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Eco-friendly swimsuits and Indian resort labels’s new sustainable wave

Swimwear’s relationship with the oceans makes it a category that should focus on responsible fashion, something Indian resort fashion brands are now waking up to. Hello eco-friendly swimsuits.

A good swimsuit is functional, fashionable, and must dry with ease. For this reason, they have traditionally been made with stretch-happy fabrics like nylon and spandex that have high plastic content. The ocean’s enemy, by 2050, plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish, drowning out one of our most important natural resources. The implications of this are catastrophic. 

Sustainable swimsuits

The good news is that Indian fashion is doing its bit to counter this trend. Verandah was one of the first Indian labels to look at making swimwear sustainable. Founder Anjali Patel Mehta, an avid swimmer, always had to shop abroad for her swimwear. It was after she watched the 2015 documentary The True Cost, which highlights how much waste fashion dumps on the planet, that she decided to start work on Verandah Swim, launching it two years ago. “It had to be technically sound, enhance your performance in the water, and look like a second skin when you’re lounging on the beach,” she says. She uses ECONYL, a favoured fabric with many conscious swim brands, and also one that Prada and Gucci use to design handbags from regenerated nylon fabrics, repurposing textiles that would normally go to the landfill or end up in the oceans. Often discarded fishnets are the source for ECONYL.

Swimwear designer Esha Lal, who launched her eponymous eco-conscious resort label last year says, “There is no more room for waste in the world. I did not want to be yet another designer adding to the pollution footprint. The fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, and we must move away from polyester.” A botanical illustrator by training, swimsuits with prints inspired by flora and fauna are her forte. She employs fabrics produced by Italy’s Carvico, a company that has a 360-degree approach to sustainability.

Sustainable swimsuits

Lal has also focused on prices — most of her pieces are well under Rs 5,000. “The price point should be high enough to know the product’s worth and make it comparatively more durable and long-lasting than regular cheaper polyester swimsuits, that are most likely to fall apart after a few wears. Also, swimwear will never last forever irrespective of how well it is made. The sun, sand, salt, chlorine are all super harsh, so it’s important to make swim pieces that will not pinch the customers’ pockets”.

There is no question that women of style are now looking for sustainability. Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber have been spotted in US swimwear brand OOKIOH, started by an Odisha-born Vivek Agarwal, who uses upcycled fabrics. He founded the brand three years ago and says, “It seems inconceivable now, but there were only a handful of sustainable swim brands in the market back then, and most of them were pricy or boring.” He keeps a keen eye on the Indian market and observes, “Swimwear is still a niche in India and on the verge of becoming a category. In 2018, India had one or two homegrown brands in this category, but the number has grown to 5-6 now. It’s a remarkable growth rate.” And when you wear a garment that you know is eco-conscious, it just makes you feel good — even if you don’t have that ‘beach body’.

All images: Courtesy Getty

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Verandah launches its online store early next year, and has just opened its flagship boutique in Goa. All the label’s pieces have a feel of boho glam, and their colour-blocked halter maillot, in white and blue, is one you can picture Farah Fawcett or Bianca Jagger in. In fact, Ujjwala Raut has been spotted in this one.

The Veni Vedi Amavi Monokini has a vintage feel and marries the modesty and comfort of a one-piece with the sensuality of a bikini. The floral print in muted pastels has a delicate yet elegant feel. “I believe swimsuits should be as comfortable as your favourite lingerie that you can wear all the time. Our one-piece has an underwire that fits just like a perfect bra and accentuates femininity along with being sturdy,” says designer Esha Lal.

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If you are a bikini girl, then the Azure Monaco and Como Set may be a welcome addition to your beach wardrobe. The brand calls this bikini bottom the ‘Mom Jeans of Bikini bottom’ — its high cut leg makes you seem longer and leaner. Wear it with the Como top, featuring a contoured underwire — it promises to turn you into a ‘bombshell’. This duo is one of the independent label’s bestsellers.

Shop the Monaco Bottom here

They are India’s OG luxe holiday brand and are working on a line of swimsuits made of sustainable fabrics that are slated to launch next year. Part of their #resorttorestore project, 25 percent of sales from the Mujigay Knotted One-Shoulder Maillot goes to Goonj for the rehabilitation of migrant workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With its colourful diagonal lines, this is a bold and beautiful piece. It is about mindful purchases for this brand. “You need to invest in a swimsuit for the long run and not just your upcoming holiday,” says Narresh Kukreja, creative director of the label.

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Many high street brands offer swim pieces that have a sustainable approach to fashion—and that includes ASOS. The ‘Little Black One Piece’ never goes out of style, but what makes this  mesh insert swimsuit in black by ASOS DESIGN Curve extra special is that it is made with ECONYL, a fabric that uses fisher nets and nylon waste fabric. Being a part of the ‘Curve’ range means it comes in an inclusive range of sizes and includes a maternity fit. You cannot go wrong with this one.

Sujata Assomull

London-born Sujata Assomull is a Dubai-based journalist and author of 100 Iconic Bollywood Costumes. A mindful fashion advocate, she was the launch Editor in Chief of Harper’s Bazaar India. An international chronicler of fashion trends, she is a go-to resource in the industry for commentary on India and the Middle East’s evolving and dynamic markets. Her bylines have appeared in Vogue Business, Business of Fashion, and Arab News. Image: Courtesy Cimmaron Singh