Marine scientist, Steph Gabriel witnessed first hand the destruction being caused to the sea and decided to combine her two loves for the water and sustainability, in creating her swimwear label, OceanZen.
OceanZen aligns with my business model, my academic experience, my passion for sustainability and the ocean whilst also supporting a healthier, cleaner ocean.”
Steph told us, when we interviewed her about the journey of creating OceanZen.
OceanZen began with Steph back packing around the world and landing a job working with Atlantic Stingrays in the Caribbean.
“I literally hand fed, handled, hugged and kissed these wild creatures for my job. I learned so much about marine life, conservation and human impacts and that was what planted the seed to follow down this path for the environment and sustainability.”
She came home with a purpose to discover how to help save our oceans and started her degree in environmental/marine science.
OceanZen was launched in 2014 while Steph was still studying full time.
“It was really challenging trying to launch a new business whilst studying and still working two jobs, but I was super passionate and that’s what kept me inspired to keep going.”
Steph informs us on how the sustainable fabric first begins with an eco company in America.
“A team of divers collect the materials with floating apparatuses to lift up the commercially sized fishing nets… They are then shipped to their processing factory where bottles and fishing nets are commercially cleaned, then processed to be shredded into a fine yarn.”
“The yarn then gets shipped to Italy to be re-created and mixed with a lycra to complete the final stages of the sustainable fabric.”
Unfortunately the long process of creating the recycled fabric is more costly than other fabrics, but Steph is assured that there is a rise in sustainability being a goal for more designers.
“There’s definitely a spike in more sustainable businesses popping up, some are offering a plant a tree for every purchase and some offer a donation of shoes or shirts to orphans for every purchase.”
“Hopefully over the next few years more businesses will get on board, it would be great to see this recycled fabric go viral and really help make a major impact on cleaning our oceans.”
Steph hopes to promote sustainability and recycling through her label and offers other tips that we can implement in our lifestyles.
One tip is avoiding the use of straws. Straws are terrible for the environment, and rank in the top 10 of marine debris found in the ocean. They also consist of petroleum bi-product polypropylene which we then put in our mouth, which is toxic.
“We literally use them once, only to end up being consumed by a marine organisms or drift into an oceanic gyre (an island of human waste created by oceanic currents drawing in debris). Turtles are under major threat right now from plastic consumption as they sometimes mistaken plastic bags and smaller micro-plastics for jelly fish. Sometimes straws even puncturing their intestinal walls which leads to starvation, blockages and eventually death.
They form a disease called floating syndrome that essentially creates gas bubbles in their coloemic cavity forcing them to float to the surface of the ocean, unable to dive down and eat, unable to navigate oceanic currents or hide from predators and form sores on their skin and shell from the sun and low immune system.”
Designing does have it’s hurdles but focusing on the final product is how Steph gets through it.
“So much time and money goes into getting the final product right, but the feeling of seeing something you have created come alive, and seeing someone else wearing it, words don’t describe how awesome it feels! I ran into a girl wearing OceanZen at the beach in Bali last year, I was so excited, I went and had a chat with her and she was from a small town in the U.K. Such an epic moment.”
Steph hopes for the future to align her business with some non-profit organisations and create further awareness for marine conservation and human threats. Her greatest message is to be cautious of how much unneeded plastic is consumed in your lifestyle.
“There are so many things we can do as individuals to help the environment. It’s as simple as cutting back on the amount of plastic bags you use. This is such a waste and completely unnecessary. We don’t realise how much plastic we actually use even if you do say no to plastic bags.”