What's behind Ocean Outdoor's eco fashion tie-up with VIN+OMI?

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Advertising firm Ocean Outdoor wants to challenge attitudes to plastic waste by launching an eco fashion label with top designers VIN+OMI at this year's London Fashion Week, which kicks off tomorrow.

We caught up with Ocean senior marketing executive, Liliana Teixeira, to get the inside track on how the firm is tackling plastic ad waste by turning it into fabric for fashion…

In the bag: Ocean's Teixeira models bag made from old advertising vinyl

Why has Ocean turned to fashion to repurpose its high tech advertising panels?

It all stems from our crusade to become a single-use plastic free business. Ocean for Oceans is our promise to eradicate the use of single plastic within our company and to collaborate with the Marine Conservation Society to raise global awareness about plastic pollution.

Ocean’s out of home (OOH) advertising estate is primarily digitally powered, using technology and lighting that is designed to be as environmentally friendly and low emission as possible. Our portfolio also includes 71 static sites which currently require vinyl sheets.

Inspired by the need to salvage, recycle and upcycle where possible, we started to look for ways to re-use the colourful vinyl canvases.

Ocean’s vinyl upcycling scheme, codenamed Project Banner, was inspired by our head of finance, Billy Byam-Cook, who ran up some sample bags from vinyl material using his family sewing machine.

Billy’s sample banner bags encouraged us to explore the idea of a fashion led upcycling scheme and that eventually led to this exciting collaboration with VIN+OMI. 

Get the message: Ocean believes billboard vinyl can be transformed into durable, desirable fashion

In a closely associated initiative which is supported by the British Fashion Council, Ocean has sent vinyl canvases to established artists and designers who have produced one off pieces, including an artwork (paint on vinyl), a full outfit and jewellery.

The participating artists and designers are VIN+OMI, Sophie Mckay, founder of Bar Jewellery and the award-winning luxury womenswear designer Jasper Garvida who is currently studying fine art in London.

All the pieces and the art work produced will be auctioned to raise funds for the Marine Conservation Society which is leading the fight against single-use plastic.

Ad Fab: From advertising material to fabric for fashion

You’re a 95% digital business now, so how did this tie-up with VIN+OMI come about? 

We approached them initially regards Project Banner, for which VIN+OMI have produced a complete outfit including a tote bag, coat, shorts, t-shirt and a belt, clearly showcasing the capability of vinyl to be upcycled and incorporated into the fashion chain.

Neither of us wanted this to be a one-off collaboration, so we signed a long-term partnership in which all Ocean vinyl will be repurposed through their studio, helping us to become a zero-waste business. 

All the fashion garments will be auctioned to raise funds for our charity partner, the Marine Conservation Society.

What impact are you hoping to make on London Fashion Week?

We want to show young creative minds how everyone can make a difference. By introducing key changes in the way the advertising and fashion industries work, we can become more sustainable. Ocean is taking a pioneering step in the OOH industry, and VIN+OMI in the fashion sector.

This is also another great opportunity to promote The Marine Conservation Society over and above giving them our screen space to promote their campaigns to mobile audiences. 

Fashion passion: VIN + OMI created stunning designs to showcase vinyl

How much of your panel display tech is actually recyclable?

The vast majority of display components are recyclable, a process which is led by the display manufacturer’s method of reusing any failed modules. If a module fails, it is returned to the factory (or to a UK based subsidiary) to be broken down into its component parts. The failed components are changed out for new and the module is then reassembled for reuse.

Who do you expect to wear upcycled vinyl and is it really practical?

Anyone can use vinyl. The opportunity is huge and the fabric capabilities are enormous. Upcycled vinyl is a great alternative to leather or new PVC. It's great for belts, bags, jackets etc.

The opportunity is there, but it demands a shift in industry and people’s perceptions. That’s why we started collaborating with VIN+OMI who find innovative solutions to recycling.

The material is durable and not difficult to work with as our head of finance Billy proved using his family sewing machine to run up some sample bags.

Does the advertising industry pay enough attention to the environmental impact of its ‘outdoor’ sites?

As an industry we are actively reducing our impact on the environment by leading the conversion of paper posting to digital out of home (DOOH).

Back in the day, a person would drive their van to the OOH location, climb up a ladder and use paste and glue to assemble the OOH poster. Nowadays, we can remotely trigger advertising content from a secure, content management base.

And within the DOOH industry, the technology has been evolving to reducing its energy footprint.

As an example, IMAX’s lighting infrastructure has been upgraded from halogen strip light to 48,000 LEDs. This delivers an energy efficiency of 77% on the previous lighting scheme, removing more than 100 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.

Lastly, the net number of sites on the ground has been reduced.

Wear the ads: Vinyl can be made into bags, belts, wallets and clothes

What other technologies are you using to reduce advertising waste?

Ocean gives serious consideration to energy efficiency at every point of a prospective build. Starting with the product itself, we consider average power usage over the lifecycle of a product. Some can be significantly higher than others, but the technology itself has developed considerably towards being more energy efficient. Ocean incorporates sensors into each of its displays to ensure that where possible, the display runs on as little energy as possible based on the ambient lighting in the surrounding environment.

Another aspect of this initiative is that you are supporting emerging talent - how is that happening?

VIN+OMI have more than 30 new to the industry assistants whom they support with training and education throughout their placements. They learn about eco processes, social impact programmes and how to run a sustainable fashion studio. 

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