Buying swimwear is hard. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t talk about swimsuit shopping as if it’s a never-ending marathon. Whether you’re tall and big-busted, short and flat chested, it can be a logistical nightmare to find the right pair. Throw ethical fashion values into the mix, and place yourself in a country far away from the rest of the world (New Zealand) and it would seem as though you’re screwed.
Although this used to be the case, where nudity was the only option for ethical swimwear, New Zealand has stepped up its game. Phew.
As an ethical shopper and beach babe myself, I’ve gone a step beyond my birthday suit and discovered six ethical swimwear brands that allow me to support my local community, and lie on the beach in style.
I’ve been wearing Nisa underwear for months, and when I found out they were launching a swimwear brand: I fist pumped the air. Nisa swimwear is made using deadstock fabrics and sewn in their Wellington-based workshop by refugee women. Their mission is to create rewarding and fulfilling work for women who can support their families, learn new skills, and resettle happily in New Zealand with a strong network around them. Just like their underwear, Nisa’s swimwear range is modest but sexy, playful but mature. I’m not a fan of skimpy pieces that don’t cover your cheeks. Nisa’s styles keep your dignity in check.
Thunderpants offer a range of halter neck tanks, crop tops, high waisted bottoms, boylegs, and swim dresses. Their collection is ideal for all ages, particularly mothers who want more coverage and functionality. Thunderpants garments are made with TLC in New Zealand. They cater to those who prefer to sport simple striped prints and black block colours.
Another newbie to swimwear, KowTow is one of New Zealand’s biggest ethical fashion labels, you could say, iconic. Ivy green, marigold yellow, deep midnight navy, and burnt sienna. Do I really need to say anymore? KowTow have designed a range of two pieces and full suits, made from 78% ECONYL and 22% elastane jersey.
ECONYL is made from pre and post-consumer nylon waste. It’s make up includes old fishing nets, discarded carpets, plastic bottles, plastic components, and fabric scraps. KowTow are fair-trade accredited, and proud of their consistent seed to garment commitment which ensures things are done sustainably, every step of the way. Since the launch of their swimwear range, KowTow have already recycled 120kg of discarded nylon.
Aurai Swimwear tackles ethical fashion differently. The swimwear label whole heartedly embraces ‘eco-design’: considering sustainability within every step of the design process, not just the manufacturing of the garment. Their designs are mastectomy-friendly, serving a gap in the market for those who struggle to feel comfortable on the beach after life-changing events. Aurai Swimwear go far and beyond to make sure every decision is made with care for people and the planet. They even ensure their suppliers are close to their manufacturing facility, to reduce the impact and cost of transportation. In the Aurai online shop, you’ll find block colours, prints, bikinis, full pieces, and surf suits.
Made by small-town artisans in Bali, Saltysea isn’t just about swimwear; they’re committed to creating a community of people who feel encouraged and equipped to fulfil their dreams. Saltysea works hard to ensure complete transparency of their production lines, and constantly check-up to make sure all practices stay in line with their ethical and sustainable principles. Their one pieces are on the skimpier side, not my cup of tea, but certainly brilliant for those bold enough to tan their cheeks.
Born out of an infatuation for nature, and a passion to restore the environment, SALT use ECONYL to reduce their footprint on the planet and ensure ultimate comfort in the water. They’ve literally thought of everything to produce these gorgeous swimmers: recycled paper hangtags, recycled plastic pouches to store your swimsuit, and acid-free tissue paper in their shipping. Salt have designs fit for all sizes, with and without ties, or one-pieces that look babe’n.