Looking for ethical swimwear? Try some of my favourite sustainable and eco-friendly brands available in the UK right now, catering for both men and women.
I last bought a swimsuit six years ago. Since then my body shape has changed a bit (or maybe my swimsuit has just shrunk…!). As such, I’m now on the hunt for some ethical swimwear. A reader also recently asked me to help them find some affordable ethical swimwear too, so I thought it was a good time to write a blog post about swimwear!
Once a tiny niche market, the good news is that there are now quite a few sustainable and ethical swimwear brands out there. There are even a few UK-made swimwear companies, some even offering made-to-measure pieces for the perfect fit. Below I have seven of the best UK brands to look out for, updated for 2023.
Ethical Swimwear Made From Recycled Plastic?
The brands I’ve focused on all make their swimwear from recycled plastic. This is because it’s simply not possible to make swimwear from 100% natural fabrics, and still have the properties that we expect swimwear to have.
Conventional swimwear tends to be manufactured from virgin plastics, which are made from fossil fuels. These include fabrics such as nylon and polyester.
Eco-friendly swimwear brands use more eco-friendly fabrics. The most common fabric used by sustainable swimwear brands is ECONYL®.
ECONYL® is an innovative fabric that directly tackles plastic pollution in the ocean by taking nylon waste from carpet offcuts and discarded fishing nets. This waste is then turned into high-performance swimwear fibre. This makes ECONYL® a great sustainable choice compared to conventional nylon, which is virgin plastic made from fossil fuels.
If you want further help with making sustainable fabric choices, then I have this handy guide on what to look for when shopping for ethical clothing. It covers topics such as what fabrics to look for and handily explains what all the different eco-labels mean.
Guide to Ethical & Sustainable Swimwear Brands
Be cool at the pool with my top sustainable swimwear picks for both women and men.
The price range key for this guide is £ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+
Use the quick links below to navigate to information about each brand, or keep scrolling for the full post:
Caters for: Women (UK sizes 6 – 20)
Available directly from RubyMoon
RubyMoon produces vegan-friendly and ethically-made swimwear for active lifestyles.
RubyMoon doesn’t use petroleum to make its swimwear. Instead of virgin plastic in the form of synthetics, it uses waste nylon and plastics.
All of its ECONYL® swimwear and other apparel are manufactured in an ethical and transparent supply chain.
What’s more, its products are OEKO-TEX certified. This is an independent certification that verifies that every component of the product, from the fabric to the thread, has been rigorously tested and found to be free of up to 350 of the most common toxic chemicals used in textile production.
RubyMoon has also carefully considered how its swimwear is made, to ensure it lasts for as long as possible. All of its swimwear has stronger seams – created by increasing the stitch per centimetre. Plus, as its swimwear is both chlorine and salt-water-resistant, it should last you for many swims.
What’s also to love is that Ruby Moon gives back. In fact, 100% of RubyMoon’s profits are donated in the form of microloans to female entrepreneurs in the Global South.
Caters for: Women (UK sizes 6 – 18)
Available directly from Davy J
Davy J swimsuits for women are ethically made using sustainable materials made from ocean waste.
I will say that its sustainable swimsuits are definitely an investment purchase. However, they are designed with longevity in mind. Their double-lined, high elastane composition provides extra strength, durability, and shape. This makes Davy J’s swimsuits good value in the long run if you can splash out on them.
Davy J is aiming to build a closed-loop resource system. When your swimsuit does eventually reach the end of its life return the suit to them, and they will find a way to reuse the resources.
Caters for: Men (UK sizes S – XXL)
Available from Brothers We Stand
Riz makes sustainable swim shorts for men.
With the ambitious aim of creating the most beautiful and sustainable swim shorts in the world, I have to say its shorts have been made with every environmental consideration in mind.
As such, all of Riz’s shorts are ethically made in Europe in small batches. Longevity is key, with the shorts being triple-stitched for durability. What’s more, every pair of shorts is crafted from 100% recycled and recyclable fabric. This is then printed in the UK using earth-friendly inks. The shorts are even packaged in recycled and recyclable plastic-free materials.
And even better, its pioneering Rizcycle scheme allows you to return your old shorts in return for a discount on your next pair.
Caters for: Women (UK sizes 8 – 18)
Available directly from Aspiga
For women’s ethical swimwear in stylish prints and beautiful colours, Aspiga – a fair trade and ethical and sustainable fashion brand based in London – is well worth checking out.
As a certified B-Corp, Aspiga has been independently assessed as meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.
Aspiga’s collection of swimsuits and bikinis is made with recycled polyester that has UV protection (SPF50+).
Its flattering double-layered styles are designed to fit beautifully. Some styles offer ruching, which provides a flattering silhouette for all figures, and some offer fuller bust coverage.
Aspiga partners with small suppliers and skilled craftspeople in India and Kenya who share its ethos to create its beautiful fair trade pieces.
Use the exclusive code FREEDELMF23 to get free delivery on all orders at Aspiga until 31/12/2023 (can only be used once per customer).
Caters for: Women (made to measure, so caters for any size)
Available from: Etsy
Made-to-measure ethical swimwear might sound expensive, but UK-based Sprout Organic is here to prove this doesn’t always have to be the case.
Specialising in bikinis made from recycled plastic, all of Sprout Organic’s prints are bright and bold – with a choice between fun dinosaur, lobster, floral or watermelon designs.
Simply pick a design and provide Sprout Organic with your measurements, and the small team will handmake your swimwear in its East Sussex workshop. This means if you require your bikini top to have one cup size bigger or smaller than the other, or longer or shorter straps, then Sprout Organic can do this for you at no extra charge. Inclusive swimwear at its finest.
Whilst the designs are bright, the fit doesn’t take a backseat. All of its swimwear is made with comfort as the main priority.
Sprout Organic strives to be as close to zero waste as possible. All fabric scraps are repurposed or recycled, and all its parcels are sent out in fully recyclable packaging.
Caters for: Men (Sizes XS – 2XL)
Available directly from Colorful Standard
For ethical swim shorts for men in more colours than you could shake a stick at, then head straight to Colorful Standard.
This sustainable brand – which specialises in basics in bright colours – makes all of its swim shorts ethically in Portugal.
Its shorts are made from 56% recycled Q-NOVA. This is an innovative recycled nylon fibre, which has all the stretchy properties of nylon but with a much smaller carbon footprint.
Find swim shorts in 21 colour options. These include classic tones such as black, navy or grey, and soft pastels. Or you can opt for fun brights such as lemon yellow, spring green or Pacific blue (pictured) to make a statement on the beach or at the swimming pool.
What’s to love is that Colorful Standard also plants one tree for every order placed.
Budget: £ – ££
Caters for: Women (UK sizes 6 – 22)
Available directly from Modibodi
Looking for ethical period swimwear, to give confidence in and out of the water during your time of the month? If so, then Modibodi is the place to go.
Famous for its period pants, Modibodi’s swimwear gives you the protection you need without compromising on style.
This female-founded brand uses 78% pre-consumer recycled nylon. And with solid colours to fun brights and patterns, there are heaps of size-inclusive swimwear options to make a splash sustainably.
As well as being size-inclusive, some styles – like the one pictured – offer adjustable wrap details. This means you can adjust your bust and waist to your preferred fit.
Get 10% off your first order when you sign up for the Modibodi newsletter.
How to Wash Swimsuits Sustainably
Even fabrics made from recycled plastic shed microplastics when washed. Ideally, gently hand wash your swimsuit where possible for the lowest environmental impact. However, if you need to wash your swimwear in the washing machine I’d recommend the use of a Guppyfriend microplastic filter to help prevent microplastics from getting into the waterway.
What Else Can I Do?
It’s important to make the ethical fashion movement more inclusive to all. As such, it’s incredibly important to take action beyond your wallet.
To help make ethical fashion more ethical at all price points, things that you can do to help engender change include asking High St brands who make their clothes (see Fashion Revolution for their great resources). This will help press for transparency and sustainability on the High Street, making ethical clothing much more accessible for all.
Representation in Ethical Clothing
Sustainable fashion also lacks diverse representation. Particularly in terms of race, disability, and the LGBTQ+ community. However, there is also a lack of a range of sizes which leaves a large swath of potential would-be customers behind.
Asking your favourite ethical swimwear brand to make their clothes in a wider range of sizes is a great first step. This is because brands won’t consider making their clothes in wider size ranges until there is consumer demand.
Asking brands to use more diverse models, beyond a size 8 able-bodied 20-something white woman is another way to help broaden the appeal of ethical fashion.
And if you plan on enjoying some sun then here’s a post on eco-friendly sunscreen that you might find useful! I’ve also put a women’s ethical clothing guide, as well as a men’s sustainable clothing guide.