The Lists

the best luxury designer swim suits of the season

Swimsuit shopping. Those two words have to be among the most anxiety-provoking pair in the English language for many a modern person, especially “those of a certain age” (and you know who you are). Right up there with blind date, new boss, flight delay and traffic court.

We used to think that this was only a Female Problem. But we recently had lunch at Fred’s at Barneys with a chic male friend, and he regaled us with his story of a recent shopping trip to buy swim trunks for an upcoming long weekend in Miami.

“I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past year, and I thought it was going to be fun! I brought a couple of choices in my ‘old’ size into the dressing room just in case, but all the rest were in my new size. So I tried the first one on in my new size, and I just screamed ‘Oh, my god!’ And not in a good way. The salesman was worried that I had injured myself. I think I really scared him!”

Lesson learned? When shopping for a swimsuit, start the try-on process with a size so large that it couldn’t possibly be right, and work backwards from there. Better to see the XL sliding off your frame than the XS squeezing you like a python.

A glass of white wine before you begin is probably also advisable. How could it hurt? For sure, you should have one when you’re done.

We just went swimsuit shopping in Manhattan ourselves and we lived to tell the tale. The good news? This season, there are some fantastic luxury swimsuits. Somewhere out there, yours is waiting for you.

Love them or hate them, swimsuits are a summer essential. From the pool to the beach to dining al fresco, a good suit can be the backbone of your summer wardrobe. We know firsthand how difficult it can be to find one that is chic, comfortable and flattering.  So we decided to do a little research to learn what some of the best brands in designer swimwear are doing this season to make us feel and look our best.

Some luxury swim brands are employing high-end fabrics that sculpt and mold the body. Others are making real strides in ethical and sustainable production techniques. Here are our picks for the top ten luxurious swimwear brands for women to check out this season:

1. Eres. Every stylish woman should have an Eres suit (or two) in her swimwear wardrobe. The brand is the Chanel of swim suits, and like the City of Light, it’s just always a good idea. Known for its iconic cuts and high-tech materials, this French brand has been producing elegant swimwear for more than 40 years. Their suits are made in peau douce – a soft fabric designed to camouflage imperfections and provide support without the need for padding or boning. On top of that, the collection always offers a variety of colorways, with shades to flatter every skin tone, as well as a variety of shapes and coverage levels that celebrate, flatter and respect the female form. You’re sure to find a suit to flatter your body type. This season we’re fawning over the navy Close Up Blurry Braid-Trimmed ($480) one piece with details that highlight the smallest part of your waist.

2. Carolina K.  Influenced by the people, markets and cultures she encountered on her travels, Argentinian fashion designer Carolina Kleinman created Carolina K in 2004. By merging vintage and modern elements, the label produces style-forward swimwear collections with an artistic feel. Each piece is crafted by artisans who work under global fair trade agreements. While there are solid-color options to choose from throughout the collection, we love the variety of bright and bold prints inspired by Carolina’s global travels.  Our favorite? The Liset Hi Waist Two Piece Set ($220) in a bold blue and red foliage-inspired print featuring cap sleeves and a v-neck, paired with a high waist bottom.

3. Mara Hoffman. Focused on bright colors, energizing graphics and global influences, Mara Hoffman’s vibrant and uplifting aesthetic made waves when she launched the line in 2000. Recently, she has shifted her focus to sustainable materials and production methods – adopting a more sophisticated but still colorful aesthetic to match. The Mila wrap-around bikini top ($160) and matching Zoa bikini bottoms ($135) are a perfect example for the brand’s new direction, with a bold stripe pattern made of Italian fabric in the US that is digitally printed and engineered to reduce waste.

4. Jade Swim. Using high-tech fabrics that offer UV protection, long term shape retention and chlorine resistance is the effortlessly cool swim line from Brittany Kozerski (former editor at Marie Claire) that is just over a year old. The line features earth-hued pieces, pared-down in minimalist style, but cut in elevated, on-trend silhouettes. The Wrapped One Piece ($245) features a tie that can be styled around your torso or over your shoulder, making it a great option for those looking to keep their packing to a minimum while having multiple options for different looks.

5. Matteau. Australian sister duo Ilona Hamer and Peta Heinsen founded Matteau in an effort to enhance and support the modern woman by reducing the swimsuit to its bare essentials. The brand represents classic style, and stands for simplicity above all else, with looks that are purposefully designed to transcend trends. The Square ($300) exemplifies this idea: its square neckline flatters and supports nearly every bust size. And how can you not love the double-layered stretch fabric, that provides a smooth fit and shape that is both comfortable and uncomplicated? We’re in.

6. Lisa Marie Fernandez. During one of her frequent trips to the ocean, former fashion editor Lisa Marie Fernandez noticed a startling absence of bathing suits made from neoprene—the flattering, water-friendly fabric—and was inspired to create her own line. The label centers around sophisticated cuts and body-hugging lines. Each style is named for one of the designer’s fashion insider friends. One of our favorites is the Selena Tomato Polka Dot Bikini ($495).  Not only are polka dots one of the on-trend looks of the season, the suit’s crepe fabrication easily takes you from swimming to sunbathing to cocktails and dinner when paired with a cover-up.

7. Marysia. Marysia Swim was conceived after designer Maria Dobrzanska Reeves found herself searching fruitlessly for fashionable, high-quality swimwear. With credentials that include studies at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and an internship with contemporary brand Milly, Reeves launched her innovative line in 2008. Made of Italian textiles, the line’s signature scalloped trim is not only distinctive, but also becoming. With options in both bikini and one piece suits, we found ourselves drawn to Marysia’s sleek single-strapped Santa Barbara Maillot ($334).  It’s simply stunning.

8. Zimmerman.  Are you ready to inject some fresh femininity into your swim arsenal?  We love Sydney-based sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann and their flirty maillots and ruffled bikinis that are perfect for the ladylike, jet-setting beach goer.  What’s our choice? The Corsair Shoulder Frill Bikini ($295) in cream floral Italian lycra.  We love the little extra detailing of mesh ruffles over the soft floral print that mixes up this classic bikini look.

9. Solid & Striped.  Solid & Striped Swimwear strives for elegant simplicity with swimsuits and trunks that are sleek and preppy. Founded in 2012 by Isaac Ross, it was a collaboration with Morgan Curtis that led to a women’s swimwear collection launched in 2013. The focus is on creating bikinis and swimsuits that will be as stylish in 2033 as they are today.  The Nina One Piece ($178) does just that. This suit manages to be sexy (hello, Bond Girl vibes) thanks to the universally flattering belt – but it’s also comfortable and secure thanks to the ribbed fabric that provides coverage with just enough give. The fashion press says that belted one-piece suits are going to be a Thing this summer. Get yours now.

10. Proenza Schouler. In their 5th season of swimwear, designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez continue to bring their trademark cool factor poolside. The New York design duo puts their technical genius on full display with pared-down bikinis and sculpted one-pieces with cutouts and layers. Cut a striking silhouette poolside with the One Piece Bandeau ($300) with side tie.  Though available in solids, we’re partial to this beauty in black with white paint strokes. It’s cool-girl chic.

So how did we fare on our own recent swimsuit shopping expedition, you ask? In the end we narrowed our choices down to two. The first was a subdued navy blue one-piece tank that was functional, comfortable, completely inoffensive and age-appropriate (something a mom with kids “should” wear). Basically the same dark-colored suit we’ve been buying for years. As we eyed it in the dressing room mirror, it seemed to humbly project the message: “I know I am not young and thin, and I accept that about myself. Cast your gaze elsewhere. I’m just here for my children.”

The second option was a loud, happy red Dolce & Gabbana print maillot with brightly colored tropical fish all over it, that when assessed in the same dressing room mirror seemed to shout: “Look at me!” and “Let’s have some fun!” Maybe even “Yeah, that’s right – I still got it.” It had real swagger, this swimsuit. If we dimmed the lights, and squinted a bit, we swear we kind of looked like Beyonce in it.

Two dramatically different options, in other words. Which one to buy?

Well, it’s been kind a crummy spring, with snow and cold and news headlines that would drive almost any sane person to despair. A new season means new hope. New courage. And a new direction.

Dear reader, we bought the bold red one.

We’ll see you on the beach (you won’t have any trouble picking us out in the crowd). Happy shopping! And don’t forget the wine.

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