Sydney's 'Trashionista' Creates Couture From Marine Debris

Dec 10, 2021by Olivia - F&F

Whether it’s a corset made of plastic straws, a dress made from styrofoam takeaway packaging, or a mermaid tail made from crushed aluminium cans — Marina DeBris’ designs are guaranteed to turn heads for all the right reasons.

Marina Debris Fashion ExhibitionMarina Debris Fashion Exhibition

Who Is Marina DeBris?

As a self-confessed “trashionista”, Marina spends every morning scouring Sydney’s beaches for litter that she can use for her award-winning, eye-catching creations. The Detroit-born “artivist” (i.e. artist/activist) studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, travelled and is now back in Sydney. 

To create her “trashion” pieces, sculptures and other works of art, Marina exclusively uses marine-based litter — hence the name “Marina DeBris”. Her creations have been featured in Los Angeles fashion shows, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., Australian museums, galleries, and festivals. 

So, why does Marina DeBris create pieces entirely out of trash? For DeBris, it’s all about creating a visual reminder of the unnecessary trash that’s harming marine wildlife.

Marina Debris White Trash Feeding FrenzyMarina Debris White Trash Feeding Frenzy

“Realistic & Slightly Upsetting” Trashion Pieces

We all know that to change hearts and minds, people need to feel a little bit uncomfortable. DeBris’ fashion pieces tell a visual story that provokes the viewer to question their own waste habits, as well as broader themes of ocean pollution. 

“I want the pieces to be realistic and slightly upsetting. They also smell and are slightly uncomfortable, but that’s how I want people to feel, because we are swimming in this water we pollute; we are drinking it too,” DeBris says. 

‘Takeaway Queen’, features used polystyrene cups and takeaway containers. ‘White Trash’ features rainbow-coloured lighters, plastic cutlery, straws, and bubble-blowing wands. ‘Feeding Frenzy’ includes fish-shaped soy sauce bottles and fishing line. ‘Rags To Itches’ is literally made from rags.

DeBris’ Aluminium Can Mermaid Tail

In 2018, DeBris worked with prominent Australian model and environmentalist, Laura Wells, to promote ‘The Ones That Got Away’ — a mermaid outfit made from 60 plastic drink bottles, over 190 cans and over 90 bottle caps! The stunning piece highlights the reckless waste surrounding our drinking habits. 

“This piece seeks to shine a light on plastic pollution and how we can all make an impact by recycling our containers properly. Carelessly discarding bottles and aluminium cans not only destroys the beauty of our state, but can be harmful to local wildlife, and to ourselves,” DeBris said.

Laura was excited to bring DeBris’ latest creation to life for such an important cause. “People are shocked to find out how she sources the materials,"  said Laura.

Beach Couture A Haute Mess ExhibitionBeach Couture A Haute Mess Exhibition

‘Beach Couture: A Haute Mess’ Is Touring Nationally!

Beach Couture: A Haute Mess is Marine DeBris’ nationally touring exhibition. The exhibition features a collection of wearable pieces made entirely from ocean trash! 

“It makes visible, in grotesquely amusing fashion, what is often overlooked – but shouldn't be” — this is how the exhibition was described by the Australian National Maritime Museum, where the pieces were on display from December 2020 to April 2021. Beach Couture: A Haute Mess has been featured at the Bondi Pavilion, the Maritime Museum of Tasmania, Eastcoast Resort, Manningham Art Gallery, Bribie Island Seaside Museum, Hervey Bay Regional Gallery, La Perouse Museum, and more. 

This fantastic Beach Couture Exhibition video takes us behind DeBris’ bizarre fashion-making process.

You can find Marina DeBris’ trashion pieces at the Cairns Museum from 3rd December 2021 to the 26th February 2022!

What do you think of these ‘trashion’ pieces? We think they’re gorgeous and grotesque, but more importantly, they’re starting conversations and provoking the viewer to think about ocean pollution and perhaps their own littering habits. 

We love seeing thought-provoking examples of “artivism” and the brilliant minds behind the creations! Check out the Ethical Fashion category and the blogs below for more sustainable fashion trends. 

Here Are The Top 5 Sustainable Trends In The Fashion Industry

Fixing Fashion | How To Repair & Upgrade Your Clothes

Junk Fest | The Town That Turns Trash Into Treasure

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