growing a minimalist wardrobe: swimsuits (again).

July 13, 2017

ethical swimsuits | reading my tea leavesHave you been skinny dipping? 

Might I suggest that you take up the habit? Not just because it’s terribly freeing to do so but because gosh it would solve the swimsuit shopping conundrum fairly quickly.

If swimming buck naked is not your cup of tea—or if you frequent beaches that require a bit of coverage—here’s a sequel to the original swimsuit post that I put together two summers ago. It includes a few more companies that are fresh on the scene, or new-to-me, or otherwise doing interesting things with swimwear. 

In my original post, I make the argument that the most sustainable swimsuit is probably the one you actually wear. Swimsuits need to be stretchy to fit right, tough enough to withstand frequent dunks in water (chlorinated or otherwise), and resilient enough to retain their shape. This means that most every swimsuit is made from a combination of polyamide nylon or elastane or polyester or a combination of all three. All of this stuff is derived from petrochemicals. All of it requires quite a bit of heavy-duty processing and dyeing to make it wearable. And, still another bummer, microfibers shed from polyesters and other synthetic fabrics are nearly impossible to filter out of the water they’re washed in and end up polluting our waterways. Humans strike again, in other words.

Still, a bit of thoughtfulness can go a long way. Swimsuit shopping can be fraught enough as it is and I’m not hoping to make it more complicated for anyone. I’ve tried my best to round up suits from companies that use alternative or recycled materials, that pay their workers a fair wage, that design with longevity in mind, that collaborate with artists, that try their best. Here goes:

Ambika Boutique: If you’re hoping to go an extremely eco-friendly route, and have deep pockets, the handwoven crocheted cotton swimwear from Ambika Boutique is a wonder to behold. The very precious made-to-order swimwear comes in a variety of colors—customers can choose from more than 25 different colors—and is made with 2% elastic to help with fit. The Full Body One Piece features a simple front and beautiful criss-cross closure in the back. For folks who prefer a two-piece suit, the French Top and High Waisted Lace Up Brief Bottom make up a classic pair. Made in Upstate New York.

Andie: To help solve the ever-present conundrum of swimsuit shopping, Andie provides customers with a set of three basic one-piece suits to choose from. You can order a set, try them on, keep what you’d like, and send the rest back. You only pay for what you keep. I think I’d keep the Tulum. Andie one-pieces are designed by women and made in a woman-owned factory in Los Angeles. Made in LA using fabric milled in North Carolina.

Camp Cove: This Australian company celebrates retro-styling and a range of size and coverage options (they don’t mince words in describing their “big boobies” styles, for instance). Linings of all suits are made from recycled fabrics; black styles like the Annie Full Piece are made entirely from recycled materials. Designed, printed, and sewn in Australia.

Her.: I’ve been seeing these suits pop up on some of my most stylish friends and there’s lots to like about the super minimalist designs of these suits out of Australia. The Italian-made fabric is chlorine-resistant and offers 50+ UV protection. I love the RomyMade in Australia of Italian fabric.

Lina Rennell at Beklina: Another synthetic-free option, these vintage-inspired beauties are made of double-layered organic cotton and can moonlight as body suits, if you’re so inclined. Also available in Italian LycraMade by hand in California.

Mara Hoffman: Characteristically bright and graphic, Mara Hoffman suits are always cheery for pattern lovers. I love the cut of her high-waisted bottoms and simple tops. Fabric is SPF 50. Made in the USA of Italian fabric (recycled polyester/spandex blend).

Minnow Bathers: These simple, hardware-free bathing suits are handmade to order by a team of women in Toronto. One dollar from each purchase is donated to Save Our Seas, a foundation that pursues solutions to maintaining healthy oceans. I’m personally extremely taken with the Midnight Narcissus print. Minnow also collaborates with artists to create unique fabric for limited edition bathing suits. Currently, they’ve collaborated with Darby Milbrath, a Canadian artist whose painting, Lotus Pond, is featured on a limited edition swimsuit. Handmade in Canada.

Shoshanna: Cult-favorite swimwear line with lots of choices made from recycled polyester. The water colored floral pattern on the Botanical Floral Twist One Piece is romantic and sweet. It has removable cups and is fully lined. Made in the USA.

Thief & Bandit: These guys have more nature-inspired prints for pattern lovers. Each swimsuit is made to order with ChitoSante fabric, an environmentally friendly treatment made from crab/and or shrimp shells that’s naturally anti-bacterial, too. The Desert Floral Bikini set features flattering high-rise bottoms and a bralette top. I also love the Thistle printHandmade in Halifax, Novia Scotia, Canada.

Whip Appeal of Sweden: These suits are little more graphic than I’d typically go for, but they’re fully reversible, made from recycled polyester, and Whip Appeal collaborates with artists to design the pattern on each suit. No hardware for maximum comfort. Sold at Tictail on the Lower East Side (and online!). All purchases at Tictail support emerging artists and designers around the world.

Note: The swimsuit pictured is the high-waisted bottoms and halter top from Bikyni. Alas, it’s not currently in stock. See the original swimsuit post for more on this suit and for lots of other options. And as always, chime in with any others you don’t see on these lists!

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34 Comments

  • Reply Karina July 13, 2017 at 10:24 am

    I just got a new suit from Patagonia but I’ve been wanting one from Hackwith Design. So cute and nice coverage and very responsibly made.

  • Reply Alyssa July 13, 2017 at 10:55 am

    I got this one from Beklina last year — I love the vintage vibe, and the fact that for jersey, it dries really well and holds its shape!

    https://www.beklina.com/products/lina-rennell-tie-swimsuit

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 13, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Yes!! Just added to the list! I *knew* I’d seen another organic cotton suit somewhere!

  • Reply Mary Kate July 13, 2017 at 10:58 am

    THANK YOU especially for the “big boobies” designs! I just ordered a bunch of suits from Nordstrom and only 1 out of the 10 pieces fits. I have sworn off halter suits forever because of the pain my “big boobies” put my neck through but those seem to be the only ones that *look* right. Excited to browse all of these!

    • Reply Stephanie July 13, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      Agreed! As someone whose weight loss visibly occurred in the bust, I can say that halters are a literal pain in the neck — no matter your size!

    • Reply Mary Kate July 14, 2017 at 10:02 am

      Huh, that company doesn’t seem to accept returns, only exchanges, which seems bizarre for an online company … not worth the risk. Anyone have any recommendations for supportive bikini tops? Some of these other ones look lovely but the models are mostly all teeny on top which doesn’t give me any faith that those suits have support!

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 14, 2017 at 10:50 am

        Have you looked at the Hackwith Design House suits featured in the first iteration of this post? They might have something that works!

        • Reply Mary Kate July 14, 2017 at 11:12 am

          I shall, thank you!

          There was one other company you listed (though now I’ve exited out of it I can’t remember which) that also doesn’t accept returns on bathing suits. I find that so odd! Why would anyone shop online at a store that doesn’t let you return things? How do they stay in business? Anyway, Boden seems to have some styles that look doable (AND they let you return things that don’t fit!) Thanks again!

          • ERIN BOYLE July 14, 2017 at 11:14 am

            Hmm. Not sure which one that is. The world of online shopping is complex and mysterious isn’t it? Good luck with your hunt!

      • Reply Rachel July 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

        Prana has an awesome D-cup bikini top with built in cups that doesn’t just look like your basic underwire bra! It’s called the Aelyn: http://www.prana.com/aelyn-top-d-cup.html?colors=black

  • Reply Megan July 13, 2017 at 11:24 am

    This Vancouver, Canada based company makes beautiful suits and loves all shapes and sizes!

    https://nettlestale.com/

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 13, 2017 at 11:33 am

      Terrific. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Sarah July 13, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      I was just about to suggest Nettles Tale! I just bought the Mercy suit and love it.

  • Reply Eli July 13, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Thank you Erin for including Canadian designers!

  • Reply Libby July 13, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    These suits all look super great.
    I was wondering if you would consider doing a roundup of sustainable clothes for plus-size folks? I’m trying really hard to make sure that the purchases I make are safe for everyone but it’s so difficult to find plus-size items but I’m also very new to this arena, as well.
    🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 13, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      Hi Libby! I don’t know of any brands off the top of my head, but working on researching plus-size ethical fashion sounds like a good project! I know that for lots of these very small producers making a full range of petite through plus-size is a challenge from a demand perspective. Still, I know that Hackwith Design House, Elizabeth Suzann, and Tradlands all have pretty expanded sizes. (I’m not sure if they’ll work for you specifically, of course, but they might be worth checking out!)

  • Reply Amy K July 13, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    I love Patagonia’s swim line. It’s the first swim line to be 100% Fair Trade certified for both men and women.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 13, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      Yes! They’re included in the prequel to this post!

  • Reply Clare July 13, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    I recently bought a Mara Hoffman suit on sale – the low back one piece – and was delighted to find that it’s reversible! Pattern on one side, solid on the other. It definitely wasn’t included in the description but if you’re trying to multipurpose, may be helpful to know!

  • Reply Stephanie July 13, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I was facing a beach vacation with nary a swimsuit in my wardrobe earlier this summer. What’s a girl to do but order almost every swimsuit under the sun to find the perfect fit. Thank goodness for free returns, amiright? I wish I had known about these companies, but I ended up with Hackwith’s knot top and high rise bottoms. It is, without a doubt, the most comfortable swimsuit I have ever worn. I know you listed HDH in your first swimsuit post and wanted to again recommend them here. I’ll be looking into this list for a one piece suit.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      Yes, they’re awesome! Update the old post with a link to this year’s styles!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      Yes, they’re awesome! Updated the old post with a link to this year’s styles!

  • Reply Erin July 13, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    I love the Romy! Holy moly.

  • Reply SEM July 13, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Thanks for this post. I recently had a good experience with Athleta. I haven’t researched its factory or manufacturing practices but I know it’s a GAP company. As far as fit, SPF, and service, I was impressed. I wear my suits until the elastic dissolves so when it’s time for a new one I recoil in sheer exasperation. For me aging (read: emerging from 7 years of grad school to discover a new body lurking) meant I no longer could just grab anything off the rack. The Athleta crew was patient and attentive and had so many mix and match options that are encouraging when you are meeting your new figure. I also appreciated the SPF rash guards which add a layer of protection.

  • Reply Doe July 13, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    ESP: Just this morning I was sharing with some friends some of the lesser-known traditions at the West Wharf rocks, sans suits!! Good times, my girly-cue! Completely natural, organic, and chemical-free!

  • Reply Dana Leigh Lyons July 13, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Love the Canada options – thank you!

    Mostly, I do my daily glacial-lake plunges in whatever I wore hiking or to yoga just prior (only because the public beach is slightly closer to home than the buck-neckid one. Still, love knowing ethical, minimalist Canadian options for when I invest in new yoga, etc., wear.

  • Reply Emily July 14, 2017 at 1:16 am

    It’s been years since I’ve owned a swimsuit. I just swim in my underwear. Most of the time when I swim it’s unplanned (like when I’m hiking or traveling), so even if I had a swimsuit I wouldn’t have it with me.

  • Reply Betsey Holland July 14, 2017 at 8:09 am

    Have you seen Kortni Jeane suits? Not exactly minimalist, but I think they’re so fun! Lots of mix and match opportunities.

    Love these options!

  • Reply Toni July 14, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been trolling the web for ethical swimwear and this is so incredibly helpful! (Also, much appreciation for updating your previous post about swimwear).

  • Reply Kelly July 14, 2017 at 9:47 am

    I was looking into Summersalt suits. They appear to be chic, affordable and made from recycled material, but I was curious if you or any readers had any inside scoop or reviews of the suits?
    https://www.gosummersalt.com

    • Reply Sarah July 14, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      FYI, I ordered six Summersalt one-piece suits and returned them all (they are all to a T super cheeky in the butt even when getting the proper size). I also found their customer service lacking, but apparently that’s because they got inundated with orders this summer. Just a heads up.

      • Reply Kelly July 17, 2017 at 4:25 pm

        Thanks so much! Such a bummer to hear about the lack of full bum coverage when they promote themselves as suits for active women. That’s definitely a deal breaker for me.

  • Reply Erin July 16, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Great list! You should also check out Malia Mills, they’re a woman owned company who design in the NYC garment district and produce in New Jersey. I worked for them ages ago, but they’re still my favorite swimsuits to buy since they size by bra size and come in more conservative cuts and “adult” colors and patterns that aren’t black!

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