It is sometimes hard to believe that when we swim in nature’s purest form, water, we do so by wearing synthetic materials that are extremely harmful and pollutant to the medium. Swimwear has been considered a roadblock in sustainability due to the paradox that the garment needs to be made of fossil fuels-derived fabrics to be “functional” enough. Luckily, New York designer Mara Hoffman is one step closer to finding the solution to the issue as she nearly eliminated synthetics from bathing suits in her latest collection.
Among the label’s cheerful Spring/Summer 2023 silhouettes, a one-piece and two-piece black swimsuit silhouettes took the spotlight not only for their distinctive technical pattern-making construction but for being built with a bio-based material called Pyratex Power 3. Through this initiative, Hoffman has become the first designer to use a non-nylon and polyester material for a swim line, and we hope she won’t be the last one. Pyratex Power 3, which emerges from dissolved wood pulp and is processed using a low-toxicity solvent, can imitate the functionality of swimwear without relying on chemical-intensive processing and manufacturing.
The eco-friendly natural fabric is the product of a Spanish material innovation research company. And although traditionally being used for sportswear, it is increasingly trickling down the fashion industry; last September, we saw Ganni’s banana waste-based tracksuit take over the headlines. Regina Polanco, CEO of the company, commented, “We’re very excited about this collaboration. Our mission is to replace synthetic fabrics with bio-based ones, and Mara Hoffman’s swimwear is our first step into a branch of the fashion industry we’ve wanted to enter for quite a while now.”
Mara Hoffman’s restless commitment to eco-conscious innovation is incredibly admirable. Despite pioneering the use of recycled material in swimwear, the designer knew that wasn’t enough for the future of our planet, which is why she had been on a restless exploration for ways of cutting the link to fossil fuel extraction, detrimental production processes, and microfibre pollution. With Pyratex Power 3, the New Yorker has potentially found the solution to take the swimwear category off sustainability’s blacklist. Sadly, the material is still not 100 percent perfect, as it contains a small percentage of elastane. Nevertheless, we can all agree it is an incredible milestone for the industry.
In a statement to Vogue Business, Dana Davis, vice president of sustainability, product, and business strategy at Mara Hoffman, commented, “Every time I meet an innovator, the first thing I tell them is that my biggest challenge is swimwear.” She continues, “We as a brand are committed to moving away from synthetics. We moved away from synthetics in our ready-to-wear line years ago. This is a stepping stone — this isn’t a 100 percent natural material. But, it’s us getting to a place of being less reliant on those synthetics from fossil fuels.”
Pyratex Power 3 is, in essence, a micro Tencel lyocell material that delivers added benefits for the wearer, as its “interlock structure” allows the garment to offer form-fitting features, as well as being breathable, stretchy, and water resistant. According to a remark by Polanco, the only hurdle that comes with its use is color choices are still limited since certain shades respond differently to chlorine and salt water. She also notes, “Bio-based replacements can be just as functional as synthetic ones, but of course, the feel and look will not be the same.” Yet, Mara Hoffman assures wearers will want to wear her swimsuits even as ready-to-wear uppers and undergarments for their comfort. The designer also claims that, despite planning to be the first one in experimenting with it, she wants as many brands to use it as possible.
The offering is still waiting to pass tests for antibacterial and quick-drying properties as well as to withstand chlorine and saltwater conditions, but we hope to see it hit the shelves soon enough. In the meantime, you can learn more about Mara Hoffman’s sustainability principles and story here.