What is sustainable swimwear & who are the brands you should know about?
Sustainable swimwear has become a buzzword recently, which is a great thing. Given the choice, if the end product is of high quality, why not create your swimwear in a sustainable way? We wanted to shed some light on what ‘Sustainable Swimwear” actually means, how the industry came about, why it is important, and introduce you to the best sustainable swimwear brands.
So why the need for sustainable swimwear?
The textile industry is the 2nd biggest industrial polluter in the world, behind oil, accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions. Let that sink in a minute…
But it isn’t just the creation of new fabrics that has a significant impact on the environment due to its land, water, and energy-intensive operations. There’s an additional issue of textile waste and what to do with it. In Australia alone, an estimated 3m tonnes of textiles goes into landfill each year. With an estimated 6 tonnes of clothing to landfill every 10 minutes. That’s F**ked!
The conscious amongst us, which includes YOU for being rad and reading this article (Yeah you!!). You care about plastic bottles and straws. Well, wow it’s time to care about your old T-shirts, ski jackets, and yoga leggings and what can be done to reduce their impact.
Did you know that Polyester is made from petroleum and takes up to 1,000 years to biodegrade?
The future is circular
The immediate benefit of textile recycling is to divert increasing amounts of waste from landfills. Trends such as fast fashion and minimalism have the unintended consequences of increasing fabric waste which is now a global waste issue.
Patagonia just made an incredible 12-minute film called ‘Why Recycled?” explaining the issue in depth which I highly recommend you watch.
A new industry now exists which looks at waste as a precious resource. In sustainable swimwear, the industry ‘up-cycles’ regenerated nylon fibers made from recycled plastic polymers like fishing nets, plastic bottles, and carpets. The two big textile players in the game are ECONYL® – made in Italy, and REPREVE® – made in the US.
REPREVE alone has recycled over 18 million plastic bottles to date.
Did you know: one kilogram of virgin cotton requires over 13,000 litres of water. In comparison, one kilogram of recovered, upcycled cotton requires no additional water, farming, processing, or dyeing than when it was first produced and generates no additional greenhouse gasses.
Other important factors in creating sustainable swimwear
Adopting up-cycled textiles is excellent but to be a truly sustainable swimwear brand other factors need to be considered.
- Attention to the fabric dying process. Adopting digital printing to reduce water use (traditional printing techniques require 50-60 liters of water per meter on average), and using nontoxic dyes that don’t contaminate the water and air.
- Manufacturing garments in factories that comply with strict environmental regulations and eliminate unnecessary waste.
- Paying a fair price for labour and providing clean and safe working conditions.
- Off-setting any carbon emissions to become a carbon-neutral company.
- Playing close attention to your supply chain and shipping
It’s worth noting that many brands haven’t made the switch to 100% recycled fabrics due to the quality being arguably not as good as virgin fabrics. The distance that these brought fabrics need to travel are also being considered, for example, Econyl is recycled in a plant in Slovenia, sent to a mill in Italy, then to a warehouse in Hong Kong. With sustainability, it is never that black and white. Every action, touch-point, or process has an impact. The trick is being conscious of those actions so you can opt for the least impact.
The sustainable swimwear brands making waves
It is heart-warming to know that the small, female-owned, independent surf swimwear brands are the ones leading the charge in sustainable swimwear. While implementing all the above would be a huge effort, it is incredibly inspiring to know some are looking at all elements. The operating costs to produce sustainable swimwear are very high, which cut into the already small profit margins. If these awesome independent brands can do it, big surf brands and business can too (come on major swimwear brands!).
So the next time you are in the need of new swimwear. Buy sustainable and buy from one of the brands below that are really making a difference. We have personally tested each and every one of these brands and can testify they are of the highest quality, will last a long time, and their suits perform in the surf (see our surf bikini directory article for links to all reviews).We applaud all these sustainable swimwear brands and support them whole-heartedly for all their efforts that go far beyond the small summary we give below. Check out each of their websites and read their personal stories. All these women and the brands they have built are an inspiration.
In no particular order…
#1 Sensi Graves Bikinis – Use code STILLSTOKED for 10% off
Established in 2012 by professional kiteboarder Sensi Graves, this US brand creates sustainable swimwear that’s both fiercely functional and fabulously feminine. Sustainability is at the core of everything they do. In 2019, Sensi set up an Indigogo campaign to help fund the transition of the whole 2020 line of 5 tops and 5 bottoms, to all be made from recycled textiles (the swimwear will still contain a percentage of non-recycled spandex or lycra). They raised over $37,000 AUD to make this change.
Sensi Graves Bikinis sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Made from ECONYLl® and REPREVE® upcycled fabrics
- Uses recycled or compostable liners, polybags, labels, and hangtags
- Use digital printing methods that use minimal water
- 1% For The Planet Member – 1% of sales donated to environmental groups
- Made in Salem, Oregon. Shipped from Hood River, Oregon
- Off-set all carbon emissions in partnership with Climate Neutral
#2 Salt Gypsy – Use code Stillstoked10 for 10% off
A completely independent and self-funded business that has been sustainable since conception. Salt Gypsy evolved from founder Danielle Clayton’s surf blog while working as a surf guide on the boats in the Maldives. The brand is now based in Byron Bay Australia, designed for a global community of surfers. Salt Gypsy recently launched a world-first of surfboards designed for women.
Salt Gypsy sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Made from ECONYLl® upcycled fabrics
- Responsibly manufactured in Australia
- Uses biodegradable packaging
- Offer a take-back scheme to recycle your old Surf Gypsy garments
#3 DKOKO – Use code STILLSTOKED for 10% off
Started by two Costa Rican women blessed by birth to live in a tropical, wave-rich paradise. DKOKO is fiercely focused on having a positive impact on the region of Central America that they operate in. At Dkoko, they believe that planetary wellbeing requires us all to buy less but buy better. The highest priority is to REDUCE waste and make high-quality products.
DKOKO sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Focus on high quality to make products last though the seasons to reduce waste.
- Made from Lycra Extra Life with UPF protection, purchased directly from the producer in Brazil. The fabric supplier is Oeketex certified and dutifully compliant with all regional social and environmental standards. Operating with the latest technology in state-of-the-art machinery, their textiles are manufactured using water from the Tiete River in Sao Paolo (one of the most polluted in the Americas), and their ecologically sound production process actually treats the water and returns it clean back into the river.
- Handcrafting locally in their very own sewing shop, supporting families in Masaya, Nicaragua.
- Social responsibility: All full-time Dkoko employees receive benefits including health insurance, social security, and pension funds, two days off per week, a month of paid vacation per year, and double salary through the month of December.
- Limited quantities: Manufacturing out of our boutique sewing shop in Nicaragua, instead of Asia, allows us to produce in limited quantities and only manufacture the number of garments we sell, keeping waste at an absolute minimum.
- All clothing is made from 100% organic cotton and hemp.
- Zero plastic’s used to label or tag the products and biodegradable mailers.
Check out the full range of sustainable swimwear and sustainable bikinis on the DKOKO website & don’t forget to use code STILLSTOKED for 10% off.
#4 ELATION SURFWEAR – Use code STILLSTOKED for 15% off
Created by young Australian surfer Kellie, Elation swimwear is designed in Newcastle, Australia and manufactured in Bali, Indonesia. Sustainable and ethically produced unique swimwear made for the women who feel at home in the sea.
Elation Surfwear’s sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Made from ECONYLl® and REPREVE® upcycled fabrics
- Balinese employees are paid 2.5 times more than the minimum wage and are provided with insurance for the individual and their family
- Use compostable mailing satchels and hygiene stickers, not plastic
- Prints are digitally printed using eco-certified dyes
- The product comes in a re-useable zip-able pouch, not plastic
#5 ZEALOUS – Use code stillstokedxzealous for 10% off
With a background in clothing engineering, Marie moved from Germany to Bali, learned the local language, and interned in local factories to build a local team whom you can meet in videos on the Zealous website. Every surf bikini and item from the streetwear collection embodies the effort and love of staff members she knows first-hand.
Zealous Clothing sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- The OCEAN surf bikini range is made with 78% ECONYL and 22% virgin spandex
- Designed, engineered, tested, cut and sewn in Bali, Indonesia. Then shipped to the warehouse in Hamburg, Germany
- 2019 will be the first year that Zealous will be carbon neutral
- 75% of apparel collections are made from organic & recycled fabrics
- All tags and strings are biodegradable – no stud or metal ring
- Uses biodegradable bags to pack the products itself & compostable mailers to send to customers
- DHL GoGreen CO2neutral shipment: to wholesale and end customers
- 1% For The Planet Member – donate 1% of our annual sales to support environmental solutions
- They also organise beach clean-ups around Bali from time-to-time
#6 ANOWI SURF – Use code STILLSTOKED for 10% off
A small indie brand out the heart of the Garment District in Manhattan, NYC. Anowi strives to be as sustainable as possible, in all practices. The quality of their manufacturing is evident at first sight. They are currently working on a take-back scheme to develop a full lifecycle of their swimwear products.
Anowi Surf sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Made REPREVE® upcycled fabrics
- Water-less process of digital printing on fabrics
- Designed, produced and shipped from New York City, USA
- All suppliers are located in the USA
- All packaging made out of recycled materials, including the sticker to seal the packaging
- Currently working on creating products out of scraps of production fabric including old Anowi swimwear from customers
#7 MONIQUE ROTTEVEEL – Use STILLSTOKED for 10% off
Monique Surf and Swimwear are made in Europe in a small family-owned factory. Their mission is to bring about positive change in the world. Monique’s personal goal is to create fair, functional & feminine designs with colourful prints.
Monique Rotteveel’s sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Made from ECONYLl® upcycled fabrics
- Recycled & biodegradable packaging
- 1% For The Planet Member – Donating 1% of all sales to environmental causes
- Their entire production takes place in Europe, with production in Bulgaria, & the warehouse in The Netherlands
- Fabrics are digitally printed to reduce water
- Fair wages and good working conditions for everyone involved
#8 BONDI ALCHEMIST – Use code STILLSTOKED for 10% off
An Australian brand with a famous local beach in the name, Bondi Alchemist was started by Jarra with a focus on slow-design and ‘getting it right’. Ethically handmade and produced in small volumes in Bali, Jarra wants women to feel beautiful in her sustainable, ethical, unique, flattering, AND technically made surfwear for women. Mindful to not overproduce, Jarra makes small runs so once they are sold out, that’s it!
The Bondi Alchemist’s sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Made from Carvico – a fabric comprised of sustainable techno-fabric made from ECONYL®
- Designed on the road, all cut, sewn & shipped from Bali
- The factory package directly into biodegradable packaging
- All items come in a reusable cloth bag
- To reduce CO2 emissions from shipping, all products are sent directly to the customer from where it is produced in Bali
#9 CURMS – Use Code stillstokedxcurms10 for 10% off
Every piece of CURMS is individually hand made by a woman named Carmen from the Netherlands and a dedicated little family in Indonesia with a passion for swimwear. Each item is a unique piece of art and it is owner Carmen’s ethos that CURMS isn’t just about the product but the story behind it. This is sustainable swimwear made with craftsmanship, quality and with a meaning. They use an ancient Indonesian weaving technique called IKAT which they then use to pattern textiles.
CURMS’s sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Made from VITA XTRA LIFE LYCRA® which is made with ECONYL® and 100% regenerated nylon fiber.
- fabrics are printed using sublimation printing using no water.
- They re-use as much as they can (paper, fabric, etc)
- Garments packaged in a little cotton bag with a drawstring, which you can re-use again
- All garments are sewn in collaboration with a small local family in Eastern-Java Indonesia
#10 HAKUNA WEAR – Use code STILLSTOKED10 for 10% off
A new indie brand out of San Diego, California from a surfer with a P.H.D in chemistry! In a commitment to sustainability, Jessica is committed to using new wetsuit materials that can replace the environmental harmful neoprene as well as offering to repair any damage to products from wear and tear.
Hakuna Wear’s sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Made from upcycled fabrics
- All swimwear is designed, made, and shipped from San Diego, California.
- Hakuna Wear Ding Repair – Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge
- Using Yulex and limestone neoprene in the place of petroleum-based neoprene
#11 TIDE + SEEK – Use code STOKED10OFF for 10% off
Tide + Seek is a surf swimwear company out of the UK. They make cute pastel swimwear with a commitment to using only upcycled fabrics.
Tide + Seek’s sustainable swimwear policy includes:
- Made from REPREVE® upcycled fabrics
- Fabric off-cuts are used to make cute headbands (pictured)
- Comes packaged in a re-usable canvas pouch
A massive thank you to all these small independent, conscious brands that are both educating and empowering through their products and brand stories. If we have missed any incredible surf-performance-focued and sustainably-minded brands, please let us know in the comments below.