So as my post about North Point’s secret swimwear shop has just shot back up the “most read” charts on the blog, I can only conclude that summer is well and truly here! While I’m happy to schlepp all over town for my own swimwear (sadly, the only way to guarantee a good fit involves grappling with lycra and those weird gusset stickers in a too-small changing room), I draw the line at taking Master and Baby T-T cossie shopping. The idea of trying to keep an active four-year-old still in a cubicle while trying to peel rash vests on and off him without either of us overheating or losing our tempers in a BIG way is, frankly, above and beyond the call of parenting duty as far as I’m concerned.
So hooray for the internet and the gifts it bestows upon us – namely the ability to do all kinds of previously inconvenient stuff from the comfort of the sofa. Just add a credit card. Now of course, this being Hong Kong, plenty of international retailers aren’t yet on board with shipping to us (“Hong Kong? That’s Japan, right?”), so I’ve put together a short roundup of some brands that offer a good range of cute, affordable and – most importantly of all – Disney character-free swimwear for both girls and boys. So if your water baby is busting out of their costume and you have a summer by the seaside all lined up, here are a few of my favourite options. Elly La Fripouille
We were recently lucky enough to be sent a matching (squee!) set of these très chic French-made swimmers to test out on both boys. As well as the obvious cuteness factor of matching nautical-themed outfits (double-squee!) I was very impressed with both the fabric quality and the UV-busting properties of the rash vest and all-in-one swimsuit we were sent. In fact all of Elly La Fripouille’s swimwear is UV 50+ resistant and blocks up to 98% of harmful UVA and UVB rays. As this is especially important for the littlest members of the family, sizes start from 6-12 months up to six years, and come in a range of ridiculously cute prints, including sailor suits for the boys and Liberty print for the girls.
Common to a lot of French kids clothing that we’ve tried, sizes here can come up a little small. The 6-12 month swimsuit we were sent was actually perfectly serviceable – if a little loose – for our (admittedly chunky) 3-month-old, so I’d recommend buying a size up. Also available are very stylish mini Wayfarer-style sunnies for babies and toddlers, so you can accessorise your fashion-forward four-year-old accordingly.
Prices from €29.90 (HK$261) to €39 (HK$340); free delivery on orders over €50.
www.elly-la-fripouille.com Boden Back in the UK, “Boden” is often used as shorthand for a particular type of smug, middle-class person. So in the spirit of having become what I once despised, I’m including them and their (annoyingly) good quality swimwear in this list. Offering sizes from newborn to 16 years in their kids’ section, both the boys’ and girls’ sections are full of the bold primary colours colours for which this brand has become so well known.
My particular favourites are the longline towelling “throw-ons”, which are great for wrapping up after a day at the beach and come in a range of cheerful prints, lined with a bright pop of colour in the hood.
Prices from £10 (HK$120) to £26 (HK$314); delivery to Hong Kong is £12 (HK$145).
British high-street staple Next have a dedicated Hong Kong site, offering super-fast delivery that’s free for orders over HK$200. There’s a decent – and well-priced – choice of UV suits, trunks, bikinis, tankinis and rash vests for both boys and girls aged from three months to 16 years, with designs that are contemporary and fun – the dinosaur and fish-print surf suits are particularly lovely. There’s a small selection of brand names available, but the majority of the range is Next’s own-label stuff, which is good quality and wears well.
As with Elly La Fripouille, sizing can vary from the label, although in this case the clothes tend to run a little large, so avoid the age-old mum temptation to buy something for them to grow into and go with their actual size.
Prices from HK$70 to HK$360; delivery is free over HK$200.
www.hk.nextdirect.com Platypus Australia
If there’s one country that takes sun protection seriously, it’s Australia, and if Platypus’ range is approved by no less than The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, then that’s good enough for me. The range is split into babies (newborn to eight years) and boys/girls’ (eight to 14 years), and features UV suits, sun shirts, rash vests and board shorts in cool, not too cutesy prints that teens will probably approve of. Shipping is calculated on your final order total but there’s a handy estimate button so you can tot up as you go.
Prices from AU$23 (HK$138) to AU$63 (HK$378); shipping starts from AU$7.40 (HK$45)
www.platypusaustralia.com Cotton On
If, like me, you can’t face the Causeway Bay or TST stores at the weekend, then Cotton On’s bargain costumes are just a quick click away. The range is relatively small, but the rash vests offer UV 50+ protection and are extremely reasonably priced, meaning that you won’t mind stocking up on a selection of these cute print separates. There are options for both boys and girls, plus a selection of hats and sunnies.
Prices from HK$55 to HK$119; shipping is free over HK$800