The stretch in our clothing is often provided by elastane. This fibre, also referred to as Lycra or spandex, was invented in 1958 by the DuPont chemist Joseph Shivers. It is made of at least 85% polyurethane with the rest being mostly polyester or polyethylene glycol. It can stretch to five to seven times its relaxed length and yet return quickly to its original shape, making it extremely durable. Because elastane, like other plastics materials, is derived from fossil fuels, has the potential to shed microplastics, and is not biodegradable, companies are looking to discover alternatives.

The Cannes One Piece swimsuit (1) gets its stretch from an elastane which is a biodegradable fruit derived polymer. The rest of the fabric is Pyratex Active 1 a polyamide with enhanced biodegradability. The fabric will decompose within 5 years when disposed of in landfill conditions where it will be digested by bacteria in this anaerobic environment.


The Faial bodysuit (2) is made of an elastane, and polyamide, derived from castor beans. These biopolymers are fast-drying and absorb moisture very well. They are light weight, very stretchy and have a soft touch finish. Castor beans grow in very arid areas and require little or no irrigation water, and no pesticides or fertilisers are used in their production. The recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) chiffon top is made from postconsumer plastic bottles, recycled through a mechanical, not chemical, process and spun into yarn in Italy. The fabric is 100% recycled, anti-UV, fast drying, antibacterial and hypoallergenic, as well as certified by GRS (Global Recycle Standards by Textile Exchange, a global non-profit driving beneficial impacts on climate and nature across the fashion, textile, and apparel industry) and Oeko Tex (an organisation that consists of independent textile and leather testing institutes in Europe and Japan). Compared to virgin polyester, rPET uses ‘significantly’ less energy, releases 65% less carbon dioxide and requires 90% less water to produce.