THE BRANDS

All star brands doing swimmingly well at every stage of their supply chain! 🏊

RIZ BOARDSHORTS

You’re going to want to Put on that RIZ (old people joke)

👫 : Men

🌎 : Sold at select stockists internationally, and online with international shipping.

💸 : Approx £60 – £95

🌐rizboardshorts.com

WHAT WE ❤️

Textile: Very “ocean” appropriate, Riz uses certified rPET, made from recycled plastic bottles from a Taiwanese supplier for their textiles. They digitally print their designs in the UK with water based inks. 💦

Labor: They work with only one facility in Portugal to make their shorts, and they’ve had a long relationship with them. They visit at least once a year, and while they don’t have a social monitoring system in place, nor does the facility pursue any certifications, they do insist that they pay workers a fair wage. 💰

Environment: All the trunks are triple stitched to reduce wear and tear on these surf ready durable shorts – it takes 20 recycled plastic bottles to make just one pair! Riz also works to reduce its waste footprint by teaming up with other brands to utilise surplus fabric that’s generated from its own production.

Innovation: One of the first companies to do so, Riz has a take back programme called “RizCycling”. Bonus points for a great pun.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

While their facility is in Europe, meaning there are labor laws in place and enforced, we can’t always default that made in the EU or the USA is 100 a-okay. Make sure that a brand can tell you about what is happening in its facility, and see if they’re willing to dialogue on it – Riz was super responsive with us, and we acknowledge that as a small supply chain, they’re still building out their social programs. We’d like to see some more formalized terms and programs for their workers in the future. We’d also like to see them share care instructions with shoppers so they can help their new swimming trunks last even longer! 📝

• • •

Read more about Riz Boardshorts on their Project JUST Wiki brand page.

FINCH DESIGNS

We like them in a pinch, and actually all the rest of the time, too.

👫 : Women + Men

🌎 : Sold online with international shipping.

💸 : Approx AUD 60 – AUD 160

🌐finchdesigns.com

WHAT WE ❤️

Textile: Made, yes you guessed it, from fully recycled polyester. These prints are for sure those Lands End / LL Bean type of looks that your mom might have loved when you were a kid… but we’re actually still pretty into it. Retro, right? We love that they also use sublimation and digital printing (more on that in the context research below ⬇️).

Labor: Finch shared a BSCI audit report with us from their facility in China, which is about as transparent as you can get. 🔍 However, this audit report did get a C, largely due to factory going over maximum working hours standard.

Environment: They’ve set out to have a completely circular supply chain from 2020 (so close), and they’re applying for B-Corp certification. Both their facilities have wastewater treatment in place. ♻️

Innovation: These guys create a full spectrum of silhouettes, ranging from bikinis to burkinis! No plastic packaging either – they send your suit to you in a complimentary rPET waterproof rucksack. Also their products are made using certified Repreve rPET yarn, which has a tracer agent embedded in the fibre, allowing its recycled content to be confirmed – the future is here 🤖.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

The C on the audit report gave us pause. 🤔 But when we knew it was tied to just one issue – working hours – and that Finch is just one of many brands using the facility, we realized they don’t have much leverage in this situation. But their honesty about it and how they’re working on it impressed us. This is the reality for so many brands trying to improve the apparel supply chain – it ain’t easy to do the right thing.

• • •

Read more about Finch Designs on their Project JUST Wiki brand page.

SHAPES IN THE SAND

Are sand angels a thing? Cuz we’re in and we’re wearing these guys.

👫 : Women

🌎 : Sold online with international shipping

💸 : Approx AUD 90 – AUD 150

🌐shapesinthesand.com.au

WHAT WE ❤️

Textile: Shapes uses Econyl, aka recycled nylon, and recycled polyester. They use sublimation printing, which means no water is used to print, and their fabrics are all Oeko-Tex certified aka no harmful chemicals 👏🏼

Labor: Even as a pretty small brand, they have a code of conduct (our researchers are bowing down 🙌🏽)! The facility, which employs ten people, is also local to the brand’s HQ, so they visit frequently, and are working on receiving an Ethical Clothing Australia certification.

Environment: They use their scraps to make macrame ties and drawstring bags. And on the “rewear” front, many of their suits are reversible. 💯

Innovation: It feels like this brand has thought of every little detail. Bra cup waste is recycled into carpet underlay, and they’re super communicative and thoughtful with their consumers – even their care tags are printed with biodegradable and water based ink. They’re also proactive – they reached out to the Econyl facility in Slovenia and asked them to participate in Fashion Revolution Day with a, “I made your fibre” sign. 📣

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

No take back program as of yet, but they did tell us they’re working on it. We’re also curious to see how this brand ensures it maintains these high standards as they grow. 📈

• • •

Read more about Shapes in the Sand on their Project JUST Wiki brand page.

RISING STARS 💫

There were a few brands out there which were TOTAL standouts, but still have some work to do before we can give them the full SOA. Nonetheless – check out these brands, keep any eye on them and give them some LOVE.

MARA HOFFMAN

Turning over a new leaf 🍃

👫 : Women & Men

🌎 : Sold in stores in the US, and online with international shipping.

💸 : Approx $70 – $325

🌐marahoffman.com

This brand didn’t start out to be an ethical sustainable brand, but over the last year or so, they’ve had a serious epiphany and got right to work switching things up to get it right. They make their swimsuits in the USA and it’s all made from recycled fibers and printed digitally. They’ve still got some catching up to do – they need to be able to trace down the supply chain and their operating guidelines are a good start but not enough with a bigger supply chain – but keep an eye on these guys / take a look at them right now!

• • •

Read more about Mara Hoffman on their Project JUST Wiki brand page.


LIAR THE LABEL

Truthfully, pretty fantastic. 💯

LiartheLabel

👫 : Women

🌎 : Available in stores in Australia, and online with international shipping.

💸 : Approx AUD 50 – AUD 90

🌐liarthelabel.com.au

This brand is using econyl (recycled nylon, duh) and made in Australia, and their aim is to make timeless designs that won’t wear out, or go out of style. They’re just starting out, so they didn’t have a code of conduct, traceability or any additional info to share about their facility in Australia but we think they are fully on the learning curve and ready to make waves (pun fully intended).

• • •

Read more about Liar the Label on their Project JUST Wiki brand page.

A FEW MORE OPTIONS

We’d be remiss not to mention these two other brands that have already received our Seal of Approval in other categories – we think they def deserve a look for Swimwear, too!

ELLE EVANS

Super fun prints and they use econyl – Elle Evans has its own wonderful, small facility in Australia. 🇦🇺

PATAGONIA

We sincerely hope you know these guys by now, but their swimwear (like everything else they make!) is legit, too 👍🏼

THE COMMITTEE

We’re so honored to have an all star committee of style, context and industry experts join us in selecting the top swimwear brands to receive our Seal of Approval ⭐️ They are:
HANNAH LANE

Communications & Sponsorship Director
Redress Asia
Industry Expert

SARAH DITTY

Head of Policy
Fashion Revolution
Industry Expert

KESTREL JENKINS

Founder & Producer
Conscious Chatter
Context + Style Expert

JACINTA FITZGERALD

Head of Research
Project JUST
Project JUST Committee Member

WILLIAM ROSSI

Ambassador Program Lead
Project JUST
Project JUST Committee Member

THE BASELINE

Before we do a deep dive into any brand, we look at the environmental and social practices of each of the nominated brands and whether or not they share enough information for us to research. In some cases, brands are doing great work from an environmental perspective, but share little or nothing on their labor practices, and vice versa – which isn’t enough to get them shortlisted. In addition to looking at how transparent the brand is, we also consider availability, accessibility (size and price) quality and aesthetic. Unfortunately, even if a brand self identifies as ethical but doesn’t share how, we can’t shortlist them for in-depth research.

We had 117 nominations for swimwear. Click here to see the full list!

Looking for information on the Seal of Approval process + criteria?FIND OUT MORE

THE CONTEXT

Riding the wave towards circular design.

🌊🌊🌊

 Many swimwear brands are super passionate about the environment + cleaning up our oceans – and as a result, have really focused on adopting both materials and manufacturing practices that are circular ♺ – from recycled fibres, to zero waste design. Here’s a look at what to keep an eye out for the next time you’re on the hunt for a truly sustainable bathing suit. 👙

RAW MATERIALS & FABRICS

NYLON

A synthetic, petroleum-based fabric – nylon is essentially a thermoplastic that undergoes a super intensive chemical process (condensation polymerisation), resulting in a polymer, which is ultimately melted and woven into a stretchy, durable fabric.

It’s the most commonly used fabric in swimwear, despite the fact that it can be weakened over time with exposure to chlorine and the sun, and its colors fade away easily, giving it a shorter life than polyester. 🤔 However, it’s extremely strong, light in weight and abrasion resistant.

Apart from being a non-renewable, carbon-intensive, petroleum-based fibre, the production of nylon itself is responsible for 5 to 8% of global anthropogenic emissions of nitrous oxide, an especially potent greenhouse gas that heavily contributes to global warming. To put that in perspective, a single pound of nitrous oxide on global warming is almost 300 times that of the same amount of carbon dioxide. 😱

Nylon production is also extremely energy intensive and the fibre isn’t biodegradable, which means that it will persist in the environment for ever and ever. This is particularly alarming because two of the largest sources of micro plastic pollution in our oceans are – you guessed it – nylon fishing nets and micro-fibres that wear off from washing, contributing slowly but surely to the diets of marine animals and the Great Pacific garbage patch. 😟

Recycled nylon in the form of ECONYL® yarn is made using both post-consumer waste in the form of discarded fishing nets and “fluff” – the upper part of old, spent, nylon carpets, and pre-consumer waste in the form of fabric scraps and industrial plastic waste. Waste collected from around the world is sent to its treatment facilities in Slovenia, where it is transformed using a closed loop system into 100% regenerated and regenerable Nylon (read more about their process here).

Apart from avoiding the extraction of crude oil completely, Econyl textile yarn requires only half the amount of energy to produce as its supplier, Aquafil’s, virgin nylon, and reduces CO2 emissions by 50%. No wonder that it has been widely adopted by a number of swimwear and sportswear brands, including some of the brands mentioned above. 🏊

POLYESTER

Fossil fuel fabrics. Just the name is enough to make us cringe. 😖 Polyester, like other synthetics, is a petroleum-based fibre that unfortunately, because it doesn’t require much special care and is fairly durable, is now the most commonly used fibre in clothing.

Because it also doesn’t absorb water, is very quick in drying and is chlorine resistant – it’s a pretty commonly used fabric for swimwear. Not to mention that is also has natural UV protection properties, excellent moisture wicking, pilling resistance and breathability – talk about swim-ready 🏊

Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester fibre🛢, and its production is both carbon intensive and non-renewable. It’s also a pretty energy hungry fibre, although not nearly as much as its synthetic counterpart – nylon.

The production of polyester also uses harmful chemicals, including carcinogens (!), that can adversely affect environmental and human health through air and water pollution. Factories that do not treat their wastewater can release dangerous substances like antimony, sodium bromide and titanium dioxide into local water systems. ⚠️

Most of the world’s clothing and textiles end up in landfills, and with polyester – it could take up to 200 years to decompose. To make matters worse, synthetic fibres release toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, heavy metals and PFCs into the environment – over all those 200 years. 😷

Almost all recycled polyester (rPET) in textiles comes from recycling plastic bottles ♻️, which replaces the need for primary extraction of crude oil. Its manufacturing requires 70% less energy than virgin polyester production, and also reduces the amount of landfill disposal, GHG emissions, and water use.

Thread International works with plastic bottles collected by hand in developing countries, which are then processed into the plastic “flake” in Haiti and Honduras, and shipped to the US to produce their Ground to Good™ fabric. Repreve is an American company that also produces its REPREVE fibre from recycled materials, including plastic bottles. Last but not least, BIONIC is a brand of recycled polyester fibre and yarn made from materials recovered from marine and coastal environments – pretty perfect to make clothes for us to swim in 😉

ELASTANE + PBT

AKA Lycra® or Spandex, elastane is a petroleum based synthetic fibre (or a polyester-polyurethane copolymer, to be exact), which is blended into almost every swimsuit because of its exceptional elasticity, which allows for both a better fit and ease of movement.

PBT, i.e. Polybutylene Terephthalate, is sometimes (though less frequently) used in swimwear as an alternative to elastane. When combined with polyester yarns, PBT has a natural stretch similar to elastane, and is also chlorine resistant. 

Elastane has a limited lifespan of only 5-7 years: especially with prolonged exposure to chlorine, elastane breakage weakens the fabric over time, which causes it to lose its shape, fit and aesthetic. 

Like many other petroleum based fabrics, elastane’s raw material is non-renewable, and its production is carbon and energy intensive, and non-biodegradable – which means that when its tossed out after only few years of wear (thanks to its limited lifespan!), it ends up sitting in a landfill for several decades, releasing scary and harmful chemicals like PFCs into the environment.

PBT, which is essentially a texturized polyester with natural stretch, has all the same issues related to it – more than just a mouthful to chew on. 😧

Invista, the world’s largest integrated producer of polymers and fibers (including Lycra), has committed to reduce their energy intensity by 20% by 2020. To address the lifespan issue, textiles made with Invista’s Lycra Xtra Life fibre reportedly last up to 10 times longer than fabrics made without treated elastane. ⏰

Invista has also developed Bio-Based LYCRA, 70% of which is made using a renewable raw material source: corn derived dextrose (BDO). 🌽

GARMENT PRODUCTION + FINISHING

DYEING + PRINTING

ISSUES:

The dyeing and printing process can utilise harmful, scary petro-based chemicals and heavy metal agents like azo dyes (poly-azo compounds that can rub off easily on skin, sometimes causing skin allergies, dermatitis, and reportedly even cancer), as well zinc, copper and chromium. Apart from the hazard these compounds place on our own bodies, dyeing and printing can be hugely resource intensive, utilising enormous amounts of water, and also massively polluting the World Bank estimates that 20% of global industrial water pollution is generated from treating and dyeing textiles.

INNOVATIONS:

It’s always best to look out for products or brands that are Oeko-Tex / bluesign certified, which ensure the elimination of nasty chemicals and heavy metal agents in the dyeing process. 

With respect to printing, sublimation printing is a great alternative as it employs a heat-transfer method that doesn’t use any harsh chemicals or water, plus it doesn’t fade over time. Generally, sublimation printing works very well with polyester, with mixed results with nylon. When compared with screen printing, digital printing has reduced energy usage, reduced wastewater by 60%, and by-production of waste dyes is almost entirely eliminated.

ZERO WASTE + CIRCULAR DESIGN

We’re now witnessing a major shift in the apparel industry from a linear (take, make, dispose) approach to design and production, to a circular (redesigned to be reused and recycled) one. We were delighted to see this shift while researching swimwear, where a number of brands have adopted a range of circular practices, right from the design process (such as zero waste designs), to the raw materials they choose to work with (like recycled polyester and nylon), to their finishing processes (such as wastewater treatment mechanisms).

INNOVATIONS TO LOOK OUT FOR:

Design and Construction: zero waste designs that efficiently utilise fabrics, and are less trend-driven, with a focus instead on construction that prioritizes performance and longevity.

Recycled + Recycable / Biodegradable Materials: sourcing materials that are renewable, and can be repurposed or redesigned to be used again. Examples include recycled yarns like REPREVE and ECONYL and bio-based yarns Ingeo and Sorona.

Production and Finishing: sublimation printing and digital printing, which require less water and also allow for the most efficient utilisation of fabrics and materials in order to minimise waste, as well as wastewater treatment plants that are able to recycle water up to over 90% within manufacturing facilities.

 

WHAT'S NEXT?

Underwear! 🍑 Coming July 2017.
VIEW ALL SEAL OF APPROVAL CATEGORIES
DISCLAIMER:

Project JUST does not receive any compensation for our research and selection of Seal of Approval lists.

To continue to provide you, the shopper and member of our Project JUST community, with credible research and analysis, we have partnerships with some of the Seal of Approval brands to serve as their affiliate. Once and only if a brand is selected, do they have the opportunity to participate in our online shop and we at Project JUST receive a small percentage of the sale if a reader discovers and chooses to shop a Seal of Approval brand. This allows you to directly shop from sustainable, ethical Seal of Approval brands and allows Project JUST to continue our due diligence and research work. If you have any questions or comments about our partnerships with Seal of Approval brands or Project JUST, please send them to info@projectjust.com.