Saving the seas with sustainable swimwear

3 Mins read

Sustainable fashion is becoming increasingly popular.

People are now starting to realise the impact that the fashion industry has on the environment and want to help minimise that impact. Designers are carefully crafting their clothes now, keeping in mind the well-being of the planet.

One brand that has been sustainable from the beginning is OceanZen. The fabric used for their bikinis is made from old fishing nets and plastic bottles found in the ocean.

“My passion for the ocean and marine conservation is essentially what led me to create OceanZen,” the brand’s creator, Steph Gabriel, to us.

Unsatisfied with an office job she packed her bags and left Australia on a one-way ticket. From there, for the next three years, she travelled the world.

“The chapter that really changed my life was spending a year in the Caribbean, on a little island in the Cayman Islands,” she continues, “I landed a job there working with Southern Atlantic Stingrays for eco-tourism.”

“Part of my role was to dive down, lure the stingrays to the surface and hold them safely while tourists got their photos.”

She formed a deep connection with the ocean and its animals through this experience. “I also learnt a lot about human threats,” she adds. “From this point on I wanted to learn more, and learn how I could help the ocean.”

Steph moved back to Australia and enrolled at university to study Environmental Science. Throughout her course she was able to travel the world again and research animals such as humpback whales, sharks, sea lions and coral reefs.

“All of this wasn’t enough though,” she says. “I wanted to do more and learn more and help share this powerful message for marine conservation that was shared with me back in the Caribbean.”

Before she decided to study in the field, she had heard about a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles in Costa Rica and decided to use it for her brand.

Girl wearing biquini at the beach

Steph Gabriel modelling one of her own designs [Mark Sullivan]

“I wanted to create my own sustainable something and OceanZen was born from my passion for sustainability.”

In her lifestyle, she is required to wear bikinis most of the time.

“I don’t own bras,” she laughs. So she combined two of her passions, swimwear and marine conservation.

The entire process of OceanZen raises awareness for marine conservation issues. It supports a cleaner ocean by using fabric that is made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets taken from the water and practices sustainability throughout its business model.

“Plastic/marine debris is causing major issues for our oceans and the more businesses that choose sustainability, the stronger the message is to consumers to want to make a change.”

She avoids the use of plastic entirely. The bikinis are sent to customers in recycled cardboard pillow boxes.

Although sustainability is the most ethical path a brand could choose, Steph says that it hasn’t particularly brought her more customers.

The main issue that keeps people from buying from sustainable brands is the price. In fast fashion, prices tend to be lower and therefore more appealing to consumers.

However, the quality may not always be the greatest, and a lot of times the way the clothes are produced may not be ethical.

[pullquote align=”right”]“We have a long way to go before we see any improvement on our marine’s ecosystem.”[/pullquote]”Sustainability is a niche market,” she continues. “Not everyone cares about the environment and that’s totally fine if that is their choice.”

Now that fashion is starting to go towards a more sustainable direction, society as a whole is beginning to see how everyday things can affect the environment. There’s also more information about reducing and improving the environment than there was a decade ago.

According to Steph, in the next ten years there will be more innovative and creative techniques that will help the environment “in ways we can’t even imagine.”

“We have a long way to go before we see any improvement on our marine’s ecosystem,” she adds.

In order for the oceans to start recovering the entire world would need to stop producing plastic and have all other debris removed from the water. “It’s baby steps, and the more brands that turn sustainable the better!”

Girl swims with humpback whale

Steph Gabriel swimming with a humpback whale [Bianca Brown]

There are other factors, apart from the fashion industry that people need to think about.

“Fast fashion is on its way out. Large fashion corporations that use sweatshops are now being exposed and consumers are looking to support smaller brands that are ethically producing garments.”

With the help from technology, there are other ways to produce fabrics that are beneficial to the environment.

OceanZen also creates packages where people can go swimming with whales and learn more about marine animals.

When she isn’t designing or raising awareness for the ocean’s health, Steph Gabriel is out in the water researching and spending time with marine animals.





Featured image by Bianca Brown

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