What is Ghostnet and why have I made it into the Ghostnet Dress?
The Ghostnet Dress, from the Sea. We have evolved from the sea and we need it to continue to survive and thrive. So does every other creature on Earth, not just the marine animals. Water, the lifeblood of our Planet.
I, like so many others, come across old fishing net during my 2 minute beachcleans. I find little scraps of coloured net tangled amongst seaweed or tangled line and rope caught around rocks. Last year, around the time I launched the Wave of Waste Dress I did a family beachclean and found an enormous piece of fishing net on the beach. I dragged it back and it sparked the idea of a Ghostnet Dress. In the end it was far to heavy to wear but that was where the Ghostnet dress idea began.
So what is Ghostnet? Ghostnet is old fishing net no longer attached to fishing vessels. Ghostgear includes old lines, pots and hooks from the fishing industry that have been left behind deliberately or accidentally. Ghostgear floats in the sea, often difficult to spot, trapping more and more sea life. Seals, dolphins, turtles, whales and sharks are often caught whilst trying to catch the smaller fish trapped within. Eventually the net can sink from the dead weight and when that biodegrades, the plastic net floats back up and starts the process all over again. This ghost comes back to haunt. Internationally 640,000 tonnes of ghostnet is lost each year. Ghostnet is killing wildlife through trapping or through eating smaller pieces. In the past nets were made of natural fibres like coir, but now nylon has become the mainstay.
What do we need to do?
Three things: stop more ghostnet entering our oceans, clear up what is already there and repurpose what comes out. To stop more entering the ocean we must have honest dialogue about the current problem. We need to understand how so much is ending up there and not presume it is all there for the same reason. Look at different types of fishing, areas of fishing, different equipment and port facilities for recycling damaged net. Clearing up needs to be undertaken Internationally and has begun with projects such as the Giant Boom, and many smaller projects. On a personal and local level every single piece of plastic we pick up could be saving an animals life. We can all be part of the 2 minute beachclean community.
Diving for Ghostnet
Fathoms Free is an organisation of volunteers that try and rescue net both by diving for it and by collecting it from local fishermen. Providing somewhere safe for fishermen to take their old net can help stop ghostnet at source. Rob Thompson from Fathoms Free also runs Odyssey Innovation where they repurpose net into new items such as kayaks. I met Rob during the Wave of Waste dress launch and he agreed to help provide me with ghostnet that I could use to make the dress.
A vision was born and I knew I had to make a Ghostnet Dress. I was inspired by the incredible work of Caroline Bond, or Kittiekipper, as we all know her on Instagram, because she weaves the seas clean. I visualised the dress being surrounded by Ghostnet animals and Caroline was the woman I had to ask. Luckily she said yes and she went on to make the most incredible Ghostnet Crown I could ever have imagined.
The Process of Ghostnet to Dress
The process of me making the Ghostnet dress was recorded by local young photographer Will Lindsay-Perez. You can find the making of the ghostnet video on his website or below. It was an emotional process as I frequently got caught in the gill net particularly when attaching the skirt. I could free myself, which no marine mammal can do, because I have hands.
The team came together after a conversation with Ellie Jackson, from Wild Tribe Heroes who put me in touch with Jon Harvey, part of the Environment Agency Sustainability and Plastics Team. The day was set as Halloween: because no horror could be greater than what this monster is doing to our seas.
Jon knew the perfect photographer: Fraser Marchbank. I knew the perfect eco hair and make up team: Clair Swinscoe Studio Couture who uses only OWay an Rebecca Rose Robinson who made sure that the look on the day was sustainable too. Rebecca even carried around the make up for the day in one of Wyatt & Jack fabulous Inflatable Amnesty bags upcycled from a donated inflatable.
Natallia, a diver and crucial part of the Fathoms Free team, modelled for us. In order to emphasise the key message of repurposing ocean waste into something good, Natallia wore a beautiful Bodds Active Swimwear bikini underneath. This bikini is made from Econyl, a material made from recycled plastic including ghostnet.
Despite a few technical hitches, we got the perfect venue, the perfect team and this is the result. I’m keen for this dress to educate as many people as possible and start discussions. Please get in touch if you have a venue or an event that you would like to use this dress to help educate about plastic pollution, thank you.