It’s true that swimwear comes along as a fair-weather fashion friend. One you tend to think of only once the weather warms up or the holiday is booked. We live for these seasons though – with their mirage of a life alfresco, one that simmers in the distance during winter’s long hibernation. Throw in the captivity of a pandemic and a summer of frolicking freedom can seem like a fairytale.
Yet, here we are. Emerging from the depths of our sourdough baking and our Netflix exhaustion to once again enjoy the great outdoors with other human people. We might need to be reminded that beaches and pools and seaside destinations do not call for 2021’s fleece-and-tee combination. We are invited to welcome back the romance of beachside dressing and release our weary bodies from their poorly adjusted work chairs and into the waiting tide.
And while perhaps we’re not scooting off to the Bahamas or Ischia or Mauritious just yet, we can certainly dress like we are. The choice of style and cut and colour in swim this season is beautifully symbolic of just how ready we are for summertime socials and travel potential. The vintage maillots! The bitsy bikinis! The risky barely-theres! The high-waisted everythings! The super-plain-but-super-chic!
So, choose your own adventure. Are you the Positano Bond Girl who’s escaping via speed boat with five million bucks in a leather trunk? You’ll need a Zimmermann or Rebecca Vallance two piece. Or perhaps you’re the kindofabigdeal guest on a mega-cruiser swanning in to take over the Succession empire? Try a Bondi Born or Matteau or LE MÓN bikini.
Or, maybe you’re the Frenchy fashion mogul who’s classic minimalism is both intoxicating and intimidating? Please see everything Albus Lumen. Or perhaps you’re more the thatched-roof-bare-footer who’s leaving it all for a life of coconuts, sarongs and strings of beads. See Seafolly, Peony and SIR.
So, even if you’re just dusting off your deck lounger or lugging an Eksy to the water hole, you can spark your more intrepid wanderlust simply by sporting your choice of tog. To help, here’s our wrap of the best swim brands to scour. There’s a style, a cut, a colour for everyone this season – choices as broad as our finally (hopefully) borderless futures.
The ethos: You may have noticed 80s crinkle-fabric swimwear is back in a big way. The retro elastin that lends itself to body-contouring and super-stretching is popping up for good reason. Bond-eye, a Sydney-based brand from its namesake beach is putting the fabric’s many virtues to good use. Not only do their cuts flatter and offer a four-way stretch, 80% are derived from sustainable, regenerated raw materials.
The look: Sporty meets sophisticated. Clean lines, block-colour sets and a plethora of (very wearable) shapes.
The one: A tie between the brand new two-tone scoop-neck bikini and the cool Sasha cut-out crop set.
The ethos: Put it this way, Zimmermann swimwear is more likely to be found hanging in a wardrobe, than twisted inside the miscellaneous lycra drawer. The sister-duo brand produces maillots and separates so chic they bridge the gap between couture and beachwear. Originally from Sydney, the label now boasts stores in just about every glamorous beach destination around the world.
The look: Their pieces would not be out of place under a Positano umbrella nor sitting on the deck of a 60ft cruiser nor layered with a full skirt and jewellery at a chic soiree. This is swim for the tastemakers.
The one: Do we really have to choose? There’s something about a Zimmermann botanical that is irresistible, so if we do, this season the Tropicana story is our winner.
The ethos: Launched with a bang at a super-swanky soiree in the Hollywood Hills this week, P.E. Nation founders Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning have released their latest swim collection. As a very successful (and pandemic-friendly) label, this activewear brand has reached new heights, quite literally, with this capsule.
The look: Sporty with a dash of retro surf, this poolside look ranges from leopard one-pieces to mustard yellow shorts-sets all in cuts reminiscent of 90s street.
The one: We love that P.E. has incorporated sun-smart rash-tops as a major player, so we’re flying the flag for the Stride long sleeve top in fluro orange.
The ethos: A brand with a conscience, Peony produces their own textiles and prints in house, as well as swimwear created entirely from regenerated fabrics. And personally, as an owner of several Peony maillots I can confirm they are as much about great fit and great quality as they are about looking chic.
The look: Feminine, refined and elegant, they lend designs to micro florals, muted neutrals and cuts with a vintage sophistication.
The one: The gelato separates are a knock-out this season, and we’re backing the Clementine bandeau bikini in shimmering tangerine as a front runner for Most Successful Newcomer at the swimwear olympics.
The ethos: As one of Australia’s OG swim-makers, Seafolly’s history means it knows a thing or two about the craft and culture of beach wares. They’ve long associated with big names like Gigi Hadid and Jess Hart and this year Lara Worthington reps their summer collection. Not just effortlessly cool, Seafolly makes swimwear that wears well and lasts season after season.
The look: Classic Australian summertime – bold florals, bright prints, triangles and halter maillots. This is look you crave every summer, anywhere on the coast.
The one: The allure of double pink tiger stripe in the Skin Deep range is hard to pass by, particularly because it reminds me of our favourite Seafolly triangle sets circa 2005.
The ethos: From the corner of über-chic Australian fashion, Matteau is steeped in refined, minimalistic design. The name is derived from matt (as in a matte finish) and eau (from l’eau, which is French for water) with founders Peta Heinsen and Ilona Harmer committed to a seasonless, timeless, high-quality aesthetic. Their swim collection is also made from 90% recycled nylon.
The look: Chic, seamless and in organic cuts, this is French sophistication meets Australian cool.
The one: The well-crafted balconette bikini with high-rise briefs in black is the simple yet significant swim piece to own this season and keep forever.
The ethos: Started by a pair of fashion-obsessed Sydney university students, Meshki began as a successful Instagram account and resulted in a curated collection of well-priced trend pieces.
The look: Bikinis that would not be out of place in a Kardashian/Jenner selfie, these are super sexy styles that take on the multi-wear, teeny-tiny look making waves in the waves right now.
The one: Go Willow or go home! It’s the drawsting-in-the-middle look made famous by influencers and perfected by its shimmery toffee hue.
The ethos: After interviewing the founder of Bondi Born, Dale McCarthy, prior to this year’s Australian Fashion Week, I became even more of a super-fan of this consciously-made, Sydney-based label. Their take on swimsuit engineering is, pardon the pun, refreshing. With cuts designed to fit the female form – in all its forms – and chic cuts and delicious seasonal colours, choosing which to buy is almost impossible.
The look: Monochromatic colour-blocking, clean lines and grown up silhouettes, this is all-class swimwear.
The one: It’s a photo finish between the sleek Ava wrap-around in new-season mulberry and the heart-shaped Eleanor one-piece (perfect for larger busts).
The ethos: Inspired by far-off destinations and effortless, chic island style, Wanderlust employs nylon-elastine texture fabric as a key feature. A refined palette and a selection of simple yet beautiful cuts, this romantically derived label is as flattering as it is comfortable.
The look: With shapes inspired by vintage swim (high-waisted briefs, balconette maillots) they also offer a modern, luxury via subtle sporty finishes.
The one: The full-style Ruby bottoms with the heart-style Ava top is a look destined for five-star resort life…with a room upgrade, serviced pool chairs and champagne on arrival.
The ethos: This Sydney-based label offers an inspired take on modern, athletic swimwear. Started in 2012, it was one of the first to offer non-surf-brand swimwear. And with the addition of artist partnerships and unique prints, Fella has become a market leader when it comes to the fashionisation of beachcomber couture.
The look: Ruched halters, knotted bandeaus and trunk briefs as well as sculptural cut-out one-pieces, hip-bone-high bottoms and quirky Sixties marbling, every style is a look of its own.
The one: The thick-set halter of the Herman bikini is a throwback to the 2010s and we’re ready.
The ethos: Australian cult label known for its fresh prints and femme cuts, SIR. is also the maker of some of Australia’s most chic swimwear. With trend-setting collections year after year, they set the tone for what we’ll all be wearing next.
The look: A romantic balance between fierce minimalism and sweet vintage, they scale from itsy bitsy teeny tiny polka dot bikinis to throwback florals and athletic onepieces.
The one: The Rei paisley story, especially in its new-season Citrus Lilium hue, is giving us the vacation nostalgia we’ve been asking for.
The ethos: Started by model and influencer Brooke Hogan, LE MÓN is the result of Hogan’s years of experience in the industry. Particularly enamoured by swimwear, she decided making a foray into the fashion business via the summer genre made perfect sense. The brand is size inclusive, sophisticated and dedicated to both comfort and supreme style.
The look: Poolside glamour but make it wearable. This label could well be the front runner for perfectly blending chic shapes with practical coverage. Five stars!!
The one: The whole collection is exceptional, but it’s hard to look past the bust-flattering, ruchey silhouette of the Willow two-piece in black.
The ethos: As a favourite of the Australian fashion scene for many years, it’s surprising that this is Rebecca Vallance‘s first dip into swim. Her inspiration is what we’re all dreaming of at the moment – faraway holidays, glamorous locations and an excuse to dress like we’re wandering the lemon-tree lined streets of an Italian hideaway.
The look: Cuts and prints that would fit in during a visit to George Clooney’s cliffside abode on Lake Como. A mix of bright citrus colours and psychedelic 70s abstracts, they range cinched maillots and belted, high-waisted two-pieces with sweet, femme details.
The one: We absolutely can’t choose between the Martine one piece and the Limoncello set. Both divine, so put us down for one of each – La Dolce Vita!
The ethos: One from across the pond – cult label from an Australian living in the UK AEXAE combines sleek lines, covetable style and ethical/sustainable production into their refined range. Made with 100% recycled plastics, the brand is committed to offsetting carbon emissions and will plant a tree for every order.
The look: Monochromatic, minimalist and chic, the organic cuts of their two-pieces and one-pieces offer a blend of sporty and cool.
The one: The whole capsule is covetable but we’re persuaded by the Flashdance of the Magnum set, with its tank-style top and high-cut briefs.