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.

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