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Designing With The Ocean In Mind

by Veronika Guardi

As lockdown hit in 2020, and people were bound to their homes, nature started to take back the oceans and waterways. Shoals of tiny fish, crabs and multi-coloured plant-life were spotted in the Venice canals, which is usually occupied by bustling water taxis and boats. With nature hitting the reset button, I decided to research how we impact our oceans and marine life further.  

It’s estimated that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Eight million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year, which is equivalent to 57,000 blue whales. These figures definitely shocked me and I wanted to do something about it. 

I looked into how clothing could help preserve the oceans and marine life, and that’s when I came across Healthy Seas. Healthy Seas help to reduce ocean pollution and protect marine life by collecting fishing nets and other items that have been discarded into the ocean. The waste is then sorted and cleaned to recover all the nylon possible. Through a radical regeneration process, the pre and post-consumer waste is turned into yarn to be repurposed into new products. This yarn is known as ECONYL® regenerated nylon, which has the same quality as virgin nylon but is fully sustainable!  

This really made me think about the fabrics that are available to us and I just knew that I had to source environmentally friendly materials for upcoming collections. I decided to change my design process and, instead of putting the design first, I focused on the fabrics. I think style and design is important, but the fabrics and sustainable qualities of the garment are even more important. So, I chose fabrics that are kind to your skin and the planet, turning trash into treasure. 

All of the fabrics I sourced for my next collection were either recycled or organic materials. The two main fabrics that caught my attention were regenerated nylon and organic cotton. Both of these fabrics help to preserve our oceans and overall water conservation, as regenerated nylon is made from recycled ocean waste and organic cotton uses 88% less water and 62% less energy than traditional cotton. I only work with fabrics from Europe in order to keep the supply chain as sustainable and as close to home as possible, as most of my fabrics come from Italy.  

I take every opportunity to make GUARDI a sustainable and responsible brand and this extends to our production facility as well. We are lucky enough to have our own family-run ethical factory based in Bulgaria where all our employees are fairly paid above the minimum living wage in Europe and offered flexible working hours. This is especially important for our workforce as 90% of the factory team are women; women who balance providing for their families whilst also taking care of them.  

I am very passionate about slow fashion and wanted GUARDI to embrace the slow fashion movement as well. That’s why we create limited edition collections with each design produced in limited quantities so we keep very little stock. This means we can be a lot less wasteful, producing clothes that have a long life-cycle and help reduce excess stock ending up in landfill. 

As a fashion designer, I feel that it is my responsibility to create a positive impact within the clothing industry. It’s not going to be an overnight fix but by opting for sustainable garments, those made from fabrics such as regenerated nylon and that maintain a slow fashion approach, we can all help to save our oceans and preserve marine life.