OceanZen: When Marine Science And Swimwear Combine

OceanZen: When Marine Science And Swimwear Combine

How these bikinis help clean the oceans

OceanZen is an Australian swimwear brand run by young female entrepreneur and Marine Scientist, Steph Gabriel. OceanZen is a supporter of this year’s Trash Tribe expedition to Cape York – we sat down with Steph to learn more about her ocean-saving bikinis!


Tell us about OceanZen – the inspiration and what you hope to achieve with it.

OceanZen was inspired from a raw and sincere passion for the ocean, and has been a whirlwind of an adventure since. We use a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets from the ocean, whilst following sustainable business practices and sharing a message for ocean conservation. I never predicted I would end up here though.

Travel is something that I truly believe every single person, especially women, should experience on their own at some point in their life- it completely opens your mind and soul in ways that can’t be described. In 2009 I left Sydney and embarked on a solo mission around the globe. No idea where I was going or for how long, I just left. I ended up floating around the globe for 3 years, and during that time I stumbled across a beautiful Caribbean island which I called home for a year. I can also safely say I had the best job in the entire world haha; handling wild Southern Atlantic stingrays, all day, everyday in the ocean. This was the chapter that determined my destiny, and little did I know at the time I would end up where I am now.

My time in the Caribbean allowed me to learn from marine life and learn about the ocean, in the ocean, an opportunity I had never experienced before. Although it was the best job in the world, I started to learn of the effects humans were having on the stingrays, and more so, I could see the damage from humanity on our oceans. I wanted to learn more, and more so learn how I could help, so I came back home and studied a degree in Environmental Science and Marine Ecology.

The inspiration for OceanZen was inspired from my time in the Caribbean, and the core values for OceanZen are to inspire change and help save our oceans, one bikini at a time.

So if you have a dream, hold on tight, ride the wave and when you finally hit that goal there’s nothing but pure smiles.


Last year, Oceanzen shifted to using recycled lycra fabrics, tell us about this fabric and why it was so important for you to start using it.

I was backpacking through Costa Rica in 2010 and was sitting around a campfire one night with a few people from all walks of life, chin wagging and telling tales, and this was when I first heard about a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets from the ocean. At this moment, I never in my wildest dreams thought twice about launching a sustainable swimwear brand. I was merely fascinated with the incredible possibility of a fabric saving our oceans. It was 3 years later when I was studying my degree that I wanted a voice for sustainability and wanted to combine both of my passions; marine conservation and bikinis together. I was so excited and I couldn’t wait to launch OceanZen, but I was studying full-time and working two jobs and sadly couldn’t afford the price tag of the fabric. So I eagerly launched OceanZen without the fabric, and although OceanZen had to wait patiently until I could afford it, the brand was still launched following sustainable business practices and has shared my values and awareness for our oceans from day dot. I had to wait two years until I could afford to import it and buy enough to sustain a full collection, and when I did, words don’t describe the excitement and the sense of achievement!

So if you have a dream, hold on tight, ride the wave and when you finally hit that goal there’s nothing but pure smiles.


Do you think there is an increasing trend of brands seeking out textiles that are made from recycled or sustainable fibres?

There is definitely a conscious shift happening where consumers and brands are learning of their impacts on the environment and wanting to contribute towards a positive movement. I actually frequently get asked for advice from people who are either wanting to switch to a more sustainable business or wanting to start their own sustainable bikini label. It is really amazing that people are wanting to support a happier earth, but it’s important to stay true to yourself and truly understand what it means to be sustainable.


As an Environmental Scientist, it must be quite disheartening to know the full magnitude of the negative impact that human society is having on our oceans – what brings you hope about the state of our ocean, coral reefs and marine wildlife?

It is really disheartening, and it can be very easy to sink into a black hole haha, but there is also a really amazing movement happening right now and I feel as though these next few years are going to go down in history! There’s a sea change and an incredible shift happening and there is SO MUCH awareness around plastic pollution these days and it’s inspiring businesses especially to go plastic free. I used to work in marine conservation education where we would go to school’s with small marine animals; sea cucumbers, sea stars, bamboo sharks, sea urchins etc and do live demonstrations for kids aged 2- 15. These kids would learn about the animals, sharks and plastic pollution and they would be amazed, devastated and completely moved. Although our generation is speaking up about environmental topics and creating the term change markers, these kids are the ones that are going to invent change.


And as an entrepreneur, what would be your advice to someone else wanting to start a new brand?

If you are truly passionate about something then go for it, start yesterday, but be prepared because it is a constant rollercoaster haha, ups and downs and highs and lows. Sometimes I feel like on the outside it might look easy, but it can be super challenging, and that’s why it’s really important to launch something you are passionate about because ultimately your passion is what will keep you hanging on by a thread sometimes when times are tough. It is really awesome though because more people are following their dream’s and breaking away from ‘the norm’ these days and there’s a whole community of change makers that will be ready to support your journey when you take the plunge!


Do you think businesses have a responsibility to care for the environment?

The world would be a completely different place if every single business had core environmental values. Each business has a network which they can potentially inspire sustainability to, and on that note, if every business followed eco-friendly practices perhaps our oceans and landfill would be filled with less branded marine debris items. It’s not just businesses though that have a responsibility, we all do. We all have a choice and we choose what we buy and where we buy from. It’s a continued domino effect going round in circles between consumer and business, and society ultimately decides who we support with our dollar and what we do with the product once finished with.


Besides supporting the Trash Tribe as a brand partner, you also successfully applied to join the expedition as a volunteer – what inspired you to apply to come and get your hands dirty in Cape York?

I love every core value of Clean Coast Collective, and fully believe in everything you are doing for sustainability and our oceans, and more so I want to support Clean Coast Collective! The Trash Tribe last year removed 3.1 tonnes of marine debris; that is bloody incredible! I remember seeing the experiences from everyone who participated on social media, and was completely wowed by your success! That’s thousands of marine creatures you directly saved, I want to help kick goals and remove more than that, and share your journey with the world as you save our seas, one trash tribe at a time.

OceanZen is branching out, it won’t ever just be a bikini label, the message is so much stronger than bikini’s and the world is full of oysters.


What’s next for OceanZen?

If I’m honest, I have no clue what’s around the corner haha. As an ‘entrepreneur’ everything is always so unpredictable as new ideas flourish. We have spent the last few years going to Tonga to swim with wild humpback whales and this year we launched the OceanZen eco-retreat where people can come and swim with the whales with us. It’s really exciting to bring together a group of ocean loving conservationists and to experience these magnificent creatures together. We are off in September for the experience of a lifetime! I can’t wait to see everyone’s smile’s when they first encounter the beauty of a whale underwater!! OceanZen is branching out, it won’t ever just be a bikini label, the message is so much stronger than bikini’s and the world is full of oysters.


Read more about OceanZen and see their full range of bikinis on their website: www.oceanzenbikini.com

BY Clean Coast Collective / Business / July 30, 2017

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