A version of this article previously appeared on The Frontlash.
With all the chatter about attaining a summer body and finally getting a flat stomach in time for bikini season, there’s little room for self-love when it comes to going to the pool or the beach. Just the thought of hitting the sand has the ability to send any female (or male, for that matter) into a spiral of anxiety. With the fear of baring dimples and rolls to the world, in addition to countless other wardrobe malfunctions that are inevitable when dressed in the most revealing items in our wardrobes, it’s easy to see why taking a dip isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
But there’s something of a revolution happening in swimwear. Brands want to make women feel comfortable in their suits (and bodies) by tackling a major issue: sizing. Few mainstream brands veer from producing suits in sizes XS to XL and even then, their sizes are far from uniform. A woman who might be a size 2 in jeans could be a small in bikini bottoms from one brand and a large in an identical style from a different label. And don’t even get us started on women with busts bigger than a DD finding styles that are both supportive and stylish—which is ironic, considering the average American woman is a size 34DD.
These same companies aren’t stopping at making bikinis that benefit women’s self-confidence; they’re also considering the well-being of the world’s oceans and seas, the environment in which their designs are being worn. With sickening images of waves of trash washing up on the shores of the Dominican Republic and a rising nationwide ban against some single-use plastics in the works, it’s no longer appropriate to ignore any action that might harm the waterways we frequent. Thinking about the life cycle of your bikini, how it was made, and where it will go is important: it does matter when you mindfully purchase a swimsuit made from recycled plastic bottles or produced in a factory powered by solar panels.
These are the concepts that the team behind Alyned Together had in mind when they launched earlier this summer. With a focus on highlighting body positivity and the confidence that comes with it, they spent extra time perfecting the fit of their flirty off-the-shoulder bikinis and bright lace-up one pieces.
“Every style was fit on multiple sizes to ensure whether you are a size 2 or 22 you are still getting the same containment, coverage, and flattering swimsuit,” the Alyned Together design team explained via email. Each of their styles come in a range from XS to 3X along with an important disclosure: “Our swimsuits have a generous fit. We recommend sizing down one full size.” In that way, even more women can fit into these suits—and feel good in their skin.
But Alyned Together’s underlying mission goes beyond just making women feel comfortable and confident; the brand is also dedicated to creating designs that are thoughtfully eco-friendly. And they’ve considered quite a few details during this quest. From utilizing natural rubber in their elastics to opting for compostable versions of requisite sanitary stickers, Alyned Together is also passionate about finding a solution to microfiber release. This very technical sounding term simply describes the discharge of tiny microfibers that occurs while washing garments made from synthetic materials. These tiny particles flow from washing machines into the water supply and are consumed by aquatic wildlife, causing harm up the food chain. Microplastics have also been found in bottled water.
Alyned Together is working with textile scientists to develop fabrics that minimizes the release of this harmful material. But in the meantime, this direct-to-consumer brand ships out every swimsuit in a Guppyfriend washing bag, which has been specifically designed to capture microfibers during the washing process so they can be disposed of properly.
Established brands like Mara Hoffman have decided to rethink their production processes, whose label shifted to become eco-friendly in 2016.
“I had been educating myself and becoming aware of the impact that our industry has on the planet and what that meant for my son and future generations,” Hoffman said. “I went to my then director of production (she’s now our director of production & sustainability), Dana Davis, and told her we needed to make a change or close shop.”
Obviously, the brand went with the former option and now uses ECONYL and REPREVE, two materials made from plastic waste, in their swimsuit production. They also use digital printing (versus dyeing or silk screening) to create their signature and bold patterns, which is a trusted process for minimizing water and chemical waste. They’ve charted the impact their business decision has made; Hoffman noted that in 2017, her company’s use of ECONYL diverted over 10,000 pounds of plastic waste from landfills.
“Some people could put on any swimsuit and feel great. For some people, it’s a certain cut or brand and for some, it’s buying sustainably that makes them feel good,” Hoffman noted.
Interestingly enough, it seems to be a trend for swimwear designers to hit pause on their production processes to reevaluate just how harmful their products can be. As Pooja Kharbanda, founder of 6 Shore Road points out, “It’s projected that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our ocean than fish. How could we not protect the very place we want to enjoy?”
While moving offices from the space that 6 Shore Road had occupied since its launch in 2010, Kharbanda was shocked to uncover bins upon bins of discarded fabric. Not only was this quantity of material waste expensive, but it was totally unsustainable. So Kharbanda decided it was time for a change: first, swapping her go-to nylon for recycled polymide, made from fishing nets and other found plastics. Then, she reined in her production, relocating it from overseas to within just a few miles of her Manhattan headquarters. Finally, she made the decision to donate all of her excess materials to FABSCRAP, a Brooklyn-based textile recycling resource.
She noted that her customers are appreciative, both “mentally and physically,” by learning that their clothes are eco-friendly. Essentially, Kharbanda is creating feel-good fashion.
Another way for women to feel comfortable while diving in the ocean is to opt for swim styles that are simply designed to be modest. By no means are we suggesting wearing a t-shirt to take a dip, but consider the bikinis from the Vienna-based brand, Rendl. Every piece is double lined—rather than being made from a thick exterior layer and a thin interior—making it much sturdier than your average suit. With this technique, Rendl swimsuits provide support and shape, without built-in underwires. Plus, their thick straps and high-cut tops read as trendy rather than dowdy, which, surprisingly, also makes these swimsuits perfect alternatives to shirts. As designer Rosa Rendl puts it: “We want a woman to feel dressed, rather than half-naked, when wearing our suits.” What could be more confidence boosting than that?
Well, you could just reach for the same swimsuit, year after year. Quite like your favorite pair of jeans that just fit so well, simply buying less will benefit not only your bank account, but also the state of the world.
“I think we also need to change the mindset of the consumer, to buy less and buy better quality,” points out Araks Yeramyan. Under her namesake brand, Araks, she purposely designs timeless one-pieces and simple bikinis so they can be worn season after season—rather than relying on trendy cuts to push sales. While considering mindset of the shopper is definitely important for any designer, Yeramyan aims to source as many sustainable materials as possible—in addition to reusing leftover fabric that may have been used in previous seasons. Yeramyan is also mindful about the partners she aligns with, noting that one of the factories she employs is powered by solar panels.
In 2018, it’s nice to see that swimwear designers are looking at the bigger picture of what it means to design a functional garment that was made to be worn while literally being embraced by nature. It’s as simple as this: you wouldn’t disrespect your favorite beach by polluting, so you shouldn’t wear a swimsuit that pollutes.
Do you have a favorite body-positive, eco-friendly swimwear line?
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Photos: Alyned Together, Mara Hoffman, 6 Shore Road, Rendl, Araks