Fashion + Our Oceans

Where the Ocean Meets the Runway

How does the industry damage our oceans?

In contemporary society, a vast majority of the world’s population are aware of the anguish and distress that the ocean and the life within it suffers from mass pollution. With help from some of the leading minds on Earth; from 94-year-old David Attenborough to the Gen Z influencers like that of 18-year-old Greta Thunberg, people across the world are aware more than ever of the damages we cause as humans to the natural world that accustoms us.

So how much does the fashion industry contribute to the destruction of the oceans coral reefs and the life sustained within it? Short answer is…a lot!

Sustainability in the industry is not a priority to a lot of consumers at this present moment in time. However, the harsh reality of all this, is that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans every year on top of the 150 million metric tons that are already polluting the marine environments. What’s scarier than knowing all this pollution is afflicting our oceans? That scientists have found that the plastic waste we see and measure only accounts for a fraction of the total amount of pollution that enters the ocean every year!

Materials like plastic are designed to last an eternity and synthetic fibres such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon (which are all forms of plastic) make up around two-thirds of clothing brands across the world; and with brands using plastics for not just clothing but also its packaging, this kind of stuff is used once before being thrown away – yet the processes of turning fossil fuels into textiles for our clothes releases a significant amount of greenhouse gases.

Outfits inspired by the ocean

Despite the damages to the ocean caused by textile productions, a large portion of designers appear to be heavily inspired by the ocean, and incorporate their collections with marine, maritime, and oceanic references that show just how beautiful and important the ocean is to humanity.

At the 2019’s Couture fashion show, the fashion designers’ collections explored new silhouettes with dresses that appeared to be brought to life by real life mermaids and washed ashore for humans to gaze upon. With a ruffling dress that looked like waves on the stormiest oceans, and the coral reefs translated into glamorous looks, the ethereal nature of the dresses highlighted the importance of the ocean to fashion lovers everywhere.

Jean Paul Gaultier’s collection

Jean Paul Gaultier, the man who describes himself as “enfant terrible”, (a successful person who likes to shock people) took a fun spin on the ocean life category that represented both sea shanty and sea life culture. The fashion designer chose to avert his iconic look of cone busts, with jellyfish dressed with tentacles trailing behind the models, coral skirts, and jelly shoes that reminded those of their childhood being spent at the beach.

The models themselves reminded those watching, of Ariel from Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ or sirens from the old shanty tales with their stunning appearance and beautiful voices. It was an incredible show and the collection from Jean Paul that shows just how influential and glamorous the ocean can be and why it deserves to be respected.

Zuhair Murad’s collection

Zuhair Murad, a name that constantly pops up on red carpet events from famous celebrities wearing his designs such as Adele, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, gave an inspiring view of oceanic references on the Couture catwalk.

Dresses fitted with beads and sequins, bathing suits and skirts that morph into waves. His fashion represents sexy, elegant, and avant-garde, and this time on the runaway it showcased the importance of the oceans, and similarly to the Jean Paul collection, showed the audience just how beautiful sea life is.

How can we help the ocean’s sustainability?

The ocean is of great importance to us all. With 70% of the planet being covered in water, we are allowed to eat the food we have, drink the water we drink, and take in the air we breath because of the ocean, with statistics from scientists that estimate that 50-80% of the oxygen production on Earth comes from the ocean.

So, how can the fashion industry help? The first step towards keeping ocean life healthy, just like any other form of addiction… is acceptance. When companies and consumers finally agree that the ocean is important for sustainability and future generations, as well as jobs in careers in the fishing and catering industry, we can move into looking at more desirable ways to keep the beauty of coral reefs and life on the ocean floor.

Educating ourselves and others on environmental laws and regulations, investigating what we can do differently to minimise the damage already inflicted in ocean dead zones, and knowing what is going on in oceans is the key to success as consumers who can push for change in the way the industry works.

Another step forward for change, is for companies to change textile productions that use human pesticides and toxic chemicals for quick large-scale productions and ultimately wash off into waterways, to choosing environmentally friendly harvesting that are GMO free and use natural dyes for clothing productions. According to Alternatives journalism, “An estimated 17 to 20 percent of total industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment – and approximately 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used throughout the world to turn raw materials into textiles. Many of those chemicals will be released into freshwater sources. For every one tonne of textiles produced, 200 tonnes of water are polluted”.

In order for future generations to experience the beauty of the oceans, the life it preserves, and for us to ultimately continue in our ways of fishing, we must voice our opinions on the alteration of production as well as cutting out our fashion choices that contribute to our oceans pollution as best we can.

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