Skip to content

Saving the oceans, one dress at a time

A local fashion designer will have the chance to combine two of her passions – fashion and environmental conservation – at the Future Oceans Design Competition, held July 1 in Victoria, British Columbia.

Katherine Funk, 19, is one of just 10 Canadian designers whose work will be featured at the fashion show. The designers were selected based on criteria that included exemplifying such values as respect for the environment, wildlife, oceans and First Nation culture in their previous works.

“It was definitely a huge honour to find out, especially since I’m really young and wasn’t expecting to be included in something like this,” Funk said.

Organized by the Ocean Legacy Foundation, the Future Oceans Design Competition is an innovation challenge in which the 10 designers create three garments using only eco-friendly material and reclaimed ocean plastic, according to the foundation’s website. Professional models will adorn the garments at a runway event at Victoria’s International Marine Harbour.

The competition aims to promote sustainable fashion practices while raising awareness of the plastics crisis in the world’s oceans. On its website, the Ocean Legacy Foundation cites a study by the scientific journal PLOS One, which suggests more than five-trillion pieces of plastic, weighing nearly 269,000 tons, are currently littering oceans around the globe.

According to Funk, who attends the Fashion Institute at Olds College, the environmentalism aspect of the competition was a huge draw.

“I took a [textiles] class in college and we talked a lot about how bad the fashion industry is for the environment,” she said. “It made me realize how awful a lot of the fast-fashion brands are, so I think it was very important for me to find something that works in a humanitarian way, as well as fashion.”

The 2017 W.H. Croxford High School graduate started sewing dolls at the age of six and progressed to sewing clothing when she was 14. Since then, she has received the Airdrie Mayor’s Night of the Arts Youth Artist Award, the Karin Simpson Memorial Scholarship for Creativity and the Amazing Women Amazing Promise Award.

For the competition, Funk said she has designed a small, ready-to-wear collection, as well as an art dress. Currently, she is in the process of sewing her garments, which she said are vintage-inspired – reflecting fashion trends from the 1930s to 1960s but with a modern, sustainable twist.

“A lot of the dyes that I used are a lot better for the environment – a lot less toxic,” she said. “And the fabrics that are created use less water, are easier to farm and don’t use pesticides.”

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks