If, once upon a time, the swimwear packed in your suitcase might have been an afterthought – a bikini designed to max out a tan and lunchtime dip – it’s set to become the main event of your holiday wardrobe this summer. Statement swimwear is here.
To be clear, this trend is not about the sort of swimsuits to do 40 lengths. In the same way that wider fashion has moved to a glamorous night-time look as we emerge from the pandemic, swimwear is the latest – perhaps more unlikely – category to have moment of maximalism.
Brands like Léa the Label, Maygel Coronel, Norma Kamali and Johanna Ortiz are leading a charge for costumes with ruffles, unusual cut-outs and metallic fabrics. These are designs that would get you cross looks in any pool’s fast lane. They are meant to stay dry for the Insta shoot.
The swimwear market is growing. It was valued at more than $16bn in 2020, with Euromonitor predicting it would reach $21.4bn (£16.6bn) by 2025.
Swimwear strictly for poolside lounging, and worn with heels rather than flip-flops, has been around for a few years. It features heavily at the villa in ITV’s Love Island (back this June), where contestants rarely get into the pool but spend most of the day in bikinis, and on the Instagram feed of stars like Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Megan Thee Stallion and Emily Ratajkowski. Ruffled and complicated swimwear can also now be found on the high street, with Zara offering suits with oversized flowers that might threaten to slow down the wearer’s front crawl.
Kelsey Lyle, the swimwear buyer for luxury site Moda Operandi, says: “Our customer loves both minimal and more embellished, detailed swimwear.” Lyle names Johanna Ortiz as “the designer to kick off the ready-to-wear meets swim trend … At Moda, we like to call this look ‘barefoot glamour.’”
Marks & Spencer, perhaps more traditionally known for its sensitive swimming costumes, has noticed a trend towards poolside dressing up. The brand has launched a “one stop holiday shop” in response. “We’ve never been more coordinated,” says Lisa Illis, the head of womenswear design. “[There are] printed bucket hats, bags and sandals that coordinate back to our beach swim collections. [It’s] an Instagram-worthy head-to-toe look.” Thankfully, this is swimwear you can actually swim in, made with chlorine resistant elastane.
Perhaps the most curious development here is bridal swimwear – with Pamela Anderson marrying Tommy Lee on the beach in a white bikini in 1995 as the style reference, as reprised by Lily James in the recent Disney+ series Pam & Tommy. According to Women’s Wear Dailymore than 2.5 million weddings are expected to take place in the US in 2022 – the most since 1984.
Matchesfashion.com launched its wedding and events edit in January 2020. The head of womenswear, Liana Wiggins, says the UK-based retailer, like Moda Operandi, has seen an uplift in sales of swimwear. “A lot of our customers are planning for destination weddings,” she says. “Maygel Coronel’s ruffled one-shoulder swimsuits are statement styles that still feel romantic and the intricate details of Isa Boulder’s woven bikini feel really special – both are perfect for a beach wedding styled with a sarong or long flowing skirt.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism