Our amphibious lifestyle gives Australian swim labels an edge. Watch the ripple effect. By Alice Birrell.
Our amphibious lifestyle gives Australian swim labels an edge that can be found nowhere else in the world. Watch the ripple effect.
Geography, experience and sheer numbers tell the tale: Australians are leading the world when it comes to swim. With 85 per cent of the population living within 50 kilometres of the coast, being attired for the water is a near permanent state. Physical isolation gives way to creativity and rolling summers mean we approach swim more like an entire wardrobe. Here, our best swim designers explain why we should look no further than our own shores this season. DEEP TIES “We have grown up with it, we have worn it, we understand it,” says Becky Morton, founder of swim label Peony. “Australians often reflect on an old swimsuit so lovingly. It reminds us of family holidays, backyard sausage sizzles, chlorine-bleached ends. As a result of this, we consider factors beyond the main function.” Matteau’s Ilona Hamer agrees. “Some of the bigger, more commercial brands dominated the space for a really long time, and things have really changed,” says the stylist, fashion editor and designer. “We were one of the first smaller, disruptive swim brands that gained traction quickly because of that need and a desire from consumers for something that felt more connected to how women really dress.” LIVING IN THE SWIM Genelle Walkom, head of design at Seafolly, says our approach to swimwear is informed by a fluid perception of seasons, thanks to the climate. “We know summer’s not just a time of year,” she says. “It’s
a lifestyle and mind-set that women can escape to any time they choose.” That means that for creatives like Morton, swimwear becomes a core part of our wardrobe, not just a limited-use functional piece. “We approach swimwear in a very comprehensive way,” she says. “We consider how a bralette will look underneath a sheer blouse or how a one-piece will feel underneath denim shorts at an afternoon barbecue.” To this end, Morton also ensures waists are never bulky. Chloe Dunlop, founder of She Made Me, says because local designers have grown up wearing every type of swimsuit imaginable, designs are nuanced and considered. Designers know “what swimwear cut and fabrication a woman can swim in, what silhouettes will give minimal tan lines while spending hours on the sand”. VARIETY HOUR With creative room to breathe from the international capitals, an experimental spirit pervades. “Independent brands are exploring new ideas,” says Candice Rose-O'Rourke of Zulu & Zephyr. “Cotton, rib and ruching are key highlights for us. We’ve also seen huge demand for separate sizing and mix-and-match options,” she says. Walkom says innovation is not optional. “A huge amount of demand for swimwear brings a big dose of competition from the brands; fierce rivalry breeds impeccable designs,” she explains. “Brands are forever evolving and raising the bar to compete.” PERFORMANCE PIECES “It’s our understanding of wearability and execution that we are probably doing better than the rest of the world,” says Hamer. In this vein, Carly Brown makes a refined version of that uniquely Australian utility piece, the rashie, for her label Une Piece. “I grew up on the Sunshine Coast with an active surfer father and sun-conscious mother, so I enjoyed a lot of time at the beach, but was also aware of the damaging effects the sun can have,” she says. As a result she’s created sun-safe swim. “UPF50+ is essential to protect your skin from both skin cancer and also from ageing prematurely. It’s more expensive to use luxe UPF50+ fabric, but it’s so important to us.” INSIDER KNOWLEDGE The details count, and come again from lived experience. “Growing up, I often felt the full force of the Australian sun,” says Morton of sometimes accidental overexposure. “When pink on the shoulders, I found the knot on my bikini top would rub, which was terribly uncomfortable. To ease the rubbing, I used to untie the knot, pull the straps over the back of my shoulders and then re-tie them at the back under the bust. Today, most Peony bikini tops are made this way.” CLEAN BEACHES EQUALS CLEAN DESIGN A slew of Australian swim labels foreground sustainable design, including Tigerlily, Palm Swim, Une Piece, Peony and She Made Me. “Each decision we make as consumers is now more important than ever,” says Dunlop. “Australian swimwear designers can fully appreciate how lucky we are being able to enjoy some of the most beautiful and clean beaches in the world, and it’s really promising seeing other designers move toward more sustainable production.”
From left: She Made Me swimsuit, $290; Matteau swim top, $135, and bottoms, $135; Aqua Blu swim top, $95, and bottoms, $70.