Australia is known around the world for many things – beautiful beaches, fine food and coffee, the Sydney Opera House – but what’s perhaps less well-known is our swimwear design, which is ahead of the game. A handful of startups are paddling out on their own, with performance-driven designs made from high-quality, sustainable materials (some of which double up as daywear).
This summer, there’s a touch of nostalgia to Aussie swimwear. We’re seeing retro-stripe prints, high-cut one-pieces, Bond-inspired belted bikinis and asymmetrical designs. Sustainable suits and sun-smart rashies are now also high-fashion, with local designers combining high-tech fabrics with sleek designs to create modern suits that can be layered under denim shorts or jeans after a day at the pool.
Here’s Broadsheet’s wrap-up of the best options to wear under your terry-towel robe as you hit the beach this summer.
While you may focus on cut and colour when shopping for bathers, it’s also important to consider the impact the manufacturing process has on the environment. Thankfully, there are plenty of Australian swim brands that are equally focused on sustainability and clever design.
Melbourne label Vege Threads, known for simple everyday garments made with organic materials, nails eco-friendly swimwear – it uses a blend of recycled nylon and lycra for its classic one-pieces. And bohemian Byron label Spell and the Gypsy makes swimwear using econyl yarn, which is then knitted into a fabric in Italy.
Sydney swim label May and Hugo also uses econyl in its designs – all garments are designed and made in Australia from a blend of recycled synthetic fibres (often salvaged from fishing nets or old carpet) and sustainably produced natural fibres (such as bamboo). We love the Scarlet bikini top ($79) and bottoms ($59).
It’s the decade that just won’t go away. But the ’90s wasn’t all about mum jeans and dad sneakers. One of the biggest trends to come out of the period, ironically, centred around a ’60s revival – suddenly everything was covered in daisy and sunflower prints, and silhouettes mirrored the high-waisted pin-up-styles of the swinging ’60s.
If florals aren’t for you, Melbourne swimwear label Baaby’s high-waisted, bandeau-style gingham two-piece will have you channelling Melrose Place pool vibes.
While there’s always a place for minimalist neutrals, this season we’re seeing a lot of bold, fluro colourways.
The Fold, a Melbourne-based swimwear label designed for women with bigger breasts, has released a flattering two-piece in lime that dials up the highlighter effect. And Baaby’s colour-block one piece delivers bold, tropical colour in a classic silhouette.
Wild animal prints aren’t going anywhere this summer – although we’re hoping punters might give the ubiquitous leopard-print bias-cut skirts of last season a rest.
Introduce a little safari styling to your swimwear collection by drawing on a print made famous by Dolce & Gabbana – leopard.
Not all leopard prints are created equal though. Our advice is to choose graphic takes on the traditional motif – like Sydney-based swimwear and basics label Bondi Born’s Fleur bikini in pretty blush. Small-scale leopard print also works well –The Upside’s Leo bikini has the perfect tiny print.
Resort favourite Zimmermann on the other hand is looking towards python this season.
While it’s questionable what the belt is actually used for, Bond-inspired, emerging-from-the-sea buckled bathers are on the up and up.
Peony’s Willow two-piece also has us feeling those Gwyneth-in-Italy vibes from The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Although many of the trends we’ve already listed could fit under this umbrella, we have to call this one out on its own. From Gidget-esque block colour to ’70s stripes and beyond, the past is dictating the future of Aussie swimwear.
Just take a look at this Zimmermann halter-neck number, which would look at home beside the pool at the Copacabana in Rio, or flash back to Blue Crush in this easy Rip Curl one-piece. And test the theory everyone swims faster in racing stripes with this Skwosh club-stripe one-piece.
As the planet heats up, more swimwear brands are jumping on the sun-smart train by reinventing the rashie beyond the beach.
Sydney-based activewear label PE Nation was one of the first to bring this trend to the forefront. And their recent collaboration with Speedo, the purveyor of swimwear for champions, is made for actual swimming and will have you paddling out on the board in no time.
If you’re looking for something lightweight, try local labels Hakea Swim, Vege Threads and Salt Gypsy, who have all released a range of easy long-sleeve iterations. Bondi-born label Baythe also offers a zip-up, all-in-one swimsuit for a chic alternative to anything too sporty.
One-shoulder suits might seem like something best kept to the runway, but this asymmetrical style is not only functional, it’s flattering on many different body types.
Sydney label Matteau has mastered the off-shoulder in a range of minimalist, utilitarian and practical silhouettes that double as body suits that can be worn under most basics, and Hakea has released a take that’s similar, but with a wider strap. Zimmerann’s version, which comes in black and scarlet, has a dressy bow detail.