Clothing company Volcom now sells a women's swimwear line made from recycled fishing nets. Like the board-shorts made by world champion surfer Kelly Slater's company Outerknown, Volcom's swimwear is fashioned from fishing nets woven into fabric by Aquafil, an Italian company specializing in turning plastic waste into textiles.
Aquafil takes old discarded fishing nets, as well as old carpets and other waste, and turns them into nylon and a yarn called Econyl. If used as is, without mixing in other fibers, Econyl can be infinitely recycled, forever remade into new clothes. Unlike Kelly Slater's surfwear, Volcom has mixed its Econyl with 22% other fibers, making subsequent recycling harder, but at least it's not using virgin plastic.
The company's official line on the Econyl is typical PR nonsense. "We wanted this collection to be more than beautiful patterns and functional pieces," said Volcom head of women’s business Lindsey Roach in a statement, "so the fact that it is made with recovered fishing nets creates a natural connection to surf culture, which fully understands the value of keeping the ocean clean."
Despite this spin, though, it's a big deal for a mainstream brand like Volcom to be using recycled plastic. The same press release says that "Volcom has raised the bar for other apparel brands to make responsible decisions that have a positive impact on the environment." While that was probably added to the statement to keep the boardroom happy, the truth is that in the fashion industry, companies build on each other's work, and brand perception is everything. By pushing something like Econyl into the mainstream, Volcom may inspire others to follow along. It might not make a serious dent in plastic ocean waste, but it should raise awareness, helping us to avoid it in the first place.
[All Photos: courtesy Volcom]