Meet The Fashion Designers Fighting To Save Our Seas

And turning abandoned fishing nets into designer pieces
Kit Willow wears: KitX dress, own earrings. Vera Yan wears: Kalaurie top, Nimble active wear tights, vintage silver pillow earrings, silver dot ring and silver wave-top ring sourced from Antiques-Art-Design.Sarah Gittoes wears: Bianca Spender suit, stylists own singlet, jewels all from Sarah and Sebastian rings, earrings and ear cuff from the Siren Collection. Dannielle Clayton wears: Salt Gypsy top, Bianca Spender trousers, vintage silver disc earrings sourced from Antiques-Art-Design.

Don’t keep calm and carry on. Climate change, pollution, overfishing, ghost nets and coral bleaching are destroying our oceans, and by 2050 they’ll house more plastic than fish. Alley Pascoe spoke to the women fighting to save our seas, to find out how we can unite for change.


Kit Willow’s favourite childhood memory is snorkelling among colourful coral on the Great Barrier Reef during her annual September pilgrimage to her grandparent’s house in Port Douglas, North Queensland. When she returned to her childhood haunt last year with her own kids, the entire reef was bleached white. Dead. “I wanted to cry. I wanted to sound an emergency alarm for planet Earth,” says Willow [far left], 42, the force behind luxury sustainable fashion label KITX, which launched in 2014 and utilises compostable packaging and recycled lycra. “There’s a war on Mother Nature,” she adds. “Our forests are burning and our oceans are being filled with waste. We need to stop putting plastic in the ocean from today and start protecting the natural resources of the world.”


Vera Yan [left] and Katia Santilli [not pictured] are “ocean people”. They live by the sea in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, holiday in Hawaii and Greece, and founded their activewear label Nimble in Bondi. It was at the brand’s beachside store in 2017 that the friends had their eco-epiphany. “I was unpacking a big shipment and there was a mountain of plastic bags,” says Santilli, 33. “I was embarrassed.” The pair started researching sustainable fabric and discovered Compresslite, which turns recycled plastic bottles into yarn that feels exactly like spandex when processed. Every pair of Nimble leggings recycles six plastic bottles and, so far, the brand has saved 800,000 from landfill. “Our customers feel empowered purchasing something that helps the planet,” says Yan, 32.


In August, jewellery designer Sarah Gittoes [right] was diving at Bare Island in Sydney’s Botany Bay when she saw something that made her heart ache: a Port Jackson shark with a fishing hook in its mouth. “It’s heartbreaking to see how we can damage something so precious,” says the co-founder of Sarah & Sebastian. Gittoes’ underwater experiences have inspired her new collection Siren, which features earrings cast from real pieces of abandoned fishing ghost nets. “The more I saw rubbish in the sea, the more it affected me. I wanted to create a collection that started a conversation,” explains Gittoes, 32, who has partnered with the Australian Marine Conservation Society to do just that.


Paddling through the swell at Tallow Beach in Byron Bay, Danielle Clayton [far right], 39, feels powerful. “Every time I’m in the sea, it makes me feel strong, both physically and mentally,” says the founder of sustainable surfwear label Salt Gypsy, who started surfing as a teenager in New Zealand before working on a surf charter boat in the Maldives then Bali, and finally settling in Byron.

First launched as a blog in 2012, Salt Gypsy has grown to include a surfboard and ocean activewear line made of ECONYL, a recycled nylon yarn created from plastic waste such as abandoned fishing nets. “I felt a real sense of urgency to drive significant change and use recycled fabric. Really, there should be no other fabrics used.”

Watch Below: The Fashion Designers Fighting To Save Our Seas.

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This article originally appeared in the November issue of marie claire magazine. 

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