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In 2019, an estimated 8 billion tonnes of plastic existed on the planet that will never decompose.
Instead, it will add to the piles of indestructible waste in landfills and seep into waterways. That said, synthetic fibres are being released into the water we drink, cook with, swim in, and travel across in more ways than one.
Although inexpensive and versatile synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, and spandex are ideal to use in the construction of swimwear for their ability to wick away moisture and stretch across the body, they also release minuscule pieces of plastic (a.k.a. microplastics) into water when washed.
Until a biodegradable material that possesses all the performance qualities necessary for a swimsuit comes under a microscope, we’ll continue to see ethical and sustainably-minded brands use the next best alternative: recycled plastic.
Thankfully, emerging Canadian fashion labels have pledged to reduce the amount of microplastics in our waters, the animals that depend on them, and in turn, our food, by using recycled fabrics like ECONYL and Italian Lycra. And better yet, a number of them are boasting end of season sales.
Ready to take your eco-conscious summer wardrobe to the next level? Let’s take a deep dive together.
From the time that native Torontonian Beth Richards completed an education in fashion design, her mission has been to provide women with clothing options that promise quality, fit and durability. After a move to western Canada 2011, Richards was inspired to start designing swimwear when she realized she needed a beach wardrobe. All Beth Richards products are made in Canada using recycled materials and dyes, as well as fabrics that provide 50+ UVB protection against harmful rays.
Founded in 2009, June Swimwear is led by a team of women who can never get enough salt water. Designed in Montreal, June Swimwear uses unused scraps of fabric to create hair accessories like headbands and scrunchies that match the brand’s bikinis. Most recently, June Swimwear collaborated with outdoor recreation retailer MEC to come up with a collection of bikinis made of plastic bottles and garbage recovered from the Mediterranean sea.
SHOP IT: June Swimwear, $43 (originally $65)
Camilla James, owner and designer of Saltwater Collective, credits her mother as the inspiration behind her brand and the most important influence on how she now views her body as an adult. Her goal? To aid in changing the internal dialog that women face when shopping for swimwear and help them feel completely confident in their own skin. Plus, each Saltwater Collective swimsuit is made from abandoned fishing nets and nylon waste from landfills.
Sisters Kelsey and Monica Rush founded their swimwear company, Bikini Empire, after being frustrated by the lack of sustainably made, stylish suits available to them. Ten cents from the sale of each bikini is donated to the ROLE Foundation, which runs a zero waste facility and environmental development programs in Bali (where Bikini Empire swimsuits are manufactured). The ROLE Foundation’s vision also supports zero waste, sustainable businesses for coastal communities, as well as women’s business education and development.
SHOP IT: Bikini Empire, $64 (originally $78)
Unlike most fashion lines, Minnow Bathers produces one collection a year, by hand, in Toronto. Working according to customer demand, unnecessary production costs and waste are erased, and small collection sizes help keep the price of garments down. Minnow Bather’s solid fabrics are made from chlorine-resistant and UV-blocking materials comprised of 75 per cent recycled plastics. The brand also donates a dollar from each sale to the Ocean Conservancy to support their efforts in protecting the world’s oceans and inhabitants.
SHOP IT: Minnow, $52 (originally $86)
Honubelle is a breath of fresh air on the swimwear scene, promoting a unique blend of Hawaiian and Canadian design inspiration. The brand’s simple and sporty swimwear made for women who live to play in the wind and the waves is crafted from Italian Lycra; a durable high-density fabric that makes Honubelle swimwear non see-through, resistant to sunscreens and chlorine, and protective against UV rays.
SHOP IT: Honubelle, $48 (originally $88)
Designer and founder of SELFISH Swimwear, Naomie Caron, believes a garment should last at least five years. That’s why she uses high quality, recycled nylon imported from Italy, lining each one of her bathing suits and guaranteeing the stitches for a year. In addition, SELFISH Swimwear offers a repair service after the brand’s one year warrantee is up so that you can wear your favourite suit for years to come.
If you’re looking for more shopping inspiration, check out 18 female-led, Black-owned swimwear brands, here. Plus, read all about the best ocean-inspired skincare that’s safe for you and marine life too, here.