We’re trying to be as innovative as possible, but we want to be really honest about the limitations of existing technologies and fibers and the impact on swimwear.
THE PROBLEM WITH SWIMSUITS
So why does swimwear present such a challenge when it comes to sustainability? It comes down to one thing: plastic. Synthetic fabrics–like nylon, polyester, and spandex–are perfectly suited for swimwear because they wick moisture and stretch across the body, reducing friction in the water. They are also inexpensive to make, as well as versatile, so the fashion industry relies on them heavily, not just for swimwear, but also activewear, outerwear, and cheap fast-fashion garments. An estimated 65 million tons of these plastic-based materials are generated every year.
This is a problem because plastic is not biodegradable, so it never decomposes. Instead, it sits in landfills or oceans forever, adding to the estimated 8 billion tons of plastic that already exist on the planet.
When you think of swimwear, you don't necessarily think of the environment. But the production process for a swimsuit uses a lot more resources than one might expect. It takes about two pounds of fossil fuel to make a single swimsuit. When you consider that many people have 2–3 suits, and they buy new ones every summer, that adds up to a lot of plastic waste.
Some countries have resorted to burning it, which creates carbon emissions, since plastic is made from fossil fuels. In countries without good waste management systems, plastic-based fibers sometimes end up in the oceans, where sea animals can mistake them for food, causing them to choke.
There isn’t currently a biodegradable material that has all the performance qualities necessary for a swimsuit. As a result, eco-friendly brands are relying on the next best alternative: recycled plastic. There’s a growing list of swimwear brands that use recycled plastic, rather than virgin plastic, to make products.
As the founder of a luxury swimwear brand, I’ve been hearing about sustainability for years. Many brands are making headlines for their new sustainable swimsuits made from recycled nylon. But as someone who wants to make beautiful, timeless products that last forever, I wanted to do more than just recycle material.
Lycra is one of the most common materials used in swimwear, but it’s not sustainable. It’s made from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, and it can take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill. Not to mention there is still the issue of washing swimwear and tiny plastic particles still end up in the ocean.
From the start, the brand had considered on recycled nylon for its swimsuits, but as a designer who is conscious about timeless luxury and slow fashion also wanted to think about sustainability from a more holistic perspective, including considering how durable the suits are. After all, swimsuits need to survive many elements: the sun, heat, salt water, and chlorine. The longer the customer is able to use the swimsuit, the longer it stays out of a landfill.