This summer has been a scorcher so far. What better way to cool down than spending long lazy days on the beach or by the pool. Buying a new swimsuit can be a challenge, but thankfully there are plenty of sexy, sustainable options out there for the conscious beach babe.
Drawing inspiration from nude shades and sand-speckled skin tones illuminated by the golden hues of the California sun, Cali Dreaming creates timeless swimwear that emphasizes seamless silhouettes and textures. While these suits may require a bit of a tan to come into their own, the effect of the subtle shades on sun-kissed skin is quite gorgeous. Because the styles are simple and tend to blend with the wearer’s skin and subtly disappear, they can also easily double as underwear. The latest collection features simple styles, including triangle bikinis, bandeau tops and strapless one-pieces, in muted, flattering solids and timeless prints of faded cheetah and classic stripes. Texture and mesh fabric details provide visual interest without compromising the brand’s signature simplicity. Just like its home state, Cali Dreaming celebrates natural beauty.
LA-based swimwear designer Ashley Paige has been making spectacular suits for jetsetting Hollywood types since the 90s. Carefully made by hand and embellished with delicate beading, tassels and exquisite patterns, these bikinis are about as haute hippie as it gets. Definitely not for the shy ones, Paige’s suits have been spotted on celebrities like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Liv Tyler and the Hilton Sisters. Paige’s suits are notoriously hard to find online, but if you are in LA be sure to visit her recently opened shop on the corner of Sunset Boulevard, where the designer frequently hosts parties and events. When not designing bikinis, Ashley Paige is a devoted advocate for environmental and animal welfare and sometimes uses her store to facilitate animal adoptions.
Eco-Swim by Aqua Green
A 4th generation family business, Eco Swim by Aqua Green is based in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and, although it is now a global company, still does everything from design to cut and sew locally. With a line consisting of everything from simple to sporty to pinup-worthy polka dot suits and bikinis, their mission is to provide fashion-forward, high-quality swimwear that is also planet friendly, thus reducing the company’s “footprint in the sand.” Eco Swim does this by embracing sustainable technologies and methods, and all their swimwear is made from recycled materials. At the offices, an internal green team heads up initiatives that include simple changes such as a corporate ban on purchases of styrofoam, recycling of all paper, plastics, light bulbs, and color cartridges. Looking toward the future, Eco Swim is also engaged in more complicated efforts like sustainable fabric initiatives with long term fabric suppliers. The company also regularly organizes beach clean-ups and is also involved in community-focused philanthropy, benefiting the families of employees as well as the local community. Eco Swim aims to be the most sustainable swimwear manufacturer on the planet. They know they’re not there yet, but have made a commitment toward trying harder every day. That, for many, is the most important part.
A Brazilian model, Gabriela Dias has traveled the world modeling swimwear, and knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a girl look her best on the beach. Her eponymous swimwear line is now in it second year and Dias is highly passionate about creating pieces that she knows women will love wearing. Having spent a good part of her life in a bikini, she also has made sure that her suits are comfortable to wear. In true Brazilian fashion, her line celebrates the female figure and has both bikinis and one-pieces in vibrant colors with unexpected details like braiding, hand-embroidered detailing, shells and other adornments. Dias is also committed to ecological and social responsibility, and carefully hand-selects all fabrics, and all suits are handmade in Brazil by skilled local artisans in certified facilities. Besides ensuring that her line is ethically manufactured, Dias is also in the process of partnering with non-profit organizations to further give back to her homeland. “I get to create my designs in my native country and contribute to the fair working conditions of locals,” she says. “I think that might be what’s most rewarding.”
Karla Colletto uses innovative fabrics and cutting-edge techniques to make tailored one-pieces and bikinis that could best be described as aquatic couture. These suits are made for lounging by the pool with a cocktail in hand and wide-brimmed hat shading you from the sun. Unexpected details like rope ties, twists and cutouts give the pieces an attitude and ensures that the exquisite fabrics are allowed to shine. Karla Colletto received her design education is New England and learned the business by creating everything from sportswear to custom bridal gowns, which may explain why her influences seem to be both glamorous and sporty at the same time. Each piece is carefully designed and manufactured in-house, ensuring that you will get many years of wear out of a piece, if it’s cared for properly. Colletto’s suits have been seen in Sports Illustrated’s famed swimsuit issue as well as on a pregnant Uma Thurman.
There’s something distinctly glamorous about Olga Olsson’s suits, which look like they belong on a 50s screen siren lounging by a pool somewhere in Palm Springs. Inspired by beaches, mountains, lakes, and cities around the world, designer Ruth Ferguson creates pieces with clean silhouettes, made from luxuriously soft fabrics. The simplicity of her designs ensures that the natural beauty of the raw materials as well as the craftsmanship are allowed to shine. With a focus on ethics and the environment, Olga Olsson, which is partly named after Ferguson’s grandmother, works to support and empower small producers worldwide. Her suits are handmade in Brazil by women who are paid a fair living wage. The manufacturing chain is carefully evaluated to find the most sustainable option for everything from fabrics to printing to manufacturing. A native of England, Ferguson has lived and worked in Cuba, Africa, Central America and Brazil and, after graduating from the London College of Fashion, she worked for high-profile designers like Alexander McQueen and Matthew Williamson. During London Fashion Week 2010, the line was awarded the Ethical Fashion Forum’s Innovation Prize, which rewards innovation in design and sustainability.
Crochet bikinis have come a long way since the 70s and are now a veritable beach staple. Ambika Conroy may have contributed to the renaissance of crochet swimwear when one of her bikinis was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. The teeny bikini, beautifully worn by model Petra Nemcova, was chosen to grace the cover among the thousands submitted — only about 70 even make it into the magazine each year — a big deal, needless to say. Since then, Ambika’s bikinis have been featured in most major fashion magazines and worn by celebrities ranging from Rosanna Arquette to Carmen Electra. Conroy started crocheting to pass time while working as an assistant on photo shoots. People started taking notice and a business was born. The skimpy bikinis, some of which are gorgeously embellished with beads and hardware, are hand-crocheted by Conroy herself or one of the artisans she employs, some who are well into their seventies. Made from 98% cotton and 2% elastic, the suits fit snugly and won’t sag or stretch when you get into the water. All are lined with nude fabric to provide coverage and, if cared for properly, the colors won’t fade. Besides making bikinis, Conroy also has a farm of angora rabbits in Upstate New York, which she uses to craft incredibly soft “friendly fur” angora creations such as hats, leg warmers and gloves.
In a country famous for surfing and beautiful beaches it would only make sense that there is at least one company making cute suits and bikinis that are also easy on the planet. Created by Australian designer Jess Salter, Emobi makes fun, fresh, girly swimwear that will be sure to make anyone wearing it happy. Emobi (pronounced e-moby) is a French Polynesian name meaning birth. Launched at Australian Fashion Week in 2007, the line quickly gained international recognition and was during its first year featured in International press including Collezioni Beachwear, Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, InStyle, and Glamour, Zest, Company and Fashion TV. As well as leading UK newspapers, including gracing the front page of The Independent Newspaper, in the first year. All Emobi swimwear is made in Sydney, Australia, using premium breathable UPF 50+ fabric. The colorful prints are original and designed in-house. They’re printed using a range of environmentally friendly water based dyes that minimize the impact on beaches and waterways. The one-pieces, two-pieces and separates all have a slight retro vibe yet manages to be fresh and bold at the same time. They’d feel just as home on a rooftop pool party in Brooklyn as they would on Bondai Beach.
In collaboration with Coco Eco Magazine