Updated: Nov 24, 2022
The temperatures are rising and, all of a sudden, days at the beach and by the pool don’t seem too far away!
If you are on the hunt for new togs (swimsuit for those non-NZ readers) and want to make a conscious, sustainable choice (YAY YOU!) then you’ll be happy to hear that NZ has a number of sustainable swimwear brands, some are even made right here in New Zealand.
Until recently, the swimwear industry was completely dependent on materials made from polyester. The exciting news is that there are now eco-friendly swimwear fabrics, which most of the brands in this article are using. The main fabric used for sustainable swimwear is ECONYL®. So, before I launch into the amazing swimwear brands, let’s start with a quick run down of this amazing fabric:
Manufactured in Italy, ECONYL® is made from 100% nylon waste material, including discarded carpets, plastic components and ghost fishing nets that litter our oceans. It is produced within a closed loop, which means it can be recycled infinitely without loss of quality. In other words, ECONYL® can be recycled, recreated and remoulded again and again. It’s recycling and up-cycling taken to epic levels. Amazing stuff.
And now, bring on the brands….
Nisa is an ethical fashion label and social enterprise based in Wellington, New Zealand. They offer a fully-reversible swimwear range to allow you to wear two different colours in the same style. This year's swim collection features three one-pieces, two bikinis, and a rash top, including some higher coverage options for those who want a bit more protection from the sun. The 2022 collection also features gorgeous gingham prints in black and red.
Nisa's mission is to employ women from refugee and migrant backgrounds, who work together to sew all of Nisa's garments in their central Wellington workshop. The workshop is a place to develop work experience, improve English and start a long and fulfilling career in Aotearoa New Zealand. Sustainability is at the core of Nisa's production, so each swimwear garment is made from ECONYLⓇ regenerated nylon and deadstock fabrics.
“Nisa Swim brings beautiful to ethical by using fabric from recycled materials to make swimwear that celebrates and supports women.”
Price-range: Approx $129 (separates) -$249 (one piece)
Made in: Wellington, New Zealand. Their workshop is open to the public, and has a shop inside.
Packaging: Wrapped in tissue, then sent inside a mailer made from recycled paper.
Other: NISA currently employs seven refugee women, and has the dream to build an alumni of 100 former employees who go on to inspire their own communities.
NISA places huge focus on quality, creating garments that will be worn and loved for a long time.
Find the NISA range here.
The thing that sets Emroce apart from all other sustainable swimwear brands in the world is the fact that they cut everything from zero waste patterns and create no fabric waste in their production process.
With normal pattern making between 15% & 40% of the fabric is sent to landfill.
Emroce have been making waves in Italy for years, but the craziness of 2020 has brought founder Emma and her family back to her homeland of NZ - which is exciting news for us Kiwis! Now based in Pāpāmoa, the Emroce zero-waste swimwear collection is designed and made right here in New Zealand with high-quality, recycled Italian fabrics.
"The main aim for our swimwear is to be zero waste and functional with a perfect fit. We don't make anything for pure aesthetics. We don't follow trends. We cut every style back to it's basic necessities. We would never add an extra strap or frill to make the garment prettier. We would only do so, in order to make the garment function better or to use any scrap fabric that would otherwise become waste."
Price-range: $50(separates) - $95(one pieces)
Fabric: ECONYL® Renew prime
Made in: New Zealand.
Packaging: The swimwear is placed in a brown paper parcel and closed with brown paper tape. The cardboard swing tags are attached with 100% cotton twine.
Other: Each style is cut from a tessellating pattern which leaves no waste. Thread off-cuts are used to stuff cushions, they even use recycled paper for their patterns! After 7 years of manufacturing, no fabric waste has ever left the studio. Based on the average fabric waste caused during clothing production they have saved between 150 to 300 meters of fabric from going to landfill. They also offer some young girls' styles and a collection of non-binary / trans-inclusive swimwear.
Find the Emroce swimwear range here.
Aurai fuses owner and designer Natalia’s life in Auckland, New Zealand, with her hometown in Brazil. The designs are simple but eye-catching, always with a point of difference. Not only are her pieces made from recycled materials and ethically created, the materials are also locally sourced to minimise the cost and impact of transportation. One of the NGOs they work with, Paddle for Hope, has also been their inspiration to make most of their pieces mastectomy friendly.
“AURAI is an eco & ethical swimwear brand propped up by an intimate flair with surf and beach culture and deep respect for nature, created by italo-brazilian designer Natalia Bertolo.”
Price-range: $69 (separates) - $149
Fabric: Their materials include ECONYL®. They have also introduced AMNI SOUL ECO®, made from a polyamide with an improved formulation that accelerates biodegradation in the anaerobic environment, common in most landfills. Also, AMNI SOUL ECO® is a yarn developed and produced in Brazil. Both fabrics are OEKO TEX certified, i.e., zero harmful substances are used in their manufacturing.
Made in: Brazil. The swimsuits are carefully handmade at a small family-owned atelier in Natalia’s hometown in southern Brazil, where she locally sources most of the materials.
Packaging: The packaging consists of a reusable compostable pouch or 100% recycled paper pillow box, wrapped in a compostable shipping bag.
Other: In collaboration with Paddle for Hope, they were inspired to convert most of their SS19 collection into mastectomy-friendly designs. There are not many stylish swimwear options in the market for women who have been through a mastectomy. They make annual donations to Paddle for Hope. Almost all the AURAI pieces feature functional design, such as reversible options and customizable ties.
Find the Aurai range here.
When a business’s mantra is “People over profits” you know you’re onto a good thing. Thunderpants really are a good thing. Based in Martinborough, Thunderpants are truly NZ made. Traditionally in the business of undies, years ago they branched out into swimwear and loungewear. When they could no longer source NZ made fabric, they made the switch to ECONYL® last year. The styles are simple, with mix and match separates, a swim dress, a one piece and several new styles on their way over the summer.
‘We are not really about fashion. Our swimwear is all about being sustainable, comfy, modest, hardwearing and... swimming.’
Price-range: $88 (separates) - $188 (one pieces)
Made in: All Thunderpants products are made in New Zealand, with the swimwear being sewn in Auckland.
Packaging: Unable to find a viable non plastic, eco-friendly option for supply in NZ, Thunderpants imports Eco-enclose mailers (recycled and recyclable), from the USA by the pallet.
Other: They're working towards being Carbon Neutral and are Fairtrade certified. Thunderpants supports a huge amount of charities and local schools, community groups and events. Check out their website for more of the good stuff they do.
Find the Thunderpants swimwear range here.
Funky style, sustainability and coverage all rolled into one swimwear brand! Hākinakina sun tops, suits, shorts and bottoms are designed and made right here in New Zealand, with careful consideration of the fierce NZ sun. The fabric is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and has a UPF 50+ sun protection rating. Knowing that fashion is the second most polluting industry (after mining), they work hard to create products that withstand the test of time, both in terms of style and quality.
“We’ve always had the feeling that serious play and skimpy swimwear are two things that just do not go together when you live in New Zealand. you want to be able to relax, have fun, and do whatever you want without the fear your swimwear will leave you, well, exposed. Exposed to the sun’s harmful rays and sometimes, just plain exposed!"
Price-range: $150 (separates) - $280 (long-sleeved one pieces)
Fabric: Hākinakina fabric is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. It’s manufacture also emits fewer greenhouse gases than traditional fabric, uses waterless printing and is powered purely by green solar energy.
Made in: New Zealand
Packaging: All packaging is plastic free and 100% recyclable or compostable, inclusive of swing tags, satchels and hygiene labels.
Other: All pieces are made to order so they can be sure that every piece made goes to a happy home rather than landfill. They also reduce waste by releasing small collections a couple of times a year. Plus, when your piece does eventually wear out, send it back to them for recycling and they will give you an exclusive discount to use on your next Hākinakina purchase.
Find the Hakinakina range here.
Saltysea is a swim and activewear brand based in Waihi Beach, New Zealand, where they have also recently opened their flagship store 'Slowly Garden'. They place a huge focus on transparency and ethical working conditions, right down to ensuring that their manufacturers supply a daycare service and healthcare benefits for their staff. They use recycled fabrics, biodegradable packaging and even make their business cards out of teeshirt offcuts! New colours coming this summer.
“We create socially conscious and ethically made collections designed for those on the move who respect sustainability and the positive impact we can have."
Price-range: $69 (separates) - $129 (one pieces)
Fabric: The swimwear is made from ECONYL® and Eco Olympus.
Made in: Bali, by a small family owned business.
Packaging: Only biodegradable packaging is used; eco-friendly tissue paper, compostable stickers and biodegradable courier bags.
Other: Stephanie is working on an initiative with her manufacturer where all material off cuts will be used to create dog beds donated to the animal shelters for stray dogs in Bali. Saltysea also creates a basics range for men consisting of boardshorts and 100% bamboo tees.
Find the Saltysea range here.
Salt really take the environment into consideration every step of the way. From fabric to packaging, carbon offsetting to the hygiene strips… everything is done with the environment in mind. They also offer more styles and sizes (10-18) than most eco-conscious swimwear labels.
'Salt is an eco-conscious swimwear label which was born out of a lifelong infatuation with nature and a heart yearning to help restore the environment.'
Price-range: $90 (separates) - $120 (one pieces)
Made in: Australia. All swimsuits are hand-made under ethical fair trade practices.
Packaging: The swimwear is packaged with recycled plastic zip lock bags (which they encourage buyers to reuse) and then packaged in a 100% biodegradable mailer bag. Even their tissue paper and hygiene stickers are eco-friendly! The tissue paper is printed using soy-based inks, and the hygiene stickers are currently making the switch from plastic to paper. They’re even getting rid of the hang tags!
Other: Salt offer a take back programme for all Salt swimwear. They recycle and repurpose it; The fabric is returned to their manufacturer and repurposed as microfibers in other materials like car interiors, floor mats, carpet, office chairs etc. You also get a $10 gift voucher when you use the take back programme.
Salt is also working on carbon-offset initiaves. They are reducing their emissions, offsetting through Auckland company Carbonclick, and also offer an offsetting option for customers (which adds $2 to your purchase).
For every order placed, Salt donates $1 to help Sustainable Coastlines with their mission.
Find the Salt range here.
GEMMA LEE SUITS
Gemma Lee suits have recently brought their factory home from Australia to NZ. Vibrant, bold and playful, Gemma Lee creates swimsuits and wetsuits with flair, thinking of the environment every step of the way. Though fully based in New Zealand, they have moved their manufacturing to China.
"...we are committed to creating beautiful wetsuits & swimwear that have the earth in mind. In every decision we make we are conscious of our environmental impact and we make each decision with respect and love for our playground. We craft all our wetsuits & swimwear from eco-conscious materials."
Price-range: $70 (separates) - $149(one pieces)
Made in: Sandy Cheeks Swimwear collection is made in New Zealand, the rest is made in China.
Packaging: Swimsuits are packaged in tissue paper and compostable bags, wetsuits in cardboard boxes. The hygiene stickers are even biodegradable.
Other: Their overseas wetsuit manufacturers are WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) certified organisations. This standard is an ethical social compliance certification that ensures production facilities operate in a safe and socially responsible manner, while making a conscious effort to minimise environmental impact.
Find the Gemma Lee range here.
New arrival to the blog for 2022! Unde is a Kapiti Coast brand that create beautiful underwear, and this year has branched into swimwear (yay!). To avoid waste, they work by pre-order, so you can get your togs made especially for you!
"Since day one of starting UNDE we made a point to only use the kindest materials and processes to make our underwear. We decided we would make our underwear here in Aotearoa (New Zealand) where we could support local whanau (family) and be able to have a close relationship with our makers/creators. We know that everyone is being paid a living wage, are in acceptable working conditions."
Price-range: (prices coming).
Fabric: Made from Recycled Bottles (more info coming).
Made in: New Zealand.
Packaging: No plastic, no tissue paper, no strings attached.
Other: Unde donate to Women's Refuge when they can, and hope to do this more and more as the business grows.
Find the Unde range here.
NOTE: Pre orders for 2022 now closed :(
Keep an eye out in 2023!
Now AWWA is different to the rest of these brands, their swimsuits are made from spandex/polyester, they are manufactured in China / Sri Lanka… so how come they’ve made this list? For a very good reason. These are period togs. Yup, they can hold a tampon worth of flow. So while the materials may not be recycled, they are preventing single-use period products, which is another great way to be sustainable! Oh, and AWWA is also a carbon positive company doing great things for our planet in NZ and beyond. They have the one bikini design, which you can buy as separates or together ($39.50 each).
Find the AWWA period swimwear here.
And we can't forget the kids! Nature Baby have just released a range of SPF50 ECONYL® swimwear for your little ones. The one-piece is $69.95.
Find the super cute design here.
So there you have it! An amazing selection of trail-blazing brands who are making swimwear sustainable and ethical, right here in little old New Zealand.
A final thought: when it comes to swimwear, like all fashion, let's take it slow. Let's use what we have, consider second hand, or invest in quality garments and classic styles, that will stand the test of time. Look after them, cherish them, love them. In the words of Vivienne Westwood: "Buy less, choose well, make it last."