwear: Sustainable children’s swimwear made from recycled fishing nets
Ocean Remedy: Recycled plastic water-sports gear made in Australia
Patagonia: Pretty performance swimwear designed for surfing and watersports
Peony: Econyl-based swimwear with compostable and biodegradable packaging
Riz Boardshorts: Boardshorts and mens swimwear made from recycled fabrics
Ruby Moon: Recycled plastic gym-to-swim wear supporting women’s groups – use code BesmaCC for 5% off
Salt Gypsy*: Active swimwear with playful prints and colours made in Australia
SOLTI: Bold swimwear and activewear made from deadstock materials in Philippines
Stay Wild Swim: Econyl swimwear, designed and made in London, UK
Summersalt: Recycled swimwear and bikinis in US Sizes 2 to 14, with a range of “butt coverage” types too!
Swoon: Ethically made floral and bright bikinis made in the USA
ToDiveFor: Luxury bikinis and swimsuits designed and made in Britain
Tuhkana: Daring swimwear designs in comfortable, eco fabrics, made in Brazil using a closed-loop system
UND Swimwear: Streamlined bikinis and one-pieces made in Italy, made with low-impact
This post contains gifted items (denoted with 'gifted') and affiliate links (denoted with '*')