There are many things which have been associated with fashion but sustainability is not usually at the top of the often controversial list. Keeping this point in mind, I was more than a little excited to see what would be presented at the Blue Fashion for Blue Growth conference-style event which was held in order to promote maritime sustainability through fashion and suffice to say, I was not disappointed.

Held at Caviar and Bull, the event was attended by delegates from over 12 countries and was kicked off with Morten Stemre, representing the Nordic Atlantic Cooperation, discussing both the feasibility and sustainability of using maritime material as well as the possible objections that one may have to wearing certain products such as fish and sealskin.

However, Stemre stressed that creatures used in generating income for the maritime industry are never killed for the sole purpose of using their skins and, in fact, the skins used in the fashion industry were usually either used as cheap fodder or thrown away. Thus, fashion in the maritime industry is based on a lack of waste and inherent sustainability.

While some may take this latter point to mean that the clothes made out of these skins would be of somewhat inferior quality, a feature common to all the designs presented at the conference was the beauty and quality of the pieces.

Many of those present in the audience were completely blown away when they saw pieces by Blue Fashion Challenge 2017 winner Karen Sissal Kristiansen from the Faroe Islands.

The focus is on using materials that are already present and readily available

Founder of the Shisa Brand, a brand which focuses on sustainability and the environment, Kristiansen presented the audience with a gorgeous futuristic-looking jacket and handbag made entirely of fish skin. Grey, white and glossy, the pieces were not only beautiful but they also looked extremely durable and sturdy.

Proud of her Faroe Islands heritage, Kristiansen spoke about the importance of the fish industry to her native land as well as the importance of using bio-material. Explaining the process involved in creating her fish skin apparel, Kristiansen noted that while working with fish leather can be more time-consuming than working with cowhide or other readily-available types of leather, it is ultimately not difficult and the benefits are huge.

A firm believer in staying true to the roots she is proud of, Kristiansen rounded off her presentation by speaking about the fact that, ultimately, every product she makes has its roots in culture.

Cultural influences were very much at the centre of fellow speaker and Blue Fashion Challenge finalist Kolbrun Yr Gunnarsdottir’s ethos too. Hailing from Iceland Yr Gunnarsdottir’s designs involved beautiful sealskins sourced in her country. The sealskins can not only be dyed in a variety of colours but they are also soft to the touch.

Like everything else in the maritime fashion industry, the focus is on using materials which are already present and readily available for use.

Of course, the maritime fashion industry does not just end where fish skins begin and, in fact, the audience was also able to see presentations by Dominique Benzaken from the Seychelles and local jewellery designer Sam Selby, who makes all her jewellery from sea sediment.

Benzaken spoke about the Kreolar Enterpirse found in the Seychelles which has been established for 27 years and has over 40 employees in its six stores. Here, they sell jewellery made using gold and local, natural products such as coconut and coco de mer shells, palm seed cultivated pearls, oyster shells and swordfish bill.

Well organised and informative, the Blue Fashion for Blue Growth conference was an educational masterclass in how to make fashion more sustainable and less wasteful without compromising on aesthetic value. Attended by many local designers and influencers, it was a wonderful initiative to give people in the local industry the opportunity to touch and see the fruits of a more sustainable way of creating fashion.


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