Best Sustainable Swimwear 2023: Recycled, Upcycled & Chic
Fashion is one of the most polluting industries on earth, and synthetic fibres from our clothes leave a devastating trail across the planet (specifically the oceans). But sustainable swimwear offers one way to lessen the impact of your shopping choices. GLAMOUR’S guide to the 21 best sustainable swimsuits and sustainable bikinis is here to help you make considered decisions this summer, if you need to add a new swimsuit or bikini to your wardrobe.
What’s sustainable – or not – is a contentious issue so let us clarify: our edit of sustainable swimsuits have been chosen for their high level of recycled content or because they are made from materials that are either upcycled, regenerated or regenerative. Although even then, it’s not completely clear cut. Just because something is made from recycled fibres, doesn’t make it sustainable if you chuck it into the bin after a couple of wears.
We’re here for the approach of taking any step towards sustainability, however small. That means calling out greenwashing, educating ourselves on the impact of different fabrics, and always making sure we buy for the long haul.
What is the most sustainable swimwear made from?
Swimwear, with its reliance on synthetic fibres, might seem like a tricky category but it’s actually the area where some of the biggest fashion innovations are taking place.
Our edit includes several pieces made from ECONYL®, which actively recycles waste. Industrial plastic, fabric scraps, old carpet and discarded fishing nets from the oceans are all regenerated into a new nylon yarn that has exactly the same qualities as virgin nylon and creates a new material that’s ideal for swimwear. (Although, it is still plastic-derived so you’d benefit from using a bag that catches microfibres when you wash it).
You might think that any discarded clothes could end up as new garments, but at the moment only 1% of the fashion we throw gets actively recycled into new clothing. Much of the recycled plastic in fashion comes from recycled plastic bottles so check the labels. Outside verification from organisations such as RSC (Recycled Content Standard) will verify the origins of any recycled content and provide tracking from the source material to the end product. Read our feature on the debate around recycled plastic swimwear for a deep dive, too.
Some brands use existing fabric (termed: deadstock) which would otherwise go to waste to make new garments and look out for fabric made from TENCEL™ Lyocell. The silky fibres are made from wood pulp, grown regeneratively and manufactured in a closed loop system. Whatever you decide, the final steps are up to you. Look after your new sustainable swimwear to make it last (and so you will look *flames* at the beach / pool / park year-on-year).
Read more from Glamour UK Fashion Director at large Alex Fullerton here or follow her on Instagram @alexandrafullerton.