I’m firmly of the opinion that exercise should be accessible to everyone, and unless your chosen sport requires special equipment to do it, you don’t need technical clothing to do basic activities. I’ve hiked for eight hours in a Colombian national park in Nike Air Max. I boulder in baggy trousers I got from a Thai market. And in that brief moment when I attempted to do Couch to 5K in lockdown, I ran in my boyfriend’s Sepultura T-shirt and Topshop leggings from 2009. Honestly, nobody is doing better yoga than you because they’ve spent £108 on designer leggings. Which would explain why, until Christmas 2020, I was swimming four times a week in my local outdoor lido in a £6 black fast-fashion swimsuit. ‘What did I need a proper one-piece for?’ I told myself. I’d done the unsustainable fast-fashion shopping crime, I had to serve the time. And that time was to get as much use of the £6 swimsuit as I could despite the fact it had gone saggy, bobbly and once, when I was peeling a wetsuit off, decided to just leave my body at the same time, flashing at least three unsuspecting people.
Then, last winter, when the back — specifically the, er, bum area — started to go see-through, I conceded that it was time to upgrade. Looking around the lido, it was clear Tooting Lido’s swimmers had picked a favourite because the same purple puffin-print swimsuit was splashing past me in the lanes, slung over the doors of the changing rooms, or laid out on the concrete to dry. One Saturday morning, I paused at the end of my length and turned to the woman next to me to ask, ‘Where did you get your swimsuit from?’ She told me: Batoko. Obviously without a pen or my phone to write the brand name down, I instantly forgot it, but I just Googled “purple puffin swimsuit” when I got home, and it’s the first thing that came up. I’d love to pretend that I bought my Batoko because the brand, a ‘micro-business’ based in the North of England, makes all of their swimsuits from recycled plastics, donates to charity, and is extremely sustainable, but honestly, I just love the print.
Nine months later and it’s easily the best swimsuit I’ve ever owned. It cost £50 — which felt expensive at the time — but it still looks brand new after months of being washed four times a week. (The brand recommends, for eco reasons, you just rinse it in the shower or wash it at 30 degrees.) It dries very quickly — 10 minutes in the sun on a very hot day, or 15 minutes on a slightly overcast Devon beach. It hasn’t sagged or gone see-through, and the double layer means it doesn’t awkwardly ride up when you’re getting out of the pool. The medium-cut leg and scoop back mean it’s extremely flattering on all body shapes. I’ve seen it worn by women between 18 and 80 years old in the lido, and the brand’s very heartwarming Instagram, which reposts customer’s pics, proves that point. Everyone looks good in it.
If you don’t like puffins, the website also has prints of every kind of sea animal you can think of: sharks, orcas, lobsters, crabs, and narwhals. In fact, the seal print, which came out this summer and donates to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, has now overtaken the puffin as the swimsuit of choice at the lido. I’d like to think that the marine birds on my swimsuit have helped with my endurance, but realistically, the Tooting Lido pool is 91 meters long. Luckily, the suit looks just as good on land as it does in the water.
If you’re looking for something floral, we also like this vibrant sunflower print.
And the seal pattern (which has overtaken the puffin in popularity).
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