You’ve likely never heard of Ljubljana, but then you’re probably not in the world of sustainable swimwear. Once known only as the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana could now also be the capital of Econyl, a material that eco-conscious swimwear designers can’t seem to get enough of. In stark contrast to fast fashion, which seems increasingly difficult to justify, Econyl is “infinitely recyclable.” The nylon fabric that so many designers are now turning into luxury fashion was once floating through and polluting the ocean, in the form of fish nets and other pieces of plastic. Not that you’d be able to tell from looking at it, once it’s made its way into the hands of some of swimwear’s most impressive up-and-comers. Meet eight labels using the material to create a higher level of eco swimwear, here.
Owning one of “the most comfortable swimsuits ever,” as Youswim markets itself, is going to cost you—one- and two-pieces are $139—but the English brand promises that it’ll stick with you summer after summer. There are just three styles and, notably, no sizes, thanks to super stretchy nylon and elastane woven by workers who earn benefits and a living wage. (That means someone with a AA cup size can wear the same suit as someone who’s a size G.) Unlike the packaging, the suits themselves aren’t biodegradable and recyclable. Youswim’s focus is instead on making a product that lasts.
Six years after Gina Esposito launched Nu Swim in California, the label is hitting its stride: It just landed a coveted cosign from Ella Emhoff, the model, knitwear designer, and stepdaughter of Vice President Kamala Harris. Esposito started off in art before attending F.I.T., and eventually fell prey to a major corporate layoff. So, she decided to take the leap, with a little help from a single family-owned production facility in New York City and an environmentally conscious shipping company in Colorado. The pieces, which Esposito intends to be timeless, are made of regenerated nylon, organic cotton, and recycled ocean waste.
Sherris is perhaps the only label out there that specializes in both sweaters and swimwear. You’ll want to wear the latter out of the water, too; Maayan Sherris, a Parsons graduate and alum of The Row, wants wearers (who include Lourdes Leon) to be just as comfortable on land. Before launching her eponymous label in 2016, Sherris spent months shadowing Columbia University’s women’s swim team and carefully taking notes. The ruffly, vibrant separates she’s now made for years are actually made of wool and cashmere that Sherris tracks down (and then carefully washes) at thrift stores.
Ada Swim Co.
Ada Swim Co. is known for its custom options; send over your measurements to the label’s 27-year-old founder, Adrienne Speer, and you’ll get a made-to-order two-piece for a total of $79. If you’re into kooky patterns and color coordination—Ada also offers matching face masks and totes—this is the label for you. That’s particularly true for the eco-conscious. Speer is so committed to biodegradability that even the typically plastic hygienic lines are compostable, with adhesive produced from wood pulp. The suits themselves are made of Reco-Tex—a blend of recycled yarn, fishing mesh, recycled spandex, and plastic bottles.
Lauren Arapage and Joshua Shaub first bonded over their love of ’90s fashion years ago, but it was only last year that they turned it into Anemone, a label that somehow makes it possible to evoke a bit of Kate Moss wearing a strappy pale yellow gown by Calvin Klein, circa 1995, when you’re poolside. Traces of that image, among many others, can be found all across Anemone’s first collection—particularly in its square-neck tops and one-pieces hand-embroidered with Narcissus flowers, but also in its array of balconet tops and high-waisted bottoms, in colors like mustard yellow and jade green. Although they may appear minimal at first, they’re anything but upon closer inspection—and not just because some are hand-embroidered. Each suit starts out as fabric made via Eurojersey’s closely monitored process in Italy, before joining Arapage and Shaub in sunny Los Angeles, where they make sure finishing touches like UV 50+ protection are in order. That’s all the more impressive given that the label is still in its early stages, but then again, its founders are no novices to the industry: Arapage previously worked in the press office at Stella McCartney, where sustainability is practically a given; and Staub was the ready-to-wear buying director at Moda Operandi, which launched the label’s debut collection just last year.
Peony considers itself first and foremost a family-owned-and-run business, though it’s also much more than that. The swimwear label has made remarkable strides since beginning its “journey” toward a more sustainable and ethical means of production in 2017. To Rebecca Morton, Peony’s founder and director, that journey is far from over, even as 70 percent of the label’s upcoming summer collection will be completely sustainably produced, and 90 percent of it will also be made from materials that are recyclable. As with many other labels, that’s thanks in large part to Econyl. But to circumvent the limited options of sustainable materials, Peony has made strides to develop its own fabrics in-house, too, hence its the pin-tucking, scalloping, and other details and techniques found across its range of suits. They might be pricier than Morton and company would like, but they also happen to amend another industry limit: Peony is one of the only luxury sustainable swimwear labels whose designs go up to size 14.
Not many labels would bill themselves as “trend-defying”—especially not in their Instagram bios—but Galamaar does so with pride. That’s particularly true when it comes to the trend its founder, Blakely Wickstrom, finds the most “disgraceful”: fast fashion. Wickstrom releases limited-run quantities of her designs, which are primarily made of Econyl, and doesn’t leave out the details like pad inserts and hang tags, which are also made from recycled materials. Perhaps Galamaar’s biggest accomplishment is that one look through its vintage-inspired tops in garnet and army green and one-pieces with deep V’s and cutouts almost immediately begs the question: If sustainability looks this good, why aren’t all labels sustainable?
After graduating from Parsons and interning at Hedi Slimane–era Saint Laurent, Fischer happened to come across Econyl’s website. Within two years, she’d turned the fabrics into her first collection, launching the line that Net-a-Porter and Matches would begin carrying just a year later. It’s hard to believe that she and a small team are still running Fisch out of her apartment in New York City, but then again, maybe that’s part of the label’s allure; in a way, home is central to Fisch, seeing as it’s largely inspired by St. Barths, where Fischer grew up. It’s also where she wore her first samples made with Econyl, which she now supports in more ways than one: She donates 10 percent of Fisch’s global profits go to Healthy Seas, which collects the nets that eventually get turned into—you guessed it—Econyl.
And yet, Fischer, who’s one of the few to acknowledge the paradoxes and elitism in taking sustainability mainstream, doesn’t refer to Fisch as simply “sustainable”; she prefers the phrase “as sustainable as possible,” given the technology that’s available now. For the time being, though, her customers seem just fine with the way things are; budding Instagram influencers and stylish septuagenarians alike can’t seem to get enough of her suits, including one with a leopard print that she painted by hand.
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