The sports fashion company Volcom is no stranger to good causes. Its website boasts a commitment to the arts, music, film and, most importantly, sustainability. To demonstrate their dedication to eco-friendly fashion, the company has just released their 2017 line, part of which is made from abandoned fishing nets. You might be surprised by what they have created for their ‘Simply Solid’ line.
It takes a real innovative eye to start with old fishing nets and design such elegant beachwear. Just check out these women’s swimsuits. The line is a far cry from what you might expect when you think of netted beach wear. For starters, we’re talking about swimsuits with modern, praiseworthy designs, not just simple, fishnet cover-ups.
Volcom’s secret is the way the nets are used, to create a whole new textile. According to Apparel News the nets are brilliantly broken down and used to manufacture a new yarn called Econyl®. Katherine Martinko of Tree Hugger explains that the special yarn is produced through a partnership with Aquafil, a well-known and respected Italian fabric company. Aquafil also work with Healthy Seas Initiative to get hold of the nets!
The result is a versatile material that is light, breathable, durable, and comfortable to wear. Volcom has used it to create a bounty of colourful and eye-catching pieces. The swimsuits, rash guards and maillots are not just breathtakingly stylish for beachwear, but are also reasonably priced. The entire collection will be available soon, but for now we’ve just happy to be perched (pardon the fish-related pun) on the edge of our seats in anticipation whilst reading about Volcom’s sustainability targets.
Volcom’s head of women’s fashion, Lindsey Roach knows that for a product to be truly sustainable, it needs to be more than just an eco-friendly fabric piece: “If it doesn’t fit right and look right, no one cares if it is sustainable. It’s important to say that we have a product that looks great and feels great, and by the way it is good for the environment as well.”
Using discarded nets that are collected from the ocean is mutually good for fashion, and the environment. The Economist reports that upwards of 640,000 tons of abandoned fishing nets are currently littering the ocean, making up as much as one tenth of all ocean waste. Not only is Volcom reducing the amount of this debris which damages the health of our waterways and scars the ocean landscape, but removing the nets also eliminates a huge hazard for marine life. It’s an initiative that protects wildlife in and around waterways and oceans, whilst also strategically unlocking an environmentally and economically sustainable fabric source.
Reusing something that is already in existence and without demand means fewer resources are wasted to produce new nylon, which our swimsuits are usually made from. Plus, the Econyl® yarn itself is entirely recyclable, creating a completely renewable cycle. You can’t beat that.
We’ve seen this type of recycled waste before – on land! Perhaps the biggest example is in the denim industry. You may recall my recent article about jeans made from plastic pollution also recovered from the ocean. And how about the recycled footwear made from worn out tires, car seats and even parachutes? It is promising to see so many designers and manufacturers using their ingenuity to tackle the waste cycle of the fashion industry, and consequently making a big dent towards remedying the environmental repercussions.
I particularly love the concept of taking something from the sea and creating beautiful fashion that can be worn beach-side. It’s the perfect line for eco-friendly surfers and beach bunnies who care about the planet and want to be connected to such a powerful movement, without sacrificing fashion or quality. There are plenty of ways to be sustainable, but often people forget about the pollution in the oceans. But the health of our open seas is imperative to climate regulation, as this is where the carbon dioxide we produce is absorbed! As we keep pumping out yucky pollutants, the ocean is busy dissolving it up for us. We’ve got to clean up our oceans, for our own sake as well as the planet’s. Now we can look good doing it!
Right now, sustainable design is a trend that is spreading worldwide. Over the next couple of decades I am excited to see the results as more and more initiatives are put forward and into action by designers and manufacturers who wish to clean up their footprint. The more of us that are involved in the movement, the more substantial the impact will become.
H&M Turns Yarns Made From Discarded Plastic Into Evening Gowns
Not only are Volcom paving the way for reclaimed fashion, but H&M’s Conscious Exclusive Collections are also on board, spotlighting one particularly special fibre: Bionic Yarn.
Bionic Yarn is made from recovered plastic, from bottles to shopping bags, collected from shorelines and bodies of water. You may remember my piece about it and the involvement of Pharrell Williams, which you can read here. The yarn is incredibly soft and incredibly versatile, adapting to almost anything you’d want to make – jeans, cocktail dresses, you name it. H&M has showcased its incredible versatility by creating the first evening-wear piece ever made with Bionic Yarn: a pleated, sweeping blush-colour gown with swirling ruffles and a billowing skirt.
“You can’t believe the Bionic dress is made from old plastic bottles,” Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M’s creative advisor, told Vogue.com. “It’s a precious piece you can wear and cherish and save in your wardrobe. With the Conscious Exclusive Collections, we always try to find a new fabric or new technique. It’s where we try to push the boundaries of what’s possible with sustainable fabrics and show how beautiful the garments can be.”
Who better to champion the look than yet another supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova. Mark your calendar for April 20, when the full collection hits stores.
Some are scathing towards the efforts of the Conscious Collection. Their pieces only make up a minuscule portion of the H&M range after all. What you might not know, however, is that the Conscious Collection establishes these incredible, sustainable yarns within the brand – like a soft introduction. These new, innovative materials can be tried and tested, and later, scaled into the normal collections. Did you know, H&M introduced Tencel into a Conscious Collection years ago, and they are now one of the biggest users of Tencel in the world.
Sustainability goes far beyond the raw materials. We also have to take into consideration production practices, waste reduction, and the social impact on the workers who produce the garments. Recycling waste materials, however, can make a huge difference, especially when embraced fully by a company like H&M.