By Milly Allinson
It's the keyword for design in 2020 - and sustainable swimwear is the latest trend in a line of long-awaited ethical changes to the fashion industry.
From calls to world powers and industries for less pollution and waste, to warnings from eminent scientists about the devastating impact of climate change - our world is shifting further away from plastics, animal cruelty and fast fashion, and further towards reusability, conservation and respect for our planet.
The fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, and designers are having to rethink their entire process. You may wonder if there really is an ethical way to enjoy classical fashion and swimwear design.
Is such a thing as sustainable fashion possible? And what can we do to make it a reality?
The good news is that sustainability isn't just a possibility in swimwear - it's fast becoming the freshest new trend for the decade.
Why should we go sustainable?
Simply put, if we go on as normal, our planet will soon become unsustainable. The dire effects of climate change are well-documented.
Melting glaciers are predicted to cause a dramatic sea level increase, putting coastal populations at risk. Climate scientists warn of further extreme weather, including intense heat waves, droughts, floods, and hurricanes.
WWF warns that the survival of many animal species will depend on their ability to migrate, as global warming has the potential to cause ‘catastrophic species loss’.
This is why industries need to become sustainable - only by making adjustments to the items we buy and the way we produce them can we shift our planet away from climate destruction.
How does this impact on sustainable swimwear?
According to Sustain Your Style, ‘The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world’. Mass fashion churns out new, cheap designs, season after season, without consideration for the environmental and humanitarian impact.
The fashion industry is notoriously inundated with waste. Only a tiny fraction of unwanted clothes are recycled or donated, meaning the vast majority end up in landfill sites - along with excessive plastic packaging.
Vast amounts of water are also wasted in the process of textile manufacturing, while millions of people around the world have no access to safe drinking water at all.
The fashion industry is also a major polluter. Toxic chemicals are dumped directly into rivers, contaminating the water, making it extremely dangerous for aquatic and animal life in the surrounding areas. Many of these chemicals used as part of the dyeing and bleaching processes can be dangerous to the consumer.
10% of global carbon emissions are caused by the fashion industry, due to all parts of the production, manufacturing and transportation processes.
But the fashion world is not standing back passively. Sustainability is becoming a key focus for designers in the 2020s. Last year’s Miami Swim Week featured 'Nu Wave Swim', a showcase of sustainability-friendly brands. Many leading designers have pledged to become more sustainable - including fashion icon, Stella McCartney. Recycled and alternative fabrics have become staples of modern fashion design, like Econyl, a nylon yarn made from recycled fishing nets and industrial plastics.
So where does Irvetta stand in regards to sustainability?
Our name Irvetta comes from a female name, meaning ‘friend of the sea’. Our first collection, Odyssey, immediately conjures images of the 'wine-dark sea' evocatively described in Greek poetry. But we aren’t just ‘friends of the sea’ in name only. We have dedicated ourselves to ensuring that your swimwear is sourced sustainably.
All of our fabrics are sourced from Sensitive Fabrics, a luxury fabric company based in Italy, with eco-certifications from the PEF (Product Environment Footprint), Oeko-Tex, and the GRS (Global Recycled Standard).
This way, you know all our designs are developed at the highest environmental standards.
Sensitive Fabrics’ dedication to environmental sustainability doesn’t just stop at regulations; they have contributed towards many conservation projects across the globe, including a project to protect land in the Argentinian rainforest with the World Land Trust. They have also been in partnership with WWF Italia since 2015, collaborating to minimise the impact on ‘water as a planetary resource’.
Changes to their industrial processes have also made a big difference, reducing their annual energy consumption by 8% through solar panels, and changing their packaging, making a saving of '4,000 metres of packing cellophane and 9,000 cardboard tubes [...] every year.’
As they are based in Italy, you can also be assured that your swimwear hasn’t flown vast distances at the expense of the environment.
How can your swimwear choice make a difference?
The mass fashion industry makes a colossal impact on the ecosystem, with new collections entering an already over-saturated market annually - only to be thrown away when the next collection arrives. Many of these designs will have been made in sweat-shops by employees in the third-world who are given little pay for their hard work.
One way to combat this is to buy sustainably. Cheap-but-cheerful high street fashion encourages compulsive buying habits, and a mass-produced bikini will ruin quickly after a few consecutive washes.
Treating yourself to one statement piece of swimwear is a wise investment that lasts for a lifetime - and doesn’t end up in an already overflowing landfill.
Choosing the perfect design to suit your style and needs is a process to dedicate some time to. The Odyssey collection's classical designs are built to last from quality fabrics that will compliment your shape time after time, leaving all eyes on you.
If you're looking for something fun, yet sophisticated, look no further than the Penelope peony print bikini. Or, with its halter-neck and shaped figure, the subtle Arabella one-piece is a timeless style.
Recycling is another way to keep your style sustainable. Looking for a sweeping summer hat to compliment your swimsuit? Consider buying vintage.
Another major consideration is how you wash your swimwear. Fibres from swimwear can enter the system from your washing machine, clogging up seabeds and even entering the human food chain. You can buy 'Guppybags' to place your swimwear in before you wash. They trap microplastic fibres, so you can dispose of them properly.
By making these small changes to your buying routine, you don't have to worry about the damage being done to the ocean by your bikini's synthetic fibres - and can focus instead on lounging by the shore, admiring the vast seascapes.
Combating climate change might seem like an overwhelming task, and it’s often one that remains frustratingly out of our hands.
Selecting ethical swimwear might seem like a small choice, but it can have a great impact on the environment. It's easy to undervalue the 'power of the purse'- but choosing sustainable fashion sends a clear message about where your priorities lie.
Take a look through our catalogue of ethical and stylish sustainable swimwear.