Canadian Ethical Shopping Guide: Swimwear
Looking for fabulous, ethical, and sustainable swimsuits? Look no further — here is The Eco Hub's Canadian Ethical Shopping Guide: Swimwear.
We know that textiles recycling rates are very low in Canada and we know that bathing suits are not biodegradable and are made using mostly synthetic fabrics (nylon, polyester, spandex). Because you can't donate old bathing suits, they end up in the garbage, and the microplastics they give off end up polluting our waterways, both when we wash them and dispose of them.
Let's dive in a little deeper, shall we? Synthetic fabrics like those used for most synthetics come directly from the fossil fuel industry, meaning they are petroleum-based textiles.
Plastic is a major issue and according to Ocean Clean Wash, "Every time we wash our synthetic clothes, 9,000,000 plastic microfibers are released per laundry. An average household generates about 20kg of dust a year, of which 6kg consists of microplastics."
That's a TON of plastic! The good news is, that there are sustainable swimsuit companies using recycled plastic to make their eco-friendly suits and there are lots to choose from.
Most conventional swimsuits found at big box stores like Walmart and Joe Fresh are made with cheap materials that fall apart so quickly (hello fast fashion!) and are made in factories that have poor working environments.
Ethical And Sustainable Swimsuit Brands To 💚
Let's dive in, shall we? I'll talk more about how swimsuits are made and what to look out for later in this post.
1. VUK Swim
VUK Swim has launched their second Spring/Summer swimwear collection. This season is filled with fun and electric colors inspired by city nightlife and tasty cocktails. Staying true to their design concept from last season, their swimwear is not only for the beach but is meant to be styled as a top for a night out. Their dual-purpose pieces empower you to invest in fewer articles of clothing, increasing the long-term sustainability of your wardrobe as a whole.
This year VUK has partnered with a talented seamstress located right here in Toronto. To avoid labor and material waste, they have designed a pre-order block system where they compile their weekly orders which are then given to their seamstress. Suits can take anywhere from 5-15 business days for processing and production depending on order volume. By not carrying any stock, you can assure that your order was made just for you!
The team at VUK Swim is committed to sourcing most of its materials within Canada. The thread, elastic, and most trims are sourced from local and ethical retailers. They source their luxe swimwear fabric from Montreal, which has no order minimums and therefore only order what is needed. The fabric comes from Carvico, an Italian mill, and is made from 78% ECONYL regenerated nylon which is recovered nylon waste found in oceans such as fishing nets, fabric scraps from mills, and carpets destined for landfills.
Down to the details, VUK Swim aims to be as sustainable as possible: they use home compostable mailers and compostable hygiene liners, and pay into green energy projects in order to have carbon-neutral shipping. They even have resources on where and how to recycle old swimwear, as well as accept old swimwear for the annual donation to the Markham textile recycling program.
It makes me so happy to see more and more brands looking to be as sustainable as possible, especially when that's not always easy for a small startup!
2. Samudra Swimwear
Samudra Swimwear makes a fun and colorful range of ethical swimwear based out of Spain. They use ECONYL® yarn which is regenerated nylon yarn that comes from pre and post-industrial waste like discarded fishing nets, tulle, and carpet fluff. Because they are using materials that would otherwise go to the landfill, they are not having to use new resources to create their gorgeous swimsuits.
You can choose different tops and bottoms to suit you, and they are also reversible, which I love! You are basically getting 2 bathing suits for the price of one. The Mermaid Collection is so gorg! The one-pieces are super sexy too and all made with OEKO-TEX and GRS (Global Recycle Standard) certifications!
Any fabrics that they may have leftover they either use to make scrunchies or donate to NGOs, fashion design schools, or other social centers in Spain. All of their products are vegan too.
They keep all of their supplies local which helps to reduce emissions because they don't have to ship and transport raw materials. All the items are made in Barcelona by two women who run a small atelier.
I love the fact that they have personal relationships with their suppliers who have the highest standards when it comes to environmental responsibility and workplace ethics. They also have a strict code of conduct that you should check out.
All of their suppliers are based in Europe. When it comes to the fabric manufacturer, they only use electricity from renewable sources and reuse water for all steps of fabric production. It's stated on the website that:
"At the end, water is sent to the municipal wastewater treatment plant before releasing it completely clean. Their emissions are also 10 % below the limit set by the law and 99% of their wastes are recycled and re-used."
When they ship to you, the items will come in a compostable mailer and all the other packaging is either recyclable or made from recycled materials. Their supplier plants 1 tree with every order to help against reforestation.
3. Nettle's Tale
Nettle's Tale is based in B.C. Canada is a body-positive ethical and sustainable swimwear company inspired by the women of the Pacific Northwest.
Their mix and match ethical swimsuits are made for tanning, surfing, kayaking, or swimming and according to the brand they love "six-packs, plus, petite, stretchmark and plentiful busts." You gotta love that!
They manufacture everything locally and ethically and acknowledge the land on which they work.
All of their sustainable swimsuits are made with 92% recycled polyesters and 8% spandex.
Wolven makes sexy sustainable swimsuits with gorgeous patterns and colors. I really love the fact that you can mix and match and wear some of their one-pieces in 8 different ways, which makes them more sustainable and affordable. The suit pictured above is reversible, so you get this lovely pattern or a bright gorgeous yellow.
All of their swimsuits are made for all shapes and sizes and range from XS to XL.
This sustainable swimwear brand is based in the USA and has an eclectic selection of bathing suits for women and even a cute pair of boardshorts for your dude.
Wolven's ethical swimsuits are made from a combination of eco-materials like GRS-certified rPET (recycled polyester) and spandex which is OEKO-TEX-certified, which means there are no nasty chemicals present.
The OEKO-Tex Certified Recycled P.E.T. fabric is a super versatile and innovative fabric that is created by "breaking down discarded plastics and recycling them into textiles and apparel."
They also use carbon-neutral Modal (made from birch trees) in both their swimsuits and activewear clothing.
The swimsuits are ethically manufactured in China in factories that are WCA-certified, which ensures safe working conditions and fair wages for workers.
Their relationship with Carbon Neutral ensures that when items are shipped from China to L.A., they are 100% carbon neutral. They also are a member of 1% for the Planet.
If you are looking for affordable sustainable swimwear, look no further than SummerSalt, where you will find a gorgeous selection for under $100. Not only that, but they also took over 1.5 million body measurements from over 10,000 women to make sure you can find the size that's right for you!
Bright, colorful, feminine — you are sure to find one that suits you. They've even got maternity and kids' suits to choose from.
SummerSalt is based in St. Louis, Missouri, and also sells the cutest ethical cover-ups for your day at the beach.
Their fabrics are made with 78% recycled polyamide that comes from post-consumer materials, like discarded textiles and ocean-salvaged plastic (fishing nets), and Lycra.
When the items arrive at your door, expect them to be in recycled packaging.
Their factories are located in China and Asia where they visit often, they are also WRAP certified as well as BSCI., GRS, and OTS. Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) is the world's largest factory-based certification program for manufacturers of clothing, footwear, and other sewn products.
6. Arrow + Phoenix
Arrow + Phoenix is a Black-owned brand that I simply love. They have some of the cutest ethical sustainable swimwear, it's hard to choose a favorite.
All of their sustainable bikinis are made in L.A. using 100% recycled material (water bottles), 100% recycled yarn, and use 75% less energy compared to conventional swimwear.
I love that they offer a take-back program for their bikinis. When you are done with yours, you can send it back and get 30% off your next order. Once you have sent back 8 bikinis, you will get one for free!
Kayla Bell, the founder, draws on her experience as a stylist and costume designer to create these eco-friendly swimsuits.
Arrow + Phoenix celebrates women with all body shapes and is focused on designing comfortable suits, in hopes of flattering all shapes and sizes!
Their ethical bathing suits feature different styles of straps and ties that allow you to choose your pieces according to your figure and style so you don't have to stick to basic bikinis to achieve the fit you need! Sizes run from XXS to XXL.
Kyla, the owner has a 36DDD cup and always had a hard time finding a top to fit and created this brand to help women find their fit! No matter what!
Taking care of the beach and ocean is really important to them, so $5 from each of their sustainable swimsuits and t-shirt sales goes to a foundation to aid in beach clean-up efforts.
Patagonia is a well-known and loved brand — and for good reason. They have been walking the walk for decades now, offering their consumers affordable ethical and sustainable clothing, outdoor wear like backpacks, hats, and even athletic-inspired ethical swimwear for women and men. Think beach babe to beach bum!
Their entire range is made from eco-friendly fabrics like hemp, linen, organic cotton, and recycled nylon or polyester.
They have a huge range of styles to choose from, and even have non-grip options for the hard-core outdoor enthusiast. For men, they have boardshorts, wet suits, and waders.
Their sustainable bikinis are made for kiting, paddling, surfing, swimming, or paddling and are all fair-trade sewn and made with 64% recycled materials. And they come in sizes from XS to XL.
The recycled nylon comes from post-industrial waste fiber and discards from weaving mills and postconsumer fishing nets.
The recycled polyester allows them to lessen their dependence on virgin fossil fuels while reducing the greenhouse gases that would come from the manufacturing of virgin polyester.
Slow fashion is all about having an ethical supply chain, and Patagonia has nearly 70,000 workers in their fair-trade and bluesign®-approved factories.
Oh, and they also were a founding member of 1% for the Planet!
8. Vitamin A
Vitamin A's motto is "super sexy, super sustainable," and I could not agree more. Their ethical and sustainable swimwear is some of the best you will find. They've got neutral colors for the more subdued, and bold standout ones, too. Whatever your vibe, they've got you! They offer sizes from XS to XXL.
All of their bathing suits are sustainably made in California using a recycled fabric that they actually created called EcoLux, this is the world's first recycled nylon swimsuit material that's blended with Xtra Life Lycra.
You will also find sustainable swimsuits made with recycled cotton, TENCEL, linen, and organic cotton. All of their fabrics are certified by OEKO-TEX.
Most of their items are made in-house but they do partner with artisan women in other countries, who are all paid fairly and work in safe factories.
They also work with Green Story. I've talked about Green Story on The Eco Hub before — it's an organization based in Toronto that helps businesses to calculate their actual impact on the environment, taking manufacturing and materials into account.
All items are shipped plastic-free, in biodegradable mailers and bags.
Outerknown makes ethical men's swimwear and trunks. They use 86% recycled polyester, 8% recycled spandex, and 6% virgin spandex for their swimwear.
Because recycled polyester is made using plastic from trashed water bottles, they reduce their CO2 emissions and keep useable materials in circulation and out of the garbage.
If your dude loves to surf, he will love their collection (which, by the way, was founded by surf legend Kelly Slater). And make sure you take a look at their women's collection called Seea, which you can actually send back when you are finished. This send-back model will be used in other areas of their business soon.
Both men's and women's swimsuits are super cute and colorful. They come in sizes XS-XL; they could use a little more range in their size categories.
If you need something cozy to wrap yourself in after your take a dip, they have really cute sweatshirts, hoodies, and pants to choose from, too.
The team at Outerknown spent a great deal of time looking for partners that care as much about the planet as they do. That work paid off big time. 90% of the fibers they source are organic, recycled or regenerated.
They work with over 5,000 fair trade workers and are FLA (Fair Labour Association) certified too. In fact, they were the first brand to pursue this certification before even setting one item of clothing.
Outerknown is a well-known ethical active swimwear brand that is taking ocean conservation to a whole new level. Even their buttons come from salvaged plastic waste! Also, LOVE the fact that they carry the most ethical jeans!
10. Beth Richards
Beth Richards is a Canadian designer that makes timeless, beautiful sustainable swimsuits using recycled polyester. These are ethically made here in Canada where all workers are paid fair wages and work in safe conditions.
These suits are made from, ECONYL fabric, which is made from recovered ocean plastic, typically discarded fishing nets. Choose from a range of solid colors and really gorgeous patterns and styles — the one shoulder is just so chic!
They are a carbon-neutral company and rescues waste at every point of manufacturing. Sizes range from extra small to large, but they do carry up to 2X in select styles.
11. Minnow Bathers
Minnow Bathers makes one collection a year, and it's all made to order with a focus on reducing waste. Each piece has a simple yet chic architectural structure, and it's all made in Toronto using high-quality recycled spandex.
To offset the environmental impacts of their women's ethical swimsuits, they donate $1 from each sale to the Ocean Conservancy and a small proportion of overall sales go to animal rights organizations.
They are size inclusive and make suits that range from XS to XXXL.
Suits are wrapped in tissue when they are shipped, in a compostable mailer from Ecoconduct. If you live in the Toronto area, you can request a local pick-up.
Honubelle is all about a blend of Hawaiian and Canadian inspiration. Each of their sustainable swimsuits is made using 100% regenerated Italian Lycra yarn, which is basically recycled fishing nets from the ocean.
Each one is simple, sporty, sustainable, and perfect if you want to just lay at the pool or head to the beach for a swim.
This brand is based in Alberta, Canada, and was founded by Julia Barnes who always felt she belonged to surf culture. She designs pieces that are both functional and stylish.
Honubelle makes ethical bathing suits for confident, fearless women. Size range from small to extra large. They are designed and ethically made in Canada.
13. Mimi & August
Mimi & August is a Montreal-based apparel and swimsuit company that uses 100% recycled materials (ECONYL) in the production of its suits. Each piece is made by skilled workers in small factories in Peru to ensure economic development and ethical job creation.
These sustainable swimsuits are so pretty. Choose from solid patterns, bold flowers, nudes, and more. Sizes range from XS to XXXL.
A final word on ethical and sustainable swimwear
Ethical and sustainable fashion is complicated — we know that! But given all the types of materials that are used in swimwear, it makes it even more complicated. This begs the question: what is the best sustainable swimwear fabric?
For fashion to exist responsibly, the best types of fabrics are natural ones, like hemp, cotton, linen, jute, etc., which can be composted at the end of their life. When it comes to swimwear, however, it's more difficult to use these natural fibers because they just don't have the stretch or water-durability that synthetics do.
That's why recycled synthetics like ECONYL are a more eco-friendly option!
The companies featured in this post can be considered recycled swimwear brands because they are using mostly recycled plastics in their bathing suits. Some of them use other fabrics like organic or recycled cotton.
Recycled plastic obviously can't be composted, but it does have other benefits that are worth mentioning. Anytime we can reuse something it means we don't have to extract virgin fossil fuels to make new items. (The fossils industry is largely responsible for global warming.)
Since most of these sustainable swimsuits are made from discarded plastic fishes nets or bottles, it also helps to reduce the volume of plastic floating in the ocean.
Typically, recycled synthetic fabric is made from nylon and polyester — you may have noticed I used the term ECONYL a few times in this post. ECONYL is a popular type of recycled synthetic fabric that is made in Italy and is spun from salvaged plastics as mentioned before. Ghost gear, which comes from the industrial fishing industry, is the most common plastic found in our oceans. Lots of ECONYL is made from this type of plastic.
Some brands do use Lycra. It's not ideal, but we need swimwear to last and this is the only option right now. Neoprene is really bad because it's made from petroleum-based chemicals. You can look for natural rubber, it will be more expensive and harder to find. Patagonia does offer one.
Remember, if you are ever unsure about a brand or what they are claiming, you can look for third-party certifications like Bluesign, OEKO-Tex 100, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Global Recycled Standard (GRS).
How to Decrease Microplastics in the Laundry?
Recycled synthetics, however, can pose a microplastic problem. When you wash your bathing suit, tiny pieces of plastic can come loose with the agitation and get washed down the drain and into our waterways (this is why your suit will slowly become thinner over time!).
To help prevent the number of microplastics that make their way from your suit to the ocean, consider washing your swimwear in a Guppyfriend, using a Cora Ball in the washing machine, or handwashing your swimwear.
(And don't forget to use non-toxic laundry detergent too!)
Like with our fashion criteria, we are always looking for brands who are taking the following into account:
- Corporate Responsibility
- Ethical sourcing
- Environmentally-conscious packaging (plastic alternatives)
- Who can access and use this product?
- Equity and cost
So the next time you take a dip, try one of these ethical and sustainable swimsuit brands. The ocean will thank you for it.
And when you hit the beach you might need a cute pair of sandals or how about sustainable sneakers, a gorgeous summer dress, and hey maybe even an eco-friendly picnic basket.
If you know of really great brands, please share in the comments. And take a quick look at our brand directory for more ethical fashion options.
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