Accessories from our Oceans: Fishing Nets are Fabric of the Future

In keeping with our Red, White and Blue collection’s nautical theme, I set out to explore some of the work being done to regenerate and reuse the gargantuan amount of waste that ends up in our oceans. In particular, the recovery of ‘ghost’ fishing nets that get lost or left behind in our search for seafood. These account for around 10% of plastic waste in the sea, and can take up to 600 years to decompose. Moreover, they lead to a ‘cycle of death’, where fish that get caught up in them attract larger predators, which in turn attract even larger fish, disrupting the food chain and natural balance of the ecosystem. 

Aquafil, one of the main producers of nylon in Italy, collaborates with other companies, such as Healthy Seas, to recover fishing nets from the seabed, or from the debris of natural disasters such as hurricanes. With the addition of other textile waste, this is used to transform the nylon into new yarn, and the resulting material, Econyl®, is 100% regenerable. For every 10,000 tonnes of Econyl®, Aquafil are able to save around 70,000 barrels of crude oil and avoid 57,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions – reducing the global warming impact of nylon by 80% compared to material made from oil. 

Whilst this closed loop process has been going on since 2011, only recently with the focus on global warming, have products created from Econyl® captured the public’s attention – for instance in February this year, when Meghan Markle chose Prada’s Re-Nylon bag made from Econyl® regenerated ocean waste to accessorize her outfit, along with Rothy’s flats made from recycled plastic bottles. 

The use of Econyl® has been pioneered by fashion retailers such as Levi Strauss, Gucci, Speedo, Richard Malone, and more recently Burberry. In most cases, brands using the fabric specialize in swimwear, sportswear,or waterproof jackets. However, some designers have used the material for collections of high fashion clothing, notably Jonathan Cohen’s 2020 Fall/Winter capsule collection shown at New York Fashion Week.

Recently, brands have increasingly used regenerated nylon yarn to create or trim accessories. These range from the latest Tommy jeans eyewear collection, created by Aquafil in collaboration with leading luxury eyewear manufacturer, Safilo, to friendship-style bracelets – aptly branded Bracenets. 

One of the most curiously creative designs to employ Econyl® that we have spotted, is made by British start up Faldan (@Faldanbag), which has produced the “world’s first ethical luxury foldable bag”, made from sustainable leather, or in a soon-to-be-available recycled nylon vegan version – even the packaging is made using recycled coffee cups in partnership with GF Smith and Nirvana CPH. See the folding bag demonstrated by founder, former UN climate negotiator Laura Hanning, in this video filmed at the British Fashion Council’s Positive Fashion exhibition at London Fashion Week in February. 

As well as our commitment to slow fashion, vintage clothing and accessories, ShopCurious will also be introducing eco-friendly and upcycled products in the near future, so please use the contact form to let us know of any suitably curious sustainability-focused brands or designer makers you would like us to collaborate with. Will you?