Two facts: Swimsuits aren’t super fun to shop for. They also don’t typically hold up very well.
We can’t be the only ones out there tired of throwing out saggy, discolored swimsuits at the end of three months of wear.
In the commitment to only shop ethically, a beach-dwellers swimsuit habits have to die. No more buying oodles of cheap suits to mix and match from the Target clearance bin (see post on Target). We can spend a reasonable amount of money on ethically produced swimwear, and we can also examine the idea of spending a bit more on other brands of ethically made swimwear that are built to last, summer after summer after summer.
So lets break it down. It can be good to organize buying a particular niche item from an ethical mindset into two equal but different camps. First, buying from bigger, brands with a wider item span we know we can trust in. Second, buying from specialty brands that work hard to produce said item in a focused, ethical manner. Swimsuits are a particularly good example of this, as well as other under garments (underwear, socks, bras, pajamas etc.). I have backtracked to compile ethical brands we already have extensively researched on this blog so we can know which of them we can purchase suits from to stay under the ethics umbrella. In addition, I have done research on other brands that focus only on durable, ethical, swimwear that are wonderful options as well. Finally, just for fun, I included a couple of corporate villains that you want to be sure you don’t buy swimsuits from, despite being the go-to’s in the industry. Here we go!
**Brands we already know we can trust**
Patagonia, known for it’s anti-consumerism, environmental consciousness, and ethical durability also sell swimsuits. I guess this makes sense, granted the outdoorsy focus. The cool thing about Patagonia, besides the applause-worthy business model, is that their swimsuits are made for surfers. It doesn’t mean you have to be surfer to buy them, but it means they come with a unique mission to stay put on your body and stay put in your closet for years of use without sag or stretch. If you’re searching for something simple and athletic, or something casual and fun, Patagonia has both of these things a couple well designed, classic swim styles.
Through our research of GAP and Old Navy, we found that GAP Inc (the owner of Banana Republic and Athleta too) is a forerunner in the mid-price range race towards just labor ethics. They have a lot of good things going for them, especially for swim-suit shoppers. Not only do GAP and Old Navy have swim lines in their respective price ranges, but Athleta also specialized in athletic swim wear. Any of these offer the bonus of one-stop-shopping, and also have decent quality. If you’re looking for less athletic-style suits, this is a great option. They have solids and great patterns as well.
JCrew is a brand that surprised us with their ethics. It is encouraging to see a company with a mature style have mature policies within their supply chain. I think JCrew is a company that conducts itself with class in all aspects. They, too, carry a swim line. Though more tailored, they still have fun and mix in inventive styles while staying true to their stripes-and-florals foundation. You’ll find a good mix of swim suits here at a very moderate price. They also go on sale, so keep your eyes out!
**Ethical niche brands in the swimwear industry**
- Carve Designs
Begun as a way to produce durable swimwear for surfers in California, Carve Designs focuses on two things: using only materials that don’t leave a carbon footprint and are durable, and to only produce in the USA. Not all products produced in the US are produced from a standard to just labor ethics, but Carve produces with the intention to create US jobs and protect their integrity. With swimwear in all sizes, shapes, and fun colors, Carve is a name in the swimwear industry we can trust for quality and fairness.
Bikyni has a different style than Crave, but focuses on the same values. They are all about the minimalist style to swimwear: beautiful but basic prints and colors. They source their fabrics from a single producer in Italy whose quality and labor practices are clean, and then hand make each bikini in the USA. Again, we cannot rightly assume everything in the US is made ethically. However, some companies stake their whole product on that, and produce with careful compliance and maintenance of worker dignity.
- Kortni Jean
This brand is a really fun, fresh one in the mix. Hand-made in the USA and designed by a young woman, they pride themselves on swimsuits to fit and flatter women (and men!) of all sizes. Their signature high-waisted bottoms and unique top styles are truly a breath of fresh air with many options for light-hearted patterns as well.
**Brands to Avoid**
It sounds obvious, but remember that these lists are nowhere near exhaustive. They are simply a start, a baseline for your own research on making sure your swimwear lines up with your values. Just because they are hard items to shop for doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I encourage you to do some research yourself on more brands. Or, let us know with a quick email if there’s a brand you’re curious about that we could check out. One thing to keep in mind is the tension between cheap and quality. Sometimes, we want to buy things, such as swimsuits, at the absolute lowest price we can find. However, it may mean that we end up buying the product again a lot sooner than we would have, had we invested more. It is good with such a specialized product like swimwear to think about how much is appropriate to spend for the durability, functionality, and style you want.
Written By: Madeleine Williams