the 411 on all things bikinis: the good, the bad, and the unethical
Updated: Jul 30
As a Florida girl raised on the west coast, I've always spent the majority of my free time either in the ocean, in a pool, or on a river. Growing up, weekends always meant doing something outdoors. My parents have had a boat for most of my life, and recently moved to a waterfront home on a beautiful beach, so I've spent a lot of time in swimwear.
It wasn't until I was 15/16 though, that I really started to see swimwear as one of my favorite items to shop for. Trust me though, I went through some questionable phases in my fashionable swim journey. Remember when Hollister sold those ruched bikini bottoms with a permanent bow sewn on the back? Yup, had those. Oh and I can't forget the Victoria's Secret neon aztec bikini bottoms I used to wear with literally every top imaginable. If you stalk my instagram and go back far enough, you'll see it. Either way, there's nothing I get more excited for than a new kini.
Fast forward to now, I don't buy my bikinis at places like Victoria's Secret, or really any stores at the mall. One because - they're overpriced, overdone, and not amazing quality (in my opinion). The main place I search for new bikini brands to try out is actually Instagram. The first brand I want to talk about is Lagos Bikinis. I don't know how I came across their page, but I did, and I followed them for a whole year before buying my first kini from them and wow...why did I wait so long. Their site is a little confusing at first, but it's basically a brand where you choose the style, pattern, and size of your top and bottom, and then it's handmade for you. They're based in Miami from what I've seen on their page, and so since I live in Florida as well, they usually come in around 7 days. Since my first order from them, I've gotten 3 other ones. This is a pretty big deal because I am SUPER picky when it comes to my swimwear, how it feels, how it fits, etc. Lagos is such a hidden gem, I can't believe more people don't know about them (but I'm not mad about it, more for me).
These are 3 of the kinis I have from Lagos, my 4th just came in the mail earlier this week and I don't have pics in it yet cause I'm waiting for a pool party this Saturday (yay) to get some shots in it. Ok, so other than being a small business, made in the USA, and run by women, why else do I love their kinis? First off, the fabric is buttery soft, doesn't pill, and doesn't fade. Also, even though they're mostly tie-side and cheeky, they don't move around much, at least on me. You don't have to worry about a wave coming and accidentally revealing something.
Some cons about Lagos: if you have a bigger chest, and are looking for support, I don't think Lagos has many options for you. I barely have an A cup, so I don't know what it's like to be blessed with nice boobs, but I would imagine their bikinis wouldn't offer support since they're not padded, no underwire, and just tie up everywhere. Don't get me wrong I am not saying if you have a C cup and up you can't wear their bikinis, you deff can (and you'll most likely look better than me in them). I'm saying, you may have to do a lot of readjusting throughout the day to make sure you're covered.
Also important, I recommend following them on instagram: @lagosbikinis because they have flash sales that only last an hour, and you can get your bikini for 50-60% off. They don't have a sale section, so this tip is important to save money!
If you're looking to splurge on a bikini, another one of my go-to brands is Frankies.
My 15 year old self would've died for a Frankie's bikini, and my 21 year old self agrees...they do live up to the hype. Their fabric is out of this world soft, doesn't fade, and has the perfect stretch. The thing is...the prices. Because of this, I don't have many bikinis from them, and if I want more I'll probably get them on Poshmark. Besides the price, the only other con is that since the fabric (especially on the ribbed bikinis) is so soft, it does pill easily. Don't sit on the concrete ledge when you're at the pool and you should be fine.
Another luxury swim brand I love is Onia. I was able to get mine for like 75% off at TJ Maxx (it was literally the only one on the rack) and I snagged it. It was supposed to be $200, but I got it for $50. Onia's swim is padded and really sucks you in, so if you're looking for a more supportive top and slimming high waisted bottoms, I recommend their bikinis.
Since I only have one kini from them, I don't have much to report other than the fact that the suit is very high quality and I don't regret my purchase, although, I could not see myself spending $200+ on one of their kinis. Similar to Frankies, I'd try to find more off of Poshmark, or maybe I'll get lucky at TJ Maxx again!
Now for the other portion of this blog post: the unethical. You've seen the Youtube swim hauls, the sponsored instagram posts, most girls in college wear them...ring a bell? Fast. Fashion. Swim. Aka, Zaful and Shein (among the many others). Trust me, I know how tempting those prices are, and social media leads us to believe we need a new bikini for every occasion, but that's just unrealistic. Don't get me wrong though, I'm no saint. I have ordered from Shein once. Before I get into why you shouldn't buy from brands like these, let me start with my review of the kinis I received.
They looked like the picture for the most part, some were slightly too big, or too small but they all do fit. They're very flimsy, and I just know they're not going to last very long. I got 4 for around $50 and while that seems enticing, if you're spending $50 on bikinis you're constantly having to replace, your money is going down the drain. I spend around $60 for 1 handmade bikini from Lagos, but the fabric, stitching, and overall quality will outlast the Shein or Zaful bikinis time and time again. If you order from these brands, expect to wait 3+ weeks for subpar bikinis.
The real issue isn't just that they're cheap, but they're unethical. These garments are made in sweatshops, by underpaid, overworked employees, hence their ultra-affordable prices. I've also seen a lot of indie swim brands have their bikinis knocked off by brands like Shein and Zaful, which is a huge blow to the original designers. As someone who tries to be conscious of my decisions, especially when it comes to sustainability and ethical practices, I cannot recommend buying bikinis from brands like these. The demand for these cheap bikinis leads to hundreds (maybe even more) people working in unsafe factories for long hours without much pay, and that is huge issue for many brands, not just Zaful and Shein. It leads to indie swim brands and small businesses losing customers, and not receiving credit for their work. It's shocking to me as a tried to find article about this issue, they were either very vague or no longer available.
If you're someone like me who collects and loves cute kinis, I would checkout small swim brands on Instagram, discounted gently used swim on Poshmark, and local boutiques! I couldn't possibly mention all of my favorites I this blog post so I've compiled a list of brands to follow on instagram for all things swim. Please note - I have bought swim from some and not others yet, think of this as my ideal wishlist if I had unlimited money. Next to each brand I have also added 1-4 dollar signs to represent how much you should expect to pay for their kinis.
This will serve as a running list, and as I try/discover more brands I'll add them to the blog post. Feel free to comment your favorite swim brands/fast fashion facts I may have left out!