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Fishing Nets Are the New Plastic Bottles for Fashion

Ocean pollution, especially plastic waste, has become one of the largest concerns for environmentalists in the last few years. The issue is on top of the discussions, from the surfer and videomaker Alison Teal, who has a humerous approach to it, to the frightening video on microbeads by Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA and creator of the famous documentary “The Story of Stuff”. Why? Because plastic in the oceans means “ghost fishing”, which captures whales, turtles, birds and other marine animals – they think it is food, but it is not, and they eat and they die. Very simple, but not nice at all, right? And I am not even talking about when we eat the fish with plastic inside...

It is estimated that 80% of pollution to marine life comes from the land. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), there are more than 640.000 tons of abandoned fishing nets in the oceans.

Wait, don’t panic yet! The good news is some initiatives are creating very interesting, fashionable and desirable products out of this marine litter. And, nowadays, it is also quite cool to show an awareness about it. It is no coincidence that Parley for the Oceans and its Bionic Yarn is supported by Pharrel Williams. Aquafil, with its Healthy Seas Initiative, found an amazing spreader in Kelly Slater. And Net+Positiva, from Bureo, has the zero waste and free plastic muse Lauren Singer as one of its faces on Instagram. All these movements have made fishing nets even more popular in the upcycled fashion scene than PET bottles in 2015! And it’s still only summer!

It is not the solution yet, but a very exciting step in the right direction by reusing one material that is already all around us. Below, you can see the best results to date of the initiatives mentioned above. Check it out!


The surfer Kelly Slater incorporates a sustainable nylon made from reclaimed fishing nets and other nylon waste materials into jackets and boardshorts in the Evolution Series of the debut collection of Outerknown. The fiber Econyl was developed by the Italian textile company Aquafil and offers the same quality and performance as regular nylon, but it can be recycled an infinite times without any loss in quality.


Speedo USA is not only using Econyl, but has also started a take-back program in partnership with Aquafil. The idea is to be able to give new life to leftover fabric scraps and old swimwear to create a new raw nylon fiber. This process brings to reality the aim of producing swimsuits and bikinis in a closed-loop manufacturing system: in this field, post-production fabric waste has not been suitable for traditional recycling due to its complex technical composition. The Powerflex Eco fabric has 78% Econyl and 22% Extra Life Lycra.


The first fruit to come from the partnership between the German sportswear company and Parley for the Oceans is a sneaker made of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gillnets. To get the material, Parley’s partner organisation Sea Shepherd retrieved the nets in an expedition tracking an illegal poaching vessel which lasted more than 100 days. The first pair of shoes should be on sale at the end of this year.


With a program designed to prevent fishing net pollution called Net+Positiva, Bureo creates skateboards and sunglasses made of 100% recycled and recyclable plastic from the oceans. The project offers net collection points and provides funds to local communities for every kilogram of fishing net collected across the coast of Chile. There are three models of sunglasses, all of them with Zeiss lenses and produced in Italy. The partnership with eyewear company Karün was launched on Kickstarter in mid August and, after only six hours, it achieved the necessary funds to take off.

text: Maíra Goldschmidt

© images(from top to bottom):



Outerknown Speedo USA

Adidas Bureo/Kevin Ahearn