how sustainable is youswim?
And the “How Sustainable is ____” series is back! Today we’re looking at another brand that seemed to blow up last year: Youswim. I have seen their swimsuits EVERYWHERE over the past year, and have seen so many influencers talking about getting matching suits with friends. I can’t emphasize enough how popular this brand has become.
They are also applauded for being a sustainable and ethical option. But are they really????
Let's dive in.
Who they are: Youswim is a UK-based swimwear company that makes one-size-fits-all swimsuits that can fit 7 sizes. Youswim has a simple aesthetic—minimal one-pieces and bikinis, without adornments, underwiring or padding in a stretchable, "crinkle" fabric.
**Note: The fabric Youswim is known for can actually be attributed to swimwear brand Hunza G, who also makes swimsuits that can fit multiple sizes, although are at a slightly higher price point ($175 vs. Youswim’s $140).
According to their website: "Youswim is ultimately about a celebration of our differences—in shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and more. Youswim was built to allow us to embrace our differences and our naturally changing bodies."
Where are they made? England
Note: Just because something is made in a Western country does not ensure that it will be made ethically and sustainably. We learned last summer that Boohoo’s factories, which are in Leicester (in the UK), faced allegations over poor pay and working conditions, and were not given proper PPE to wear while working during the pandemic.
Also interestingly, during my original analysis their website stated: “Being made in England, our manufacturing partners recognize the UK’s long tradition of health and safety regulations, as well as EU waste regulations and code of practice, and other strict regulations on industrial waste and worker safety.” This verbiage has since been removed from their site.
What are they made out of? European-sourced nylon and elastane
Please note this is virgin nylon, not recycled. However, the fact that their nylon is sourced in Europe means that they are going to have lower shipping emissions for getting their textiles from their manufacturer to where their clothing is made.
They acknowledge that their fabric isn't as environmentally-friendly as recycled and other options, and according to their website, they are working towards making a version of their swimsuit from a recycled yarn (most likely recycled nylon).
Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? No. Since my original analysis, they have updated their FAQ section to include more information on the sustainability of their products, but this information is more vague claims and less numbers, goals, and actions. There are no targets listed for their future.
Their ethics claims:
Their sustainability claim:
Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? Yes. They have a whole designated page to the care of their garments. However, it does not mention any measures that need to be taken to combat microplastic pollution, which considering their suits are made from nylon should be included in the care of their garments.
Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? No. Outside of mentioning their factories are in England, we know nothing else about the name, location, and specific details about their factories (like production capacity).
Do they track their scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Unknown. If they do, it is not disclosed on their website.
Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? According to their website, their English manufacturing partner ensures fair living wage and benefits for its workers. However, the name of the manufacturing partner is not named and there are no independent certifications to support this claim.
Do they have any social impact/environmental impact/give back initiative in place? No.
Do they have sustainable packaging? Ish. Since my initial analysis, a whole page on earth-friendly packaging has been added to their site. Their packaging is claimed to be "100% plastic-free, recyclable, home-compostable, reusable and made in the UK and EU using natural inks and sustainably sourced materials."
It includes mailer bags and boxes made from FSC-certified forests and recycled materials and printed materials on FSC-certified paper inserts using non-toxic, water-based inks. They are all apparently recyclable, biodegradable and home-compostable.
What certifications, if any, do they hold? None.
Are they inclusive of people of all sizes and colors? Sort of. Their swimsuit is meant to fit a range of 7 sizes, up to a US 14 and a bra size G. I wouldn’t necessarily consider that to be size inclusive because a size 14 is basically the equivalent of an XL. However, according to their website, they are aiming to develop a second suit that fits a further seven or more sizes (UK 20-32+, US 16-28+). Their models on their website and imagery on social media are representative of people of various sizes, races, and ethic backgrounds.
Other notes: Youswim’s suits are unique in that they are highly stretchy and can adapt to many sizes. Which means that as our bodies fluctuate, the suit can change with them. This can mean buying less suits in the end, which does result in less consumption.
Each one-piece or bikini sets costs $139 USD, which is not a price that is accessible to most consumers. However, you could make the argument investing $139 on one suit that lasts is better than spending $50 on three suits of cheaper quality.
A few things that doesn’t sit well with me:
1. Their answer to their FAQ: "Is the fabric see-through/transparent?"
If I were to spend $140 on a swimsuit, I would expect it to not be see-though, regardless of what size I am. If I were a size 12/14, aka the higher end of sizes that they say that their suit can fit, I don't think I would feel comfortable wearing a suit that could show off my tatas and hooha. And I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment.
2. This little bit on their site (for 2 reasons):
First, because we still have no idea what their production capacity is. They never claimed to be small batch in the first place, and just ensuring their London team can package orders doesn't mean they aren't packaging a lot of them. I admire their transparency in saying they've increased production, but they don't give us really any idea of what that means.
Second, because they say their London team gets paid "above a London living wage" while they only ensure their garment workers/machinists get a "living wage." Why can't they both be guaranteed above a living wage?
Sustainability Ranking: C-
Youswim’s biggest claims they make for being ethical and sustainable are because they are made in England and England has good ethical standards and because their suits will last and change with your body so you will buy less. To me those 2 things don’t qualify them as ethical or sustainable. Being made in England doesn’t guarantee ethical practices. And most of the people I know already own 4 or 5 swimsuits and buy a new one each year. Idk if having one like this will stop them from doing that.
My other issue with Youswim is their lack of transparency. Would love to get more concrete data from them, including supplier and manufacturing info, production capacities, the actual wages people are getting paid, and goals with targets they can meet.
Overall it seems like their suits are high quality (I have only seen 5-star reviews) & these are suits people will wear for years. However, are they truly ethical or sustainable? I don’t think so.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This analysis was based solely on information made publicly available on a brands respective website or quoted from an executive of the brand in a press article.
** This analysis was originally completed on May 6, 2021. Since that analysis Youswim has added additional information to their website. This analysis was updated on January 4, 2022 to reflect those changes.
**Youswim responded to the post I made on Instagram. Here is a screenshot of their comments (which are pretty much a regurgitation of the same copy that's on their website), as well as my response:
1/2 2/2 My response