Are the oceans the new source of the fashion supply chain?

Oceans and fashion, a combination destined to become more and more mainstream in terms of protection of the planet and source of raw materials for the fashion industry.

Bizarre but true. The oceans produce between 50 and 80% of the oxygen we breathe, cover 71% of the earth’s surface, and are capable of absorbing up to 1,000 times more carbon dioxide than the air. Let’s understand together with Startupbootcamp FashionTech in which direction fashion is moving to safeguard the blue lung of the planet.

Fashion United for the Oceans

Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana in collaboration with SDA Bocconi Sustainability Hub and One Ocean Foundation has published the report “Business for Ocean Sustainability – The Fashion Industry”. It is the first document of analysis that proposes concrete solutions to be applied along all the stages of the production chain of the fashion industry to reduce the pollution of the oceans –from the extraction of raw materials to disposal.

The sustainability reports of twenty-eight companies were analyzed, and the results highlighted the importance of strategic planning upstream. From raw material extraction and selection, to design, manufacturing and disposal, it is critical to rethink all processes to reduce ocean pollution. The study identified three key factors to integrate into a company’s sustainability strategy.

  • Trackability: essential to identify and quantify companies’ impact on marine ecosystems
  • Certifications: necessary to incentivize companies to adopt transparent behaviors
  • Collaborations and partnership: collaborative relationships are crucial to sharing resources and knowledge to ensure an effective sustainable strategy that can safeguard the oceans. Research and development activities are also essential to protect the oceans, identifying new production processes, materials, and logistics activities that reduce pollution and address the issue of microfibers and microplastics with scalable and concrete strategies.

It is therefore important to create a system and strengthen collaborative relationships with all parties involved, from suppliers to consumers.

Waste that becomes a resource. Fashion as a driver for change

Among the various wastes that crowd the oceans, abandoned fishing nets represent one of the biggest threats to the entire marine ecosystem. In addition to polluting the oceans with macro and microplastics, they are an obstacle for the vegetation and animals that are trapped in them. Thanks to innovative solutions, several brands have been able to reuse them, converting them into valuable raw materials to make garments and accessories.

The brand Patagonia, a pioneer in terms of environmental protection (read more here), uses Netplus to make the brims of its hats. Netplus is recycled nylon made entirely from fishing nets abandoned in the oceans and collected by a local fishing community in South America. Through this project Patagonia has prevented 35 tons of fishing nets from being thrown into the oceans this year, threatening marine biodiversity and causing the death of more than 650,000 marine animals. The brand also supports organizations active in the protection of the oceans such as All One Ocean and Ocean Blue Project.

patagonia netplus recycled from the oceans
Brims of Patagonia hats made with Netplus

Turning instead to the side of producers of synthetic raw materials, we find Aquafil, the Italian company that has revolutionized the concept of recycling in fashion and luxury thanks to the invention of ECONYL®.

ECONYL® is a regenerated and infinitely recyclable nylon yarn, produced through the transformation of fishing nets abandoned in the oceans (and not only). Many barnds use it in their collections, from Prada to Gucci, and even Breitling, a Swiss watch brand that has included it in some of its straps.

Outerknown, uses organic, recycled, or regenerated fibers for 90% of its products, thanks also to the collaboration with ECONYL®. It’s no coincidence that the brand has a special concern for the planet and the oceans, having been launched by surfer Kelly Slater, eleven-time world champion, who says:

It’s a great feeling to be proud of what you wear. It has always been my goal and I hope you will join me on this journey.

kelly slater

The brand has also partnered with TOMS, creating a line of sandals made from ECONYL® with a Bloom seaweed sole. TOMS has long been committed to protecting the oceans by supporting Oceana and protecting marine biodiversity.


Also deserving of a mention is the Spanish brand Ecoalf, which since 2015 has been supporting the international project “Upcycling the Oceans” with its Foundation, committing to removing marine debris around the world and transforming it into quality yarn.

Fashion points to the Ocean Generation

Companies play a key role not only in terms of products and services but also in educating and training consumers. Customers must be involved in a process of co-creation of products, as well as being informed about new consumer habits and innovative business models.

The Prada Group is at the forefront on this issue and continues its commitment to educating the younger generations with the “Sea Beyond” project, in collaboration with IOC – UNESCO.

More and more the new generations are attracted by brands that are active for causes and that offer a shared set of values, not just a well-made product. So the Prada Group has launched an educational module aimed at secondary school students from all over the world who are asked to submit projects dedicated to the oceans and marine ecosystems to a jury of “Sea Beyonders” who will award the best ones.

The 13,000 employees of the Prada Group will also be involved in activities and contests aimed at spreading the principles of “Ocean Literacy”. In 2022, the Group will inaugurate the Laguna Kindergarten in Venice in collaboration with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, where twenty children will take part in an educational project focused on ocean culture, enabling them to become the protagonists of the future Ocean Generation, coming into contact with the sea from their earliest years.

The kindergarten will be the first kindergarten founded in a lagoon. The project follows the principles of the “Blue Schools”, where children learn to develop a sense of responsibility towards the planet and in particular towards the oceans.

Lorenzo Bertelli, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility of the Prada Group, said:

We are very proud of the success of Sea Beyond, which is the result of the passion and commitment that UNESCO’s Oceanographic Commission continues to devote every day to promote a more responsible ocean. Today, we are pleased to launch a new phase of the project, which aims to reach out not only to students around the world but also to a wider audience, with the goal of to involve local communities and all our employees.

There’s only to dive into the myriad of opportunities that fashion offers to become part of the change.

No Comments

    Leave a Reply