women led swimwear brands© Instagram

The Best Women-Led Indian Swimwear Brands To Look Out For

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Ananya Shankar

As we jump into the deep end of what’s predicted to be one of the hottest summers in recent years, we long for days spent swimming in the ocean, fabulous parties by the pool and — for the more athletic amongst us — catching waves along the coastline. But what’s summer without the perfect swimsuit?

Not the tired, run-off-the-mill suits, rather, the chic swimwear that fit and feel just as good as they look. And in this sea of style, HELLO! chats with the dynamic women that are making waves with their bold visions, and even bolder designs.

Anjali Patel Mehta - Founder, Verandah

Anjali — an Economics major at Wellesley College in the US, who worked on Wall Street for 10 years and pursued an MBA from the Indian School of Business — decided to embark on a new path, culminating in her acclaimed, sustainable collections showcased on prestigious platforms like Lakme Fashion Week and Miami Swim Week.

Being an avid swimmer herself, she’s been perpetually on the lookout for chic bathing suits, with a range of designers in her wardrobe. But while she can find functional ones, she wonders where the fun, luxury ones are? Not to mention, the style limitations that come with bigger sizes! “I have been a size 0 and a size 10. So when I say inclusive, I mean to say that we run a full size set — UK 6 to UK 16-18 internationally — but I don’t design with coverage in mind,” says Anjali. She explains, “I don’t think that a UK 18 size product must be more ‘covered up’. In fact, I named all the different styles of swimwear in my first collection after my friends, who are all different shapes and sizes!”

But there’s another problem that plagued Anjali — the rampant greenwashing in the industry. “I was the first to use Econyl yarn [a regenerated polyamide by Aquafil] in India. My dad’s a chemical engineer, a polymer scientist, and he told me that to be sustainable I have to go back to the molecule.We started producing in Sri Lanka in a water neutral factory at one of the largest sustainable factories in Asia,” she reveals. It’s more expensive, but the quality is very high.

From 14-year-olds wearing mommy-and-me pieces to her own mother-in-law who’s 74, their clientele is extremely diverse. “We even shot with the Indian Surf team once and they said that it was the best technical swimwear, asking why we weren’t supplying in surf shops!”

Anjali now wants to “be known as a conscious luxury, lifestyle brand. And I’m the first Indian designer to be awarded The Butterfly Mark [the luxury industry’s leading sustainability certification] in Positive Luxury. I want Verandah to be an emotion” — a brand that makes you feel like you’re on vacation even when you’re not!

Saoni Daini - Creative Director and Co-founder, Sazo

Sketching gown designs in textbooks as a child, Saoni actualised her lifelong passion of designing clothes at the MIT Institute of Design, Pune. After honing her skills in the industry, her entrepreneurial spirit finally found its momentum during the lockdown when she ventured into designing masks, sparking the genesis of her beloved Sazo.

“I’m petite but I have a heavier bust and struggle to find swimwear that fits my body…” she reveals. “I wanted to make something that was inclusive of people like me and so, I kept my silhouettes simple and went ham with prints — because the swimwear industry is not experimenting with prints — not like Sazo does.”

While she admits that in the last decade, swimwear companies have started working with models of all shapes and sizes and creating commercially viable silhouettes, it’s still not enough. And to that end, she’s found a solution that works best for her customers.

“Whenever I’m taking an order through [Instagram] DMs or WhatsApp, I ask them if they want to customise it,” the founder explains. We’re talking high-waisted bikini bottoms, more coverage for bikini tops, adjusters on the back, not going too deep with cuts. She continues, “I have had women ask me to make such changes and done that for them because of the empathy that I have. If someone really likes a print, but cannot have it in the existing style, then why not? My print is my USP right now, so I will make it in their desired silhouette.”

And it’s this inherent sense of empathy and understanding that makes every piece from Sazo all the more special. After all, in 2024, Saoni rejects the notion of a singular ‘beach body’. “It sounds bizarre to not have more sizing options because a larger audience entails more business!” she says, emphasising that her ultimate dream is “To go all out with my prints and reach a point where I don’t have to restrict my creativity. People need to step out of their comfort zone and embrace their inner child” — and we simply can’t wait!

Maia Shroff - Founder, Papaaya Swimwear

A self-professed ‘beach baby’ with a background in psychology and communication, Maia found her calling in swimwear during her academic years at ISDI WPP School of Communication, propelled by a fortuitous encounter with her capstone project. Her leap of faith, along with the support of her loving family, materialised into Papaaya Swimwear, bridging the gap in the Indian market with trendy yet accessible designs.

Recognising the frustration of buying bikini sets with standardised sizing, Maia chose to sell “tops and bottoms separately to mix and match sizes.” She continues, “Ten years ago, professional swimmers wore Speedo and everyone else did too. But today, swimwear has become an essential in every girl’s wardrobe…” Well, the expert predicts three-piece sets (a two-piece bikini with a sarong) to be the biggest fad this summer — and stay tuned, you might see this on Papaaya soon!

But for it to be a part of every girl’s wardrobe, it simply must fit them all. And here’s where her ingenuity steps in. She includes “removable cups — to ensure extra support for larger sizes, a thick and stretchy fabric lining and high-waisted bottoms,” to ensure everybody’s comfort. Because every body is a beach body, regardless of size, shape, colour or appearance and Maia aims to create a culture where everyone feels “confident, comfortable and valued.”

And to that end, she’s an undeniable success! “It’s the love we get via [Instagram] DM on the daily that makes me think I’m doing something right here,” she smiles. She admits that ultimately she wishes for Papaaya “to be the go-to brand for swim and resort wear. What Bisleri is to water and Colgate is to toothpaste, we want Papaaya to be for swimwear. I know it’s far-fetched but my mum always taught me to dream big and when big doesn’t work out, to go even bigger.”

Vezotolü Vadeo And Shilpi Mishra - Founders, IZSI

Back in their college days at NIFT, Vezotolü and Shilpi would often discuss the absence of chic swimwear brands in India and after thorough research, they decided to fill that void with IZSI. “Being a North-Eastern in this part of the country, I’m often made to feel like an outsider. Those experiences taught me the importance of inclusivity, embracing diversity and ensuring representation for all backgrounds,” reveals Vezotolü, and it’s a quality that’s emphasised in all their campaigns.

Besides a variety of high-waisted and one-piece options, they also extend customisation services to ensure maximum comfort. Shilpi explains, “Our goal is to craft figure-flattering options suited to a wide range of customers, incorporating customer feedback and analysing market research data.” Vezotolü chimes in, “And we love colours!” But they have also introduced solid colours to cater to the more print-shy among us.

True to their words, their pieces are fun, trendy and comfortable — even for long days at the beach. But the concept of a traditional ‘beach body’ continues to haunt. Shilpi believes that “the body that you inhabit with all its curves, stretch marks, cellulite, extra weight or scars — makes your body uniquely yours. That is your beach body!” Her co-founder agrees, adding that while witnessing the benefits of body positivity, it’s not about redefining the body but perhaps, about refining one’s personal style.

Shilpi accounts for better access to sustainable fabrics, swimwear accessories and talent for this niche category today. “The focus is on both comfort and aesthetics without having to compromise on one for the other,” reflects Shilpi. And as they complete two years in the market, she tells us “every message from our customers is a memorable moment…”

With every collection, their aim is to craft swim and resort wear pieces that make all customers feel comfortable, confident and celebrated. With sizes ranging from XXS to 5XL and beyond, their “constant endeavour is to create an inclusive and welcoming environment where every individual can find pieces that not only fit their bodies, but also resonate with their values,” asserts Shilpi. Thrilled to be celebrated as a homegrown, up-and-coming brand that champions size inclusivity and body positivity, Vezotolü elaborates saying they now “dream of expanding into various lifestyle categories and are filled with excitement for the journey ahead!” — and seeing their stunning pieces, so are we!

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s April 2024 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!