While the league of sustainable fashion labels has been steadily on the rise, the reliance of swimwear brands on non-biodegradable fabrics such nylon, lycra and polyester has tended to exclude them from the eco-conscious conversation. However, many companies are now crafting their collections from recycled and reclaimed materials, as part of a marked shift towards sustainable practices across the board, and here are five brands that are now making waves with their beachwear...
British swimwear brand Davy J was founded by entrepreneur and circular economy advocate Helen Newcombe to bridge the gap between performance activewear and chic beachwear. Manufactured in Wales, the brand’s suits are crafted from a double lined, high elastane fabric that provides extra strength, durability and shape, with hidden rubber edging and cross back features designed to ‘survive a dive’ as well as ensure the suits last longer, thus fighting the trend for throwaway fashion.
The company’s first collection uses 100% regenerated nylon yarn from waste, including spent and ghost fishing nets. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an average of 640,000 tons of fishing nets are left in the oceans every year, contributing to one tenth of all marine litter, and for every ton of waste nets collected there is enough nylon regenerated to create more than 10,000 swimsuits.
Aiming to build a closed-loop resource system within the brand, customers are encouraged to return their Davy J swimsuits when they do eventually reach the end of their life so that the company can reuse them, and they have set a target to achieve 60% closed loop recycling by 2020. In tandem, they are currently working on a new project using the materials from waste suits and are encouraging customers to dig out old swimsuits and send them in for upcycing.
Lilliput & Felix
Championing a romantically retro aesthetic, Lilliput & Felix’s swimwear is designed with individuality in mind. Each piece is either crafted for a particular shape or figure, or made to be ‘multi-option’ so that the fit can be customized.
The London-based brand, launched in 2014 by Catriona Ramsay, uses reclaimed fabrics, recycled fishing net fibres and production cut-offs to craft its collections. Any fabrics or trims left over at the end of a production run are used up in smaller productions, or given to charities or schools for project work or their own productions. And all packaging and marketing materials are either re-usable or recyclable.
Lilliput & Felix works with local suppliers who share their commitment to sustainable goals, and who pay their workers a living wage, provide equal opportunities, and a safe and happy workplace. Part of the company’s beachwear range is manufactured in Cambodia by Holi Studios, where local women are also offered an in-house training program so that they are figuratively as well as financially empowered.
Parsons School of Design graduate Mara Hoffman founded her label back in 2000, and launched her first swimwear collection in 2008. Subsequently committing her brand to implement more sustainable, ethical and responsible practices, her clean cut, boldly colored beachwear now reflects a continued shift towards a more eco-conscious business model.
Mindful of the company’s carbon footprint, all of the brand’s swimwear is manufactured in Los Angeles, and 100% is produced using recycled nylon or recycled polyester. Solid colored swimwear is made from ECONYL®, a 100% regenerated nylon fiber made from waste such as fishing nets, industrial plastic waste and fabric scraps, and in 2017 alone, the company’s use of ECONYL® diverted a total of 10,797 lbs of waste from landfills, including 2,744 lbs of fishing nets. Textured swimwear is produced using REPREVE®, which is a polyester fiber made from 100% recycled plastic, mostly bottles. Compared to using conventional fibers, styles made using REPREVE® offset the use of new petroleum, emitting fewer greenhouse gases while conserving water and energy throughout the process.
Known for its graphic prints, Mara Hoffman has chosen to transition from traditional wet printing to digital printing to reduce water waste and allow the flexibility of smaller production runs. This change also reduces overall fabric use as instead of forcing garment pieces to fit into a print, they can adjust a print to fit garment pieces. All swimwear is shipped in compostable plastic poly bags, hang tags are made from 80% recycled paper and printed with soy-based inks, and hang tag strings as well as all garment sew-in labels are made of 100% organic cotton.
Combining clean lines with a nod to classic styling, Galamaar’s timeless swimwear is designed as an antidote to ever changing trends. Founded by California native Blakely Wickstrom, the US-based brand is manufactured in limited quantities at a family-run factory in Los Angeles, and was created with the conscious consumer firmly in mind.
Each of the company’s swimsuits is produced from a sustainable, Italian-made techno-fabric that is crafted from 78% recycled nylon sourced from discarded fishing nets, which as well as its waste-to-wear properties is engineered to last. The nylon is sourced from all over the world through initiatives such as Net-Works, which empowers local fishing communities in the Philippines to gather the nets, and instead of sending them to landfill, they partner with a textiles company who use them to produce a recycled version of nylon.
Other eco-conscious initiatives employed by the company include made in LA pad inserts and recycled hang tags and packaging materials, as well as a mindful approach to everyday office practices.
Featuring bold prints and bright neon colors, Batoko’s fun-to-wear one pieces are made entirely from recycled plastic bottles and scrapped textiles. The UK-based brand consciously keeps its collections small, and introduces new designs at a slower and much more sustainable pace than its fast fashion rivals.
The brand’s whimsical designs are printed digitally to reduce water and waste, inks are free of harmful chemicals, and the company consciously prints onto its vegan fabrics after cutting to minimise production waste. Working with an audited factory in China that takes the necessary measures to safeguard the environment, as well as following and respecting the labor principles set out in the BSCI Code of Conduct, Batoko ensures the surrounding area is protected as well as fair and safe working conditions for its workers.
The company is also a member of the Marine Conservation Society, a UK charity that works towards pollution free seas, and each year a proportion of its profits goes towards supporting the organization, which spearheads beach clean-ups and petitions for the legislation of environmental protection policies.