Memorial Day is around the corner, so it's officially time to start scheduling your sunny beachside weekends and stocking up on swimwear. But more often than not, the act of shopping for bits of nylon and lycra to prance around in poolside becomes a not-so-fun experience — one filled with questions, like, "Why would I spend $200 on something that resembles cardboard nipple covers?"
The good news, though, is that there's a new wave of eco-friendly beachwear designers that have us excited about the prospect of updating our summer swim drawers. These brands are affordable — most are under $100 — meaning after all is said and done, we may actually be able to save up a few pennies to go to an island that isn't Manhattan. Plus, us beachgoers can bask guilt-free knowing we've invested in brands that are conscious about their environmental impact, doing their best to use recyclable materials and reduce as much waste as possible. And there's something for everyone in terms of size — many of the brands offer an inclusive size range — and swim aesthetic — whether you prefer a retro or minimalist style.
Read on for eight up-and-coming labels we'll be shopping for ourselves in preparation for summer.
Amelia Perez founded Aexae Swim at the age of 21, after struggling to find swimwear that fit her curvier figure properly. She set out to design a line that makes women of all shapes and sizes feel sexy, and two years since its birth, the brand already counts the Kardashians as fans — Kim and Kourtney were spotted wearing the label's string bikinis on a recent exotic getaway. The affordable swim label is inspired by '80s and '90s swimwear and supermodels of that era, so the pieces are accordingly seamless, fuss-free, print-free and just the right amount of skimpy; plus, they come in a neutral color palette and are done in a butter-soft Italian fabric. In addition, the suits come in a wide array of shapes and styles — from medium coverage mid-rise tie bottoms to one-shouldered tops — and can be easily mixed and matched.
Prices: $72 for one pieces; $49-$56 for tops; $53 for bottoms
Available: Aexae Swim
Baythe Swim is all about simplifying swimwear and focusing on creating sustainable fabrics that are as affordable as they are comfortable. Designed by Bondi Beach local Tina Ishak, the line is strongly influenced by the health-conscious and laid-back — yet cool — beachside lifestyle in Sydney, Australia. The swimwear is suitable for both the waves and low-impact exercise. "The idea of living close to the beach and the Australia active lifestyle means we can combine the two quite easily," says Ishak. "You can be doing a soft sand run, coastal walk, yoga or barre in the nearby studios and head straight into the water afterward for a cool down."
Launched this past November, the swim range is available in array of color choices — from a bright lemon yellow to a citrous-y orange — and in a selection of flattering classic lines designed to compliment any figure. The swim collection is currently produced with 100-percent regenerated Italian fabric, sourced from recycled matter such as recovered fishing nets, and uses reusable packaging. Ishak is currently working on exploring ways to play with recyclable textures and colors so she can continue to produce sustainable products in new and innovative ways.
Prices: $96 for one pieces; $74-$88 for bikini sets
Available: Baythe Swim
Founded by Katherine Hampton in Australia, Camp Cove Swim combines comfort and a love of retro styling to showcase the beauty of the female form that comes in many shapes and sizes. The suits feel campy, like they've been plucked from your hippie aunt's summer trunk that still has her bunk number and throwback tees from three decades ago inside. But vintage goods aside, the quirkily and playfully-printed swimwear is ethically manufactured on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia and incorporates recycled fabrics into the lining. "Each and every swimsuit is a labor of love, carefully constructed to ensure an excellent fit and quality workmanship," says Hampton.
For its latest collection, Hampton and her team spent time trawling for imagery of vintage wallpapers and tile designs, native Australian flora and Australian landscapes. "We have developed a print composed of watercolor paintings, an Australian native floral design with a '80s pop art vibe, a traditional tile pattern with a '70s twist and a wallpaper style floral design," she explains. "These prints will be showcased in our classic collection of cuts which have been refined over the four years we have been designing — high-waisted bottoms, simple full piece suits and flattering yet functional bikini tops." As an added bonus, every style is meant to accommodate women of all bust sizes — there's even a designated category on the site coined "big boobies" — and bottoms go up to a size 16.
Lacausa, the LA-based label always stocked with fresh Cali-cool basics, gifted us with a line of simple, ethically manufactured swimwear this summer. "Launching swim is a milestone moment for us and something we've always wanted to do," explains the brand's founder Rebecca Grenell. "We waited until we could find the perfect fabric and develop the right styles to launch with. We wanted to keep the collection refined and simple but also far reaching in its appeal. Growing up in Malibu, my family lived on the beach, so I see swimsuits as a closet essential. These suits are a really important and natural addition to Lacausa."
Launched in early May, its first-ever swim line contains five key styles — two types of bikini tops, two types of bikini bottoms and a one piece — and three colors — a rich pale pink, a deep wine color and a black. The pool-ready silhouettes combine a carefree Malibu surfer sensibility with the classic feel of a French bikini top. The fabric is a mix of nylon and spandex — double layered for comfort and hold – and is all knit and sewn in LA, where any fabric waste is minimized as much as possible.
Prices: $160 for one pieces; $75-$85 for tops; $80-$90 for bottoms
Vivek Agarwal, the founder of the newly-launched eco-friendly swim label Ookioh, comes from a small town in India where he grew up with the intention of entering the engineering or medical fields, but always dreaming of working in the fashion industry. He ended up studying mechanical engineering, but last year, Agarwal decided to pursue what he always wanted to do. "During my days at Cornell, I saw that my friends and classmates would go to the beaches in Latin America and Asia over winter and spring breaks to escape the bone-chilling upstate New York weather," explains Agarwal. "I realized that swimwear was no longer a 'summer accessory' or relegated to the coasts; And, people are traveling much more than they used to. That realization — along with my bug to get into the industry — led to the birth of Ookioh."
The resulting line of swim is one that combines a modern sensibility mixed with a California ease. The hip-bone-grazing, cut-to-there bottoms are inspired by '90s supermodels, while the pastel brights pay homage to '80s sportswear. It also has an inclusive size range as the suits go up to a 16. The best part? You get all that, and an eco-conscious item, for under $100. "Sustainable and eco-conscious apparel is generally associated with higher prices," he notes. "We believe that if we make it affordable, we will make it accessible to more customers and, consequently, the true value of creating such products — i.e. more recycling and less usage of virgin materials — will be achieved. Expensive and inaccessible eco-conscious lines beat the purpose of making it."
Prices: $98 for one pieces; $49 for tops; $49 for bottoms
Designer Lydia Maurer, who has a stacked resumé — including stints working under Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent, Martine Sitbon at Rue du Mail, Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, as well as serving as the creative director at Paco Rabanne in 2012 — wanted to offer on-trend, high-quality swimsuits in extended sizes, so she launched Phylyda in 2016. The brand offers mix-and-match separates to enhance and support any woman's shape, and uses high-tech touches to make sure each woman feels like she's getting a perfect fit custom to her body shape. The suits come in richly colored, sheeny fabrics, feature numerous elevated details and allow for plenty of adjusting. Sizing ranges from 6 to 18, while cups extend up to a size 42F.
Prices: $195-$222 for one pieces; $106-$177 for tops; $92-$151 for bottoms
Austrian born photographer and designer Rosa Rendl started the swim label Veronica Dreyer as a college project, with the mission to create one swimsuit that flattered everyone. The brand has since expanded, and now she wants to bring it closer to her roots by relaunching it under her last name. "Over the past five years — between 2013 to 2018 — the brand developed in vision, design and ideology regarding female representation, work ethics, functional design and the role of fashion," says Rendl. "To represent the brand's image in a less mediated, forthright way, I felt I needed to change its name for more directness and authenticity." Another reason for the name-change had to do with the removal of gender. "I no longer wanted a fictional woman embodying the brand but rather have an authentic, neutral, tight brand name that functions as a blank surface to build brand associations to it."
The contemporary line of swim she has re-thought up has the modest feel of sports suits, but with the addition of feminine and sharp-tailored details such as seamed underwire cups, elegant necklines and overlapping details. It comes in a matte fabric and many of the tops can function by the pool or on their own for a night out.
Prices: $177-$225 for one pieces; $94-$118 for tops; $83 for bottoms
Summersalt is a one-year-old, female-run, eco-friendly, direct-to-consumer, size-inclusive swimwear brand that promises designer-level swimwear for under $100. The suits are supposedly five times stronger than your average bikini — so, expect real butt and boob support — and come in a cheery summery palette — think color-blocked one-pieces, playful cutouts, high-neck and tops with mesh detailing.
In April, Summersalt launched a new capsule collection of five swimsuits designed in collaboration with five female power players: Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, the co-founder of Gilt Groupe; Ashley Merrill, the founder of Lunya; Atima Lui, the founder of Nudist; Babba C Rivera, the founder of ByBabba; and Lesley Murphy, a travel journalist and breast cancer awareness advocate. The limited edition collection is a true celebration of style and stories from women who embody the spirit of the Summersalt mission: "Swimsuits don't expose us, they empower us." The power suits, which come in an array of of rosy-hued styles and compliment a wide range of bodies, are designed to make you feel confident and ready to dive into adventure.
Prices: $95 for one pieces; $50-$60 for tops; $45 for bottoms