Sustainable fashion – clothes that last, do good to the environment, are well-made by thoughtful people using well-designed processes – isn’t always easy to find. I’ve been looking for ‘ethical swimwear’ for a couple of years, without finding anything close enough to my taste and budget to actually buy anything (I even wrote about it last year).
My swimwear conundrum last week led me to a rather wry thought: with so much in the news (ok, maybe just my newsfeed) about ocean plastic, and all the harm it’s doing to wildlife and to our own health, wouldn’t it be ironic to make swimwear out of recycled plastic? I wonder if anyone has ever done that…
Cue google – and conundrum no more. Here are my findings, with my favourite first. It has sharks on it!
- Made from recycled plastic
- Fair working conditions
- Fairly flattering shape
- Awesome patterns
Batoko have a pretty sturdy sustainability statement, from fair working conditions for their factory in China all the way through to vegan textiles, low-impact printing and small collections to minimise product wastage. I always find it’s much easier to believe small brands with a simple offering: when your product is basically 8 different prints on 10 different sizes of the same product, there’s a good chance you really do know where it’s made (and therefore how well it’s made).
At £40 each their swimsuits are above what I would pay in the high street (probably £25 in my budget), but the fabric seems sturdy and flattering, and amazingly once tried on, though there is no explicit bra inset/support, I could jump up and down to my heart’s content. So I can quality assure it up to a C cup! They even support the Marine Conservation Charity, and all products come packaged in recycled & recyclable minimal packaging sleeves.
But really, what gets me is their patterns. I get to go swimming in a swimsuit made from recycled ocean plastics with sharks on it. I am a happy bunny (or seawater creature of your choice).
- Made from recycled plastic
- Designed for sports (rather than just leisure)
Adidas made a big splash (ahem) recently with their Parley line – also made from recycled ocean plastic. If you can manage more than 10 lengths in the pool at once and you’re looking for something a little more sporty, this range might be for you. Also, if you’re a man then they’re better than Batoko, in that they have a men’s range. The prices are similar to Batoko, at £25-£45 per swimsuit – with much more subtle designs. They also make shoes in the same range…
After a quick look I couldn’t find any assurances on how well they check the conditions of their workers: I would imagine that, like most major brands, they are trying to be better but rarely succeeding in getting down more than one link in their supply chain, so unable to control what work their suppliers outsource. In fashion this can represent a significant amount of the labour and materials (see this example of the conditions in some Bangladesh tanneries).
I wouldn’t let this discourage you necessarily though: it’s great to see such an influencing brand taking decisive action like this to promote the wellbeing of our oceans. (The Parley movement itself seems brilliant, and worthy of support.)
A few more suggestions:
- Speedo’s H2O Active line is partly made with recycled materials. Not too much info out there beyond their partnership with the creators of EcoNYL, a fabric made from recycled nylon (fishing nets & carpets, mostly!). See Adidas review re. brand integrity. Prices are a bit higher (approx £55), but best selection of “normal” patterns and colours of the lot.
- RubyMoonSwim – Etsy seller making swimsuits out of recycled materials. 100% of profits go to supporting women in developing countries. From £42 – some pretty whacky colours.
- Auria swimwear is also made with Econyl – small brand, London-based. Prices are higher, starting at £50. A bit more ‘trendy’ than some of these alternatives, which could be a good thing, but may mean you’re starting to look out of date in a summer or two. (My sharks will never look outdated…)