With summer at its peak, oceans are a popular place to cool off — but the swimsuit you wear could be harming the very oceans you’re swimming in. Many swimwear brands use materials that are not biodegradable and can shed pieces of plastic called microfibers into the ocean. According to the International Institution for Conservation of Nature, fast fashion contributes to 30% of oceanic microplastic pollution.
While there are so many great Austin swimwear stores, not all are environmentally conscious. House of ZZ is one of few swimwear brands based in Austin that is dedicated to creating sustainably made swimwear that is both fashionable and functional.
Morgan and Michael Rizzuti are the husband and wife duo who had an idea in 2019 to create a sustainable fashion brand. At the time, Morgan was working at a tax firm while Michael was working in oil and gas, but neither were completely satisfied with their careers.
“We had crazy schedules and never got to see each other — I was kind of unfulfilled; I wanted to go more on the creative route,” Morgan says. “As we started researching things, we came across sustainability in swimwear. When I learned what could go into a recycled fabric, I thought we should give it a shot.”
Although the Rizzutis had no prior experience with the fashion industry, they decided to dive into the world of sustainable swimwear. The first step in their new endeavor was to figure out how to design and make the swimsuits. Since Morgan has a passion for creativity, she decided to take over the designing process.
“It has been constant learning for me. It’s me who is designing, but the company I work with has a team that helps non-designers make their own samples,” Morgan says. “When we first started, I thought this was an easy way in because this company is all-encompassing; we learn as we go, instead of bouncing around between a bunch of different companies.”
After a year and a half of trial and error, the Rizzutis finally figured out their first designs and launched their website in 2020. Luckily, the duo found a trustworthy supplier, Econyl, that explained the swimsuit-making process.
The yarn is made from materials that are found in the ocean, such as fishing nets, industrial plastics, recycled carpets and other single-use plastics. These materials are made from a type of plastic called nylon that can be melted into its original form and then made into another object such as yarn.
Mateusz Zawada, CFO of a slow fashion brand called Starseeds, explains in the Wanderlust Journal that sustainable fabrics are, on average, two and a half to four times more expensive than commonly used fabrics. This could be why sustainable swimwear can be difficult to find.
The Rizzutis experienced the challenge of balancing their lack of experience with the mass of details that go into running a business; it would have been easy for them to back out and pursue an easier path. However, the mission was too important to them.
“It comes back to being a total ocean lover. Anytime (I’ve) ever visited a beach, there’s trash everywhere,” Morgan says. “When we found out you could make something new, like a clothing item, out of something that’s already out there, I thought that was so neat. Being able to buy a clothing item made from sustainable things is such an easy thing to do for anyone.”
While House of ZZ has its designs and quality down to a science, they are still working on becoming more size-inclusive. Although the brand offers sizes ranging from extra small to extra large, the Rizzutis recognize some bodies won’t fit into these sizes.
Morgan remembers hearing from other brands that expanding sizes is expensive, but she didn’t realize the cost until starting her own brand. However, despite the cost, the Rizzutis are not going to stop experimenting with more sizes.
“It takes some work, but swimwear is such an intimate thing, especially for women,” Morgan says. “It’s hard to go out and be confident in this small number, and it’s just (as) important that whoever puts it on, the cut and size feel good. That’s something we’ll have to continue working on, until the end of time.”
With so many options for swimsuits, it’s hard to know where to look when trying to be environmentally conscious. But sustainable swimsuit brands like House of ZZ have got you covered — don’t settle for adding to the oceanic pollution when you can have a sustainable solution.