Whether soaking up the sun at Spanish Banks or doing laps at Hillcrest, we want to feel as good in our swimsuits as we do in our regular clothes. Here in Vancouver, where we know of the water and sand all too well, women are creating for other women. Brands born and raised in the Pacific Northwest understand that luxury design and the environment go hand-in-hand. These three Vancouver women’s swimwear companies are changing the landscape of the industry with a distinctive local touch.
Beth Richards knows how to generate a splash. After relocating to Vancouver from Toronto, Richards needed a few more swim options for her new West Coast life. But what she was looking for—a minimalist suit with high-quality construction—could not be found. And so, she began to manufacture her modern, ethical swimsuit line under her own name.
Made with specially sourced, UV-protecting Italian fabric right here in Vancouver, Richards’s products are for the it girl who wants to have a positive impact on her world. From Canada to France, a customer favourite is The Dolly: an elegant off-the-shoulder one-piece that is perfect to wear while sipping wine by the pool. As for the Flutter top, with a scoop neckline and mesh ruffle sleeves, it pairs perfectly with high-waist bottoms, making it a swimsuit you’ll want to wear year-round. Richards wants women to not only feel excited the next time they head into the water, but feminine and strong, too.
Minimalism is everything on the West Coast, and Londrë Bodywear knows it. Although dreamed up on the dazzling beaches of Sayulita, Mexico, Londrë Bodywear calls Vancouver home and its products are proudly made here. Founders and best friends Hannah Todd and Ainsley Rose design for the woman who values sustainability and style; the brand is out to prove that “there is nothing granola about going green.” What allows this young Canadian brand to stand out is its commitment to achieving the highest international eco certification possible, meaning garments are crafted using recycled fabrics made from discarded plastic water bottles, and all water employed in the manufacturing process is reused.
An ode to the simple things, Londrë’s The Minimalist swimsuit is the answer to your one-piece dreams, with a low back that shows off and celebrates the female body. And don’t think Londrë’s exquisite designs are just for frolicking around in the water—they’re equally as chic on the streets. Pair a plunging neckline with a pair of fitted trousers or an oversized denim jacket for a look that will take you from summer to fall. That is living in Londrë.
Nettle’s Tale Swimwear
Nettle’s Tale is for the everyday woman. In an industry where body diversity is still struggling to be celebrated in the mainstream, Julia Church and her company are challenging the status quo. After getting the world’s attention through a viral Indiegogo campaign, Nettle’s Tale made waves thanks to what the brand calls “Pacific Northwest fashion in its purest form.” This Vancouver-made swimwear has a customer-first mentality, meaning each piece flatters all body types, no matter your age or shape. And unlike most swimsuit companies that shoot lookbooks on exotic beaches with professional models, Nettle’s Tale takes pride in showing off British Columbia and its women.
The Julia, a gorgeous design named for the brand’s founder, features a top with underwire support and bottoms that draw the eye to the smallest part of the waist. Not only does the piece respect the female form, it respects the environment in which one wears it. Ten per cent of the bikini’s profits go to ACTS, a mission that helps free Ugandans from disease and needless labour through access to clean water. A swimsuit that looks good and does good? That’s what Vancouver is all about.
UPDATE, September 2018: Since this story was published, two new worthy brands have come onto the local swimwear scene. They have been included below.
Left on Friday
Pool suits. Power suits. Playsuits. Left on Friday has got it all. Whether they were taking on a game of beach volleyball at Kitsilano or jumping into a lake, Shannon Savage and Laura Low Ah Kee knew they needed suits that would keep up with their lifestyles. With years of product design experience behind them, the duo decided to jump into the deep end and create the perfect item for both sport and play.
Designed in Vancouver, Left on Friday’s swimsuits are made in California using gorgeously smooth fabrics from Italy. Snug in all the right places but relaxed once in the water, the young brand’s Sunday Suit is already sold out (and for good reason): it’s a minimalist’s dream in the form of a high-cut leg and thin-strap garment, the perfect transition piece from moving out of the water and onto the dock (don’t worry, it’s snag-resistant, too). After working together at Lululemon (Savage is the former vice-president of women’s design, credited for creating the brand’s running line; Low Ah Kee once led the speed to market team), the Vancouverites had an exact idea of what they wanted: straps that stayed put, seams that didn’t rub, and fabric that didn’t sag. But most importantly, they wanted swimwear that allowed a woman to move freely.
From the wow-inducing Peak Suit to the Hi Tide high-rise waist bottoms, Left on Friday has successfully created swimwear that women can look good in and feel good in, too—because they know it’s what they deserve.
“One planet. One human race. We are here together and we need to live together with tolerance and respect.” This is a quote by Stephen Hawking held close to the heart of Vancouver lifestyle and swim label OCIN. Launched in August 2018 by Courtney Chew, OCIN honours the earth while also valuing the curious, the creative, and the conscious.
Versatile and functional for both men and women, these suits take wearers from the waves to the rooftop bar in no time. For men, a quick-dry compression board short is equipped with a zipper pocket to store keys, credits cards, and other valuables. For women, a cheeky or high-waisted bottom can be paired with a halter or scoop crop top coming in an array of gorgeous colours, from sunset red to olive green. But the chic designs are just one key element to OCIN’s story. The other? The fact that each garment is made of 100 per cent recycled polyester from plastic bottles saved from landfills. Women’s suits also proudly sport 100 per cent recycled and regenerated nylon yarns. And OCIN’s commitment to the environment doesn’t stop there: the brand even uses plant-based materials in its packaging.
Beyond that, OCIN has created a recycling program that takes back old swimsuits to make sure they are disposed correctly. The label has also teamed up with a variety of other initiatives, including Los Angeles-based natural skin care brand Salt and Stone (its mineral based sunscreen is available to buy through OCIN’s website) and Surfrider Foundation’s Vancouver chapter, to create a collective that is truly inspired by change.
This is a brand that knows what it stands for, dedicated to making the world a better place. Every year, OCIN will give back a percentage of its proceeds to organizations that share its commitment to the earth’s protection. Great designs with an even greater message—that is the future of style.