Embellishments made from waste oyster shells to replace plastic

Biomaterial and textile designer Margherita Grassi developed a collection of bio-based embellishments called Re-Pearls made of waste oyster shells, aiming to replace buttons, sequins and beads in the fashion industry.

As a textile designer, Grassi became aware of the pollution and waste in the fashion industry in particular when it comes to embellishments like buttons and beads. These are often made of plastic and/or problematic natural resources.

Grassi found that shells offered a potential alternative. However, taking them directly from the beach is not a sustainable option and can lead to other environmental problems. However, shells as seafood waste from local restaurants is a sustainable source, helping both the fashion and food industries.

After experimenting with shells of crustaceans and molluscs, Grassi developed a method to utilise primarily oyster shells. Turning them into a powder similar to kaolin clay, a ceramic-like material can be made.

Grassi aims to create pieces shaped like precious and vintage-looking embellishments to show the value and versatility of the biomaterial. To celebrate the oyster shell, she also created pearl-shapes, which is where the names Re-Pearl comes from.

“With my design, I hope to change the designers and the customers’ awareness on embellishments’ sourcing,” Grassi states, “these, while traditionally small in size, play a big role in turning the industry’s products both precious and detrimental to the environment. I equally hope to shine a light on a new kind of luxurious re-generated materials in order to limit the exploitation of natural resources in the future.”

With this project, Grassi was nominated for the Green Concept Award 2021 by Green Product Award and the Plastic Free Award 2021 by Surfers Against Sewage.

Photos: Margherita Grassi