The Anowi Surf Eco-Friendly Second Skin Reversible High Waisted Swim Short comes in three color combinations and it’s the perfect swim bottom for a little more coverage but still flexible and comfortable enough for a wide range of water activities. As the name “second skin” implies, these swim shorts are meant to “move with you, cover but flatter a grown woman’s body.” The shorts sit at the natural waistline, but the foldable waistband can be adjusted to be up to three inches lower, which is super versatile for tanning, fashion, and other purposes. It’s also made from 83% recycled plastic bottle fibers, a more sustainable material than traditional non-recyclable synthetic textiles hence being described as “eco-friendly.“ Lastly, the bestselling garment has been certified and tested for +50 Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) sun protection, which means the fabric blocks 98% of solar radiation or allows 1/50th aka 2% to penetrate. With the $78 price tag, the Anowi Surf swim short is comparable or surprisingly cheaper to other sustainable surf/swim bottoms for women, such as the $145 Ansea Reversible High Waisted Bikini Brief that I previously reviewed. Of course, these prices are still largely unaffordable for the average American, but if you are in the market for a pricier sustainable swim bottom, Anowi Surf is a great option! Overall, Anowi Surf is doing very well with its sustainability initiatives in recyclable material composition, waterless digital printing process, recyclable and biodegradable packaging, domestic production transparency, and even a future plan in the works to close the lifecycle loop for old Anowi Surf pieces to be turned into accessories.
The swim short is made of 83% REPREVE® polyester and 17% spandex. REPREVE® is the brand name of recycled fabrics made by an American fiber manufacturer, Unifi. In North Carolina, 26 billion plastic bottles that would’ve ended up in landfills or oceans have been used to make REPREVE® polyester, nylon, and resin. What makes REPREVE® a more sustainable option is that it’s the same quality and chemical composition as virgin polyester, but it’s made from what otherwise would be plastic pollution/waste! In addition, its production requires 20% less water consumption, 45% less energy consumption, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by over 30% compared to virgin polyester. This is a great step in the right direction as the global textile and apparel industry is one of the world’s largest polluters, and over 35 billion plastic bottles are thrown away in one year. REPREVE® has also been certified by independent third-party organizations to confirm recycled material composition (Global Recycled Standard), product safety (Oeko-Tex Standard 100), and supply chain claims (Scientific Certification Systems).
Even though the use of REPREVE® polyester is more sustainable than using virgin polyester, it’s important to understand that it’s not the most sustainable solution out there. First of all, Anowi Surf swim shorts are made from a blended fabric that includes REPREVE® and spandex/elastane, which renders the swimwear unrecyclable at the end of its use. Another drawback of REPREVE® polyester is its negative environmental impact because it isn’t renewable, biodegradable, or compostable. It takes hundreds of years, the release of toxic chemicals, and the emissions of greenhouse gases for polyester to decompose contributing to the destruction of natural ecosystems. So even if plastic bottles are being saved and recycled, the eventual textile waste is also a huge issue. Landfilling of textile material accounted for 17 million tons in the U.S. in 2018. To Anowi’s credit, they have acknowledged this and are working on creating a full lifecycle solution that would involve customers sending back unusable swimwear to be transformed into hair accessories and bikini bags. I am curious about what would happen to those items at the end of their lifecycles. Lastly, synthetic fibers also contribute to microplastic pollution in the ocean. Whenever someone does a load of laundry with clothing made from polyester, nylon, or spandex, tiny plastic microfibers break off and pollute waterways that harm food chains. Anowi Surf recommends on their website to hand wash their swimwear with cold water to prolong the life of the garment and prevent this type of pollution. If needed to be washed in the machine, Anowi Surf recommends using a washing bag like the Guppyfriend that collects the microplastic fibers during the wash.
Beyond the swim shorts themselves, Anowi Surf has also taken careful consideration of the type of packaging they use to ship orders in. They source their packaging from a Colorado-based company that makes the shipping bag, the tissue paper, and the sticker all out of 100% recycled materials. The shipping bag is made to be reused with two sticky strips, and the tissue paper/sticker ensemble can be put into home recycling bins.
First, to make the polyester for various clothing garments like the Anowi Surf Swim Short, pre-consumer and post-consumer waste are processed in a huge REPREVE® recycling facility in Greensboro, North Carolina to become resin chips. Next, the resin chips are extruded and textured through a proprietary process to become REPREVE® polyester fibers. Then the fibers are turned into fabric at a mill in Los Angeles, California. The production of recycled fibers removes the need for crude oil extraction/refinery and the use of naphtha, xylenes, and other chemicals.
Then, Anowi Surfwear uses a digital printing house located in Bridgewater, Virginia to “dye” fabrics quality colors and prints without water. Despite being significantly more expensive, printing digitally doesn’t pollute water like traditional methods of dyeing and printing fabric usually do because it is a waterless process.
Once the fabric is created and printed, Anowi Surf swimwear is produced by a small manufacturer specializing in swimwear in the heart of New York City’s Garment District around 38th Street and 8th Avenue. For the most part, Anowi’s supply chain consists of various domestic vendors, which not only limits carbon footprint during transportation but also facilitates knowledge and transparency for every step of the production process. Anowi also clearly specifies which trims they haven’t been able to find U.S. suppliers for yet. For example, their bra cups and zippers are imported from China, and their elastics are from Japan. It’s great to see how open Anowi is with its supply chain and how they consider sustainability at every step!
Anowi Surf is founded and run by Iwona Kapcia in Rockaway Beach, NY. Growing up in Southern Poland, Kapcia loved fashion illustrations, so she eventually moved to NYC to pursue her design career. After a trip to New Zealand to visit her sister, Kapcia started surfing lessons at Rockaway Beach, and the sport changed her life. Anowi Surfwear is the product of Kapcia’s love for fashion design and love of surfing. It fills a gap in the surfwear industry: functional, flattering, and sustainable surfing clothing for women. As a small business, it appears that Iwona Kapcia runs all business operations herself except for the actual production of the clothing as described in the previous two sections. On social media, Kapcia shares videos of herself packing orders for different customers, and reviews on the Anowi website mention that they will receive personal emails from Kapacia herself. It’s always inspiring to hear about women entrepreneurs!
As the lowest-rated section, I do have a few criticisms to flesh out. First, there simply isn’t a lot of information to be found on who makes Anowi Swim Shorts. On the Anowi website, they do claim to personally be aware of everyone involved in the supply chain, but none of this information is made public to customers. What would be reassuring to ethical and socially conscious consumers might include posting an upheld supplier code of conduct and some basic information on those who are involved in the production and how they are treated. Additionally, if there is more of a team behind Anowi Surf, it would be great to see who else is contributing to the growth and execution of the brand. I would also like to see what Anowi Surf is doing about environmental and social justice beyond just their products. I think their sustainable branding can be a really powerful force to spur greater change in society, and in the future, partnering with other organizations with similar missions could make a positive impact.
Nevertheless, I applaud Anowi Surf for genuinely taking the time to consider how the materials they use will impact the planet. It’s evident how important true sustainability is to the brand, and I appreciate seeing how transparent they are with their audience even admitting where they may fall short.