Stalled by the pandemic in 2020, the global beachwear and swimwear market made a strong return last year, mainly driven by the women’s segment. Not only did it exceed the $21 billion mark in 2021, after having fallen below $20 billion the year before, but most recent reports forecast that it will also grow at an average annual rate estimated between 5 and 7% over the next 5 years.


While America, China and Europe are definitively the world’s heavyweights, the MENA region market has its own logic. “Though it’s growing, it’s not a big market, but it’s still highly diversified”, notes Agata Barbara Hadzic, a Polish fashion designer, stylist and consultant also specialized in luxury and who has been working in the region for the past 12 years.

In this part of the world, the way people, and women in particular, choose their beachwear depends a lot on the culture and the laws of the country they live in. In religious countries, women have to wear bathing suits that don’t reveal their body, at least in public places. In Saudi Arabia for instance, they are not allowed to wear swimsuits at the beach. In secular countries like Lebanon or Tunisia, or very cosmopolitan ones like the UAE, we can observe a mix of the latest Western trends, modest style beachwear and burkinis.

A shift in lifestyle

“It’s then for this reason that the beachwear market in the MENA region, and especially the Middle East, includes some typical clothing, like the Abaya, for women, but also for men”, explains Guilda Khoury, founder of Mellow, a brand specialized in handmade – and customizable – organic home accessories, which sells its products in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Paris. According to Khoury, beach cover ups like Kaftans have also become more and more popular over the past three years, following a shift in lifestyle. People don’t go to the beach or the pool only to have a swim or to sunbathe: they also socialize or have parties and this is where cover ups become the perfect piece of beach wear to have in store.

Still, cover ups are not the only popular pieces, as people can still wear “Western” swimsuits under them, following worldwide trends. “There are actually two major trends for beachwear for summer 2022: Bohemian 1970s style and 1990s minimalist style. Both in modest versions, generally one piece swimsuits, one piece cut outs or high waist swimsuits”, says Hadzic. Glitter or halterneck swimsuits are also quite popular, she adds. As for other pieces of clothing or accessories, oversized shirt dresses, panama hats, espadrilles, or straw basket bags, are some of the most popular items revisited by famous brands like Celine, Loewe, Prada, or Chloé and sold in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Finally, the prices of items varies from country to country as there are huge differences in terms of demand, supply and purchasing power from one country to another – the GCC being generally on the high end. One constant remains though: beachwear ordered online through a platform will generally be less expensive than a piece of equal quality sold in a local shop – due to the difference in profit margins.