It's finally starting to feel like Spring here in New York. I'm transitioning my wardrobe for warmer weather which, of course, got me thinking about swimwear. I started shopping ethically back in October, so this is the first time I've faced the already difficult challenge of finding a swimsuit plus the ethical quandary.
The search for ethical swimwear brands is daunting. I think the fabric poses a special challenge to the process. Most conventional suits are made of synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon, which are made from petrochemicals that have significant environmental impacts. In addition, nylon manufacturing creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas.
Most of the brands I found utilize recycled or Oeko-tex certified textiles and eco-friendly dyes, offset with renewable energy, reduce waste, reduce water consumption, and/or form partnerships with non-profits. However, each brand approaches ethics in its own way. Take a look at the possibilities below and click through to learn more about the brands and styles.
Click to enlarge. Hover for details.
Some brands use conventional materials, but try to mitigate their impact with the rest of the process. For example, the brand Cala Ossidiana uses a nylon/Lycra blend fabric from an Italian mill run on sustainable power. They recycle and reduce water consumption, participate in World Land Trust, and run their business locally in NYC.
Other brands, like Nikki Saya, make their suits from sustainable soy, organic cotton, bamboo, and other natural fibers. Vitamin A swimwear uses EcoLux™ green fibers, a superfine matte jersey manufactured from recycled nylon fiber. Eco-swim, as well, uses recycled materials for some of their swimwear. LUZ swimsuits are made of certified organic cotton and must be treated with care. CurleeBikini Swimwear is made solely from remnant, vintage, and organic fabrics, as are those from Billy and Lola. Designer Natalie Golonka creates swimwear made from vintage fabrics she has collected during her travels around the globe.
Still others, like RubyMoon, turn their profits into micro loans which help women entrepreneurs throughout the developing world. African brand laLesso works with SOKO, an independent eco and ethical clothing production unit that supports local talent and provides employment to Kenyans. Amitiwi swimwear is made of eco-friendly fabrics screen printed by hand on Bathurst Island by Tiwi artists using traditional methods which supports aboriginal art and the development of sustainable art centers in remote Australia. As a company owned and run by women, the team at Zero + Maria Cornejo endeavors to develop collaborations with women artisans around the world.
Check out more options at:
- Oso Organic
- Agua Clara (fairly made in Peru)
- Koru Swimwear
- Caitlin Kelly (made in the USA)
- YOOX collections
- NWT options on Tradesy (you'll have to sign up; this is my referral link)
On another note, I was pleased to see more diversity than I did when I researched lingerie brands. One of my favorite in the bunch, Bombshell Bay, is committed to designing for all shapes and sizes and never testing products on underweight or underage models. All brands should commit to this and make more effort in regards to body size, conformity, and ableism.
While the ethical options for women are fairly slim, for men, the situation is downright dire. Of the few brands carrying men's options, my favorite is Riz. Riz creates colorful board shorts from 100 percent recycled and recyclable polyester, print with water-based, earth-friendly inks, and run a recycling program called "Rizcycling". Faherty and Tyr use recycled fabrics as well. Brands Onia and Glass are both manufactured in NYC.
As you can see, there are many ways to address the ethical issues of materials, production, employment, and profit. This makes it difficult to determine the best ethical options even among what are considered ethical brands! I'm providing some direction here, but everyone has different priorities and you all have to decide for yourselves what's most important to you.
Get the watercolor brushes I used for the title free on WEGRAPHICS.
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