Summer is right around the corner, which means it’s finally time to pull out your swimsuit again. However, you might not know that the stretchy, elastic suits you buy are filled with plastic, and every time you wash one or toss it out, it’s contributing to our ocean’s plastic problem. That’s why these days, the elusive “itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow-polka-dot bikini” is being reimagined and restructured in big ways for a modern world in the face of climate change.

Diana Tsui, creative consultant and stylist, underlines the trouble of this small garment typically made with polyester and nylon. “Swimsuits are super tricky since they require some sort of stretchy fabric and that entails plastic — including the release of microplastics into the water supply.” Microplastics are everywhere in the ocean and the tiny bits of pollution are ingested by all sorts of marine life, like our ever-critical coral reefs.

“That being said,” Tsui adds, “brands are starting to recycle plastics into their fabrics, whether it’s from bottles or fishing nets.” Fabrics like Repreve repurpose plastic bottles and convert them into “high-performance yarn.” And, Repreve Our Ocean, a separate collection under the same umbrella, specifically works to prevent plastic from entering our ocean waters by sourcing plastic within 50 kilometers of the shore before they contaminate the water. Similarly, Econyl, another sustainable fabric, transforms nylon waste into regenerated nylon and is used to make garments, swimwear, footwear and sunglasses.

Tsui empathizes with consumers, saying it can get complicated to sort these details out from companies and offers a solution that will be easier to search for. “Certified B corporation is a safe way to go if you don’t have the time to do in-depth research,” Tsui says. “They adhere to a strict set of regulations to ensure both their fabrics and supply chain are sustainable and ethical.” Another certification to look out for is WRAP, which ensures workers are fairly compensated, not discriminated against and working in a safe environment, amongst other factors.

While recycled materials and fair labor practices are important, the most sustainable thing you can do is reduce the number of swimsuits you buy. That’s why it’s critical to invest in pieces that you’ll actually wear. Tsui recommends making sure the piece you buy fits well and is a style that you think will look good time and time again.

For a piece that will be worn for years to come, comfort and cuts are important. Fashion commerce editor at Harper’s Bazaar Halie LeSavage advises, “shoppers should start by considering their ideal fit, including the cut and rise of the bottom — from full coverage to low-rise, cheekier styles — and the level of support in the top.” LeSavage says to consider activity level too when shopping for a swimsuit. A built-in shelf bra will offer more support and a one-piece (her personal favorite) means less time fidgeting or adjusting a swimsuit.

Here are some sustainable pieces to swim and sun in, varying in shapes, materials and sizes so you can find your perfect, timeless fit.


sustainable swimwear summersalt

“Summersalt is a great option,” says Tsui. “I especially like the Summersalt wrap one-piece and their mix-and-match bikinis as they’re classic silhouettes.” Its swim fabrics are made with 78% recycled polyamide and use recycled materials including nylon waste to make pieces that offer 50 SPF protection.


sustainable swimwear oookioh

“For playful swimwear with a touch of nostalgia, Ookioh,” says LeSavage. “The swimsuits all have a vintage feel with contrasting trims and high-cut legs, plus they’re all made from a recycled fabric using ocean waste (like thrown-out fishing nets). This spring, the brand teamed up with Madewell for some extra-fun versions of their swimsuits that go up to size XXL.” Besides the Madewell collab, Ookioh has plenty of styles including tops, bottoms, one-pieces and more in sizes up to 4XL.


sustainable swimwear youswim

With only two sizes –– “Stretch 1” and “Stretch 2,” the former stretching from size 2 to 14, and the latter stretching from size 14 to 24 –– Youswim has worked to craft a swimsuit that is not only size-inclusive but is aimed to reduce consumption by allowing the suit to adapt to your body’s changes, not the body adapting to the suit. Certified as a plastic-negative product, where twice as much plastic is removed from the planet than is produced for the garment, Youswim partners with women-owned nonprofit Project Anant Pranay, which focuses on preventing plastic from reaching nature.

Jade Swim

sustainable swimwear jade swim

Using Oeko-Tex certified and Azo-tested Econyl fabrics for its swimsuits, Jade ensures non-toxic swim apparel that’s produced in California. The brand focuses on timeless pieces that eschew the fleeting trends of fast fashion by producing small batches available only through pre-order. Tsui recommends the brand, and adds, “Jade has a ton of fun colors for that Eres-vibe.”

Mara Hoffman

sustainable swimwear mara

“Just like her ready-to-wear, Mara Hoffman’s swimsuits are vibrantly colorful, inclusively sized (up to a 3XL) and incorporate eco-friendly design elements, like upcycling deadstock fabric for colorblocked swimsuits or using a blend of recycled materials,” says LeSavage. “I’m obsessed with the square-neck one-pieces for this summer. The prints are so unique to Mara and the cut is timeless.”


sustainable swimwear cuup

Cuup’s two-piece suits use Econyl fabric, which is regenerated nylon made from fishing nets, upcycled fabric and recycled nylon for “swim made for the ocean, from the ocean,” its site reads. Cuup’s suits are akin to the brand’s famous bra and underwear shapes and styles, assuring a comfortable, stylish and familiar fit. Buy each piece individually, or snag the two-piece for a 10% discount.


sustainable swimwear matteau

The Australian brand Matteau prioritizes sourcing from “regenerative, organic, renewable and recycled sources, and are committed to fostering biodiversity through our material choices.”

It’s recommended by Tsui, who says, “Matteau has a better size range and their swimsuits are minimalist and chic — definitely my go-to for future beach vacations.”

Left on Friday

sustainable swimwear left on friday top

“Left on Friday makes my favorite basic swimwear — basic meaning that the black one-piece I bought in 2019 still looks chic today and feels amazing,” says LeSavage. “The brand uses a durable but buttery swim fabric that’s resistant to sunscreen stains and fading from the sun. All the swimsuits have supportive straps and that smoothing, athletic fabric for swimming laps or water sports. The colors and cuts work just as well for lounging poolside, too,” LeSavage continues. “Sustainability is in part about buying less frequently and spending on pieces that really last, and my LoF swimsuit has held up exceptionally well.”


sustainable swimwear berlook new

Made from 85% recycled polyester and spandex, Berlook’s swimwear is produced with recycled materials verified by the Global Recycled Standard, and the brand has a focus on ethical production. Berlook works with factories that have BSCI or WRAP verification to ensure a healthy work environment.

Hunza G

sustainable swimwear hunza g new

Hunza G initially blossomed to stardom for a cutout mini dress Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman. Now, under the hands of a different creative director, Georgiana Huddart, this sustainable clothing brand makes garments and swimwear with its signature furrowed seersucker fabric from deadstock or waste. It’s recommended by Tsui, who says, “Hunza G’s seersucker fabric is incredibly flattering, although they have limited sizing.” The brand offers one size of its “original crinkle” as an effort to be inclusive and reduce “over-purchased sizing on a commercial level,” and, on the back end, works to provide a safe and healthy work environment from factory to head office.


sustainable swimwear zonarch

Commitment to sustainability is at the core of Zonarch’s mission. Partnered with nonprofit organizations that protect nature and human rights, its sleek swimsuits are made in the US and mainly in Los Angeles. Zonarch uses recycled materials like regenerated nylon, certified by Global Recycled Standard, and it’s an editor favorite.