Our Pick of Ethical and Sustainable Swimwear & Activewear Brands
Here you'll find our personal pick of responsible swim and activewear brands. They tend to look at sustainability holistically, but they've all broken down their business in to bite size values that they've tended to across their journeys making for a powerful - and necessary - brand in this competitive space.
LNDR are a London-based brand that have ploughed all of their energy in to creating a strong, powerful and technical brand - in its look and in its product. They have designed and made better quality, long-lasting products with a minimal range in trend-free styling, that will suit any performance level: it's activewear for the streets, the gym or the bar.
Responsible why: we particularly love the seamless knit technology that to us means they've ensured quality factory practices, heritage over speed and a comfortable long-lasting item.
Girlfriend Collective create leggings, sports bras, jackets and shorts from recycled plastic bottles from their certified facility in Taiwan. They began a few years ago with just a pair of black leggings that they shipped direct from their factory to the buyer at cost price. Doing this brought them a loyal following as well as tonnes of publicity and feedback. They've since grown, but still have the underpinning value of transparency, size inclusivity and product that again will last you whether you're working out, or just hanging out.
Responsible why: these are personally tried and tested products that have really stood the test of long-distance running, high powered gym sessions and even gardening. They are compressive, comfortable, not at all sweaty - the fabric and fit is perfect, which is why it took them so long to launch.
SOS Activewear use regenerated ocean plastic for their London-made activewear in a minimally-designed range that definitely performs.
Responsible why: they're made right here in the UK.
Pact create fair trade certified organic cotton clothing including a wide range of leggings that are definitely designed to move with you, and be practical for lounging too. The basics can be worn actively or casually, and they're particularly great if you're not a fan of synthetics.
Responsible why: they manage to produce certified organic clothing in a local fair trade production facility.
FROM's underlying value is that we must know the origin of our raw material. They are unshaken in their honesty about what they use (or don't use) and why. They create yogawear in GOTS-certified organic cotton, certified merino wool and Lenzing Tencel®.
Responsible why: they actively campaign on awareness raising about the chemicals in raw materials. They're completely matter of fact, which to us is sustainable in itself.
We-Ar make yoga clothing that is cosy and definitely has that relaxed beach vibe, from organic cotton, modal and bamboo, as well as working in craftspeople in Bali for screenprinting. We particularly like the men's yoga wear that could definitely be unisex.
Responsible why: they have a Social Profit Porgram that sees yoga training in prisons, plus they are B Corp certified and a Living Wage employer.
Organic Basics have branched out to activewear: tees, boxers, socks. The SilverTech™ activewear in particular uses recycled materials and Polygiene® odourless tech - a Bluesign approved recycled silver salt - meaning that less washing is needed on these everyday items. We like their A-Z of the dirty fashion industry and that they have an Organic Basics Fund that provides support to grassroots environmental organisations.
Adidas are shining their way through with plastic waste campaigning and material innovations. Since 2012 they have been working on tackling plastic waste within their product ranges, and are aiming to be virgin plastic free by 2024. You'll have heard of Parley Ocean Plastic®, incercepted marine waste collected in collaboration with environmental organisation Parley; the collected waste material is turned into yarn in order to replace virgin plastic, seen primarily in shoes but with a wider range rapidly building. They also use recycled polyester from collected plastic (PET) bottles, and the FutureCraft.Loop circular-designed trainers are in beta testing stage with Gen 2 launch date for 2021.
Responsible why: Adidas are giant players, and the steps they are taking are rapidly increasing consumer awareness, demand and engagement.
Organic Yoga Basics create straightforward and uncluttered garments, in a range of colours that you wouldn't likely find elsewhere. They're the sister company of Vege Threads, so also offer swimwear, socks and other cool basics including super nice hemp clothing that could also be used for your movement sessions.
Responsible why: they use locally knitted organic cotton yarns, dyed naturally in small batches (also locally) with the garments also being produced locally in Australia.
Iron Roots make performance wear from hemp, modal, lyocell and organic cotton, all produced in GOTS certified Greek and Portuguese factories. The joggers for instance are 30% hemp 70% organic cotton, and they're keen to explain why they produce sportswear without plastics: that while recyclability is wonderful for cleanups, we can produce items that aren't going to shed microfibres like furnitures instead of textiles. The design is just really nice as well - not too much, but with details that would be appreciated by the gym-going consumer such as a loop for keys. Also, the women's range is small and neutral. They've even gone down the merchandise route for full-on branding, and though merch can sometimes feel unnecessary, it feels here like the pieces are instead used as conversation pieces for the fibres used.
Responsible why: champion of hemp, challenging the use of synthetics in sportswear and using GOTS-certified factories, Iron Roots can bring new materials to a market that wants to feel connected to a brand.
SLO Active take a grassroots approach to their clothing brand, from their plant-based neoprene alternative for the active swim pieces, to the work with combatting ocean plastic pollution.
Responsible why: they are a member of the 1% For The Planet movement that sees businesses donating to environmental causes through everyday actions.
RubyMoonSwim is a not-for-profit social business that took the knowledge of their fast fashion days to create active and swim products that allows them to provide loans consequently empowering female entrepreneurs in developing nations. They use the Sustainable Development Goals as a guideline, partnering with an ocean clean up NGO that converts the plastic waste into regenerated nylon with ECONYL.
Responsible why: along with the above, there's a real understanding of the fashion industry that equipped Jo-Anne with the skills and awareness to make an impact. You can hear more from Jo in this interview.
Paper London are a fashion-led brand that took what they saw on a collection photo shoot to implement sustainable solutions in to their business model. They create playful and fun swimwear from regenerated ocean plastic using the concept of colour theory as their base design principle, with products that are built to last season after season.
Responsible why: they're open about their journey and the steps that they have taken and are taking to create a more responsible product, plus the clothing genuinely is exciting. Hear more from Paper London's journey in this interview.
Outerknown are a surfer-led brand who use most obviously regenerated ocean plastic. Where swimwear tends to be dominated by bikinis, there are many brands arising with active swimwear as the focus, creating functional pieces that build customer loyalty. In particular, Outerknown use Fair Trade certified factories. Their organic towelling and recycled fleece pieces look exceptionally cosy right now while we're locked down at home.
Responsible why: they're creating awareness around a topic by tapping in to their specific customer market i.e. surfing, enabling the conversation to grow across related sports.
League Collective actually offer multi-purpose activewear items, including a one-piece for swimming or for yoga, cycling shorts with removable seat pad, leggings and bra - all of which can be used for swimming and non-water based sports. The prints and cuts are unique, with an overall feeling of wellness, movement and freedom. We speak to Lilly Richardson as part of our Starting A Sustainable Activewear Label Masterclass [stay tuned].
Responsible why: using recycled fabrics, multi-functional garments and touting an empowering wellness message, League Collective offer sustainability in the fabrics, the cut and for the mind.
Masterclasses to tune in to:
Want to break into the sustainable swimwear market? Innovation in swimwear production makes it an exciting space for sustainable design. However the swim market is also notoriously competitive and difficult to launch into. In this Masterclass, presented by sustainable fashion and swimwear consultant, you'll gain a clear introduction to this booming market and an in-depth guide to starting an eco-swimwear label, covering marketing, sustainable design practices and manufacturing.
For designers and entrepreneurs approaching the activewear market, there are a huge range of opportunities to choose from. From performance running gear, skiwear, leggings, to sports bras, each market comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. But sustainability remains one of the biggest. However, there are opportunities for new and existing brands to change the way the industry operates.
This Masterclass covers everything from building a 360-degree view of your target customer, to sourcing sustainable performance fabrics, to the key considerations for designing an activewear collection that is environmentally conscious.
Thumbnail image: CrossFit by John Arano @johnarano via Unsplash