As shoppers’ swimwear preferences continue to evolve, a number of direct-to-consumer companies are rising up to meet their demands, touting lower prices and environmentally friendly designs.
The influx of niche lines is largely a result of a void in the market for simple suits made with high-quality materials designed for longevity. This is paired with a shift in consumer sentiment that increasingly favors one-piece retro styles and athleisure looks, a deviation from the days in which the market was dominated by skimpy bikinis. (According to data from retail analytics firm Edited, one-piece swimsuits are selling out three times faster than they were during the same period last year, and bikini styles available online decreased by nine percent, while one-piece looks increased by 20 percent.) The selling point for these companies is suits made from recycled fabrics, with price tags under $100.
Take LA-based Bikyni, a swimwear line started in 2015, which offers minimalist mix-and-match tops and bottoms that cost $50 each, and $95 one-pieces. This spring, founder Jude Al-Khalil launched the first collection made almost entirely with recycled materials, as the result of consumer feedback expressing interest in eco-friendly options.
“[Companies] we work with are increasing the options of fabrics that have sustainable properties,” she said. “It’s something a lot of fabric companies care about now. We get a lot of inquiries about our practices, as it’s something more and more shoppers are thinking about.”
A bikini by Bikyni
Al-Khalil said she was inspired to start the company after her own exasperating process of tracking down a simple black bikini that was affordable. She keeps costs low by selling direct-to-consumer, cutting out middlemen, as well as closely monitoring the supply chain to identify methods of cutting expenses while not skimping on quality.
“Before I launched Bikyni, I was spending a lot of money on suits that fit me well, which would be upward of $300 on a swimsuit,” she said.
Bikyni’s shift to eco-friendly options is an indication of how conscious consumerism has permeated the swimwear market. Another company now wading into sustainable suits is Reformation. Though the retailer was founded on the basis of using recycled materials and reimagining vintage looks, it launched its first swimwear line in April, a collection catered to the everyday woman.
“As women, we hear a lot of stuff about how we need to get ready for swimsuit season and how we’re supposed to look. But it’s kind of all bullshit,” the brand said in a statement announcing the line. “When you think about ‘swimwear,’ you might think about supermodels on exotic beaches or bloggers posing on yachts, but that’s just not how most of us wear a swimsuit.”
Ref Swim is here. We can’t help with bad tan lines, sweat or sand in weird places. But we did make some damn cute suits with tops and bottoms you can mix and match. #refswim
A post shared by Reformation (@reformation) on
An Instagram posted by Reformation announcing its new swim line
Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin — co-founder of Summersalt, a St. Louis-based swimwear company that launched today — designed her entire debut collection along with co-founder Lori Coulter using recycled polyamide. Summersalt was created with the current retail renaissance in mind, taking tips from successful wholesale companies like Everlane and Glossier, which thrive on simple, high-quality products. Like Bikyni, suits are priced at $95.
“We really wanted to not compromise on quality for sustainability, nor sustainability for quality. We tried to meet where it all aligned with price,” she said.
She described the suits as a mix between “Speedo and sexy.” In addition to traditional suits, Summersalt offers “swim leggings” and tank tops designed for high-performance swimming and as an alternative for conservative consumers.
A major priority for Chamberlin is to promote styles that last for more than one season, adding that the practice of buying poorly made, disposable suits is not only bad for the environment, but it’s cumbersome for shoppers.
“We know our consumers, as millennial women, are price-sensitive but are willing to pay for something that’s good quality,” she said. “We wanted swimwear that would last. Before, you’d spend between $200 and $300 dollars on a quality swimsuit, but we didn’t think that was palatable for the modern woman.”