It was in spring of 2018 that I began my mission to find a full coverage swimsuit. I had just signed up my toddler for weekly swimming lessons and started panicking about what I was going to wear to accompany him swimming each week. To give you some context, as a Muslim woman, I choose to cover my hair and my body (otherwise known as the hijab) on a daily basis and so, a regular swimsuit or bikini would not be appropriate for me.
I have been wearing the hijab for over 10 years and my experiences of going to the beach or swimming have been sporadic. I’ve been lucky enough to visit beach resorts with enough privacy to let me swim and sunbathe freely! I’ve also been to many ‘women’s only’ beaches which are customary in the Middle East, allowing women who do choose to cover, the freedom to wear a bikini or one-piece, or at the very least remove their headscarf, to sunbathe and relax on the beach. And for the times that I haven’t had these luxuries, I've thrown on a long t-shirt paired with leggings or cobbled together something ‘beach appropriate’ from the gym clothes that I have. Trust me, these have been less than beach appropriate and definitely not appropriate for swimming. Heavy dripping clothes, stuck to me in all the wrong places and covered in sand. You get the idea. I’ve had my fair share of funny looks!
For those of you that find this strange, I get it! The beach IS a place to be free. The presence of men should not hinder that. Whilst that may be the case for some, for other women, there are factors that mean that stripping down to a bikini or one-piece and exposing their bodies on the beach, would not feel any more normal or comfortable than walking down the street in their underwear. Some women cover for religious reasons. Some would not dream of exposing so much of their skin to the sun’s harmful rays. And there are others that just don’t feel comfortable exposing their bodies, just because they are on the beach. But are limited by the lack of other swimwear options.
So when I was faced with the prospect of having to swim on a weekly basis at my local gym, panic started to set it. I immediately started searching online for a ‘burkini’. For those of you not familiar with it, a burkini is a hybrid of the words ‘burka’ (the garment used by Muslim women to cover their entire bodies) and ‘bikini’. Type ‘burkini’ into google.. you will be faced by a sea of images of full sleeve swim garments; long, loose fitting dress, paired with loose fitting trousers, with a head covering attached for good measure. Most of the designs follow a similar theme: plain fabrics sporting some kind of basic neon colour block or large floral printed design. The burkini was originally thought up about 10 years ago and made famous by non-Muslim women wearing it on the beach preferring not to expose themselves or simply to protect themselves from the sun - oh the outrage! Despite burkinis being aimed at women like me, I cringed when I saw what was on offer and nothing compelled me to make a purchase. Surely this cannot be the selection available to me in 2018! The swimsuits I was seeing had been designed with little thought given to style, fit or comfort. They don’t appear to consider different tastes or body types and frankly make me feel very self conscious; and that’s before I’ve even tried it on!
I completely understand the need for a loose fitting garment especially for women looking for a modest swimwear solution, but my personal choice was to go for a swimsuit that was suitably fitted to avoid the excess material sticking to my body when immersed in water.
I searched and eventually settled on a burkini being sold by a large UK department store. It was the simplest, least fussy design I could find. A one piece black swimdress attached to leggings with a simple blue stripe across the front. No headgear attached. I have to admit I was excited to have found something that was being sold to a ‘western’ audience as I felt this would somehow suit my needs better. This swimsuit cost me over £50; which I thought was a small price to pay if it fitted my requirements. I eagerly awaited the delivery of my purchase. On arrival I immediately unpacked the swimsuit and tried it on. The upper garment was fitted with cups which at first seemed like a great idea but I soon realised that these were fitted nowhere near my breasts but instead sat just below my neck - epic fail! The size small pulled at the crotch whilst the medium sagged and I immediately knew I would have a permanent wedgie. The fabric was cheap and of poor quality, the type that if you caught your nail on, it would immediately scratch and snag. Oh well, swimming was a week away so I quickly cut off the tags, cut out the cups and settled for this sub-optimal solution to my swimwear problem.
But I wasn’t giving up that easy!
I continued my search for stylish modest swimwear online but the results were few and far between. Why was this so hard? This is not a new problem so why had the fashion industry not picked up on the fact that women need chic, well fitted swimwear that isn’t a skimpy bikini or one-piece.
I then came across an Instagram post by a 'modest fashion influencer' that I follow, promoting a new modest swimwear brand. She looked stylish, the swimsuit was fitted but still fully covered, modest and chic. I immediately ordered every design that they had in two sizes each for good measure. The swimwear arrived and there’s no doubt it was great and a far cry from anything that I had found previously. This was not a burkini. The fabric was luxurious, the details and designs were stylish and I was excited to try them on.
Sadly, none of the swimsuits fit me the way I hoped. If I was spending this much on a swimsuit I wanted it to fit perfectly.
And that’s when it clicked. I need to make my own! My problem was not unique.. there is a demand but not enough supply. I spoke with my sister in law, now my co-founder and she had an equal light bulb moment. So we set out to design and create the perfect full coverage swimwear solution. Designed by us, for us. We have different body types and complementary tastes so each of us has brought a unique perspective to the designs and creation of our swimwear. The details are personal to us. The fabric and fits have been tried and tested. And we are both passionate about creating a luxury product that we feel proud to wear.
Whilst each woman has a unique need, they shouldn’t have to settle for a makeshift or sloppy swimwear solution. Lanuuk aims to redefine the traditional swimsuit and give women more of a choice of what they wear to the beach or to swim. Our brand and logo represent a pearl and shell; we want women to feel exquisite and empowered and love wearing our swimsuits as much as we do!
The world is your oyster and we’ve got you covered!