Southsea navy veterans launch sustainable clothing brand to raise awareness
Life as a seafarer can be very challenging. Working thousands of miles away from home – and sometimes land – poses different demands on relationships and family than most nine-to-five jobs would.
And Joe Marsh and Ally Taylor, both from Southsea, know all about it. After all, they have spent their fair share of time at sea through their jobs in the Royal and Merchant Navy.
But now they want to give back to the career that showed them the world through their sustainable clothing brand All At Sea, which raises awareness of the challenges and opportunities that life as a seafarer can offer.
Ally, 29, explains: ‘One of the biggest challenges while working at sea is the distance from family and loved ones. We are often sending payments back home while travelling all over the world and supporting our families from a distance.
‘The second challenge is there is very little representation for seafarers and the work they do is often invisible.
‘A lot of sectors of work would have unions or bodies which would protect their rights but people who work at sea don’t have that set in stone.’
Both navy veterans, Joe and Ally actually met through playing rugby. When Joe had a lightbulb idea at the end of 2019, he asked Ally to join him on this project which officially launched at the end of July.
Joe, 26, says: ‘As an island, we rely on imports so much and half of the things we use everyday would have travelled here by boat. People don’t seem to realise it.
‘Virtually everything in your house or wardrobe has travelled by sea.
‘I’m a huge advocate for seafarers and the work they do.
‘There were already seafaring charities so I didn’t want to take away from that so that’s why the clothing brand worked.’
‘Clothing is a great way to raise awareness of a community which hasn’t really been tapped into,’ adds Ally.
The brand is committed to the welfare of seafarers and therefore a percentage of all profits will go to Human Rights At Sea (HRAS); a charity committed to ending human rights abuse globally throughout the maritime environment, improving the quality of mariners’ lives worldwide.
Something else that was also incredibly important to them both was ensuring the clothing line – which includes T-shirts, jumpers and hoodies for both men and women – were created ethically.
Working with Tee Mill, a sustainable clothing supplier based on the Isle of Wight, All At Sea is committed to sustainability at every point of the retail process.
‘Fast fashion brands use thousands of gallons of water to produce some of their clothing lines and dump their dye into the sea,’ explains Ally, who now works in naval consultancy at Inzpire. ‘The sea is a working environment and needs to be preserved as much as land.’
Joe, who is a former professional mariner and boat builder, said: ‘Having lived and worked on or by the sea our whole lives we are passionate about protecting it and know that tackling plastic pollution and the fast fashion industry is paramount to this.
‘All our products are made from organic, natural materials, using renewable energy, and everything we make is designed from the start to be recycled when it is worn out. No water is wasted during the process and all ink is non-toxic. Instead of making waste, we make new products from the materials we recover. It’s a circular supply chain.’
Through social media and working closely with experienced seafarers as brand ambassadors, All At Sea will be raising awareness for the career they are so passionate about.
Ally says: ‘If you’re a seafarer, our clothes are designed to be practical and fashionable for life on and off a ship.
‘We hope that the All At Sea brand will spread awareness with shore-dwellers and help them understand the vital service that seafarers the world over provide. Those are the people we hope will wear our clothes to show their support for the seafarer community.’
‘We are already looking to expand our range and are very excited for the future,’ says Joe, smiling.
What is Human Rights at Sea (HRAS)?
Established in 2014 and as a member of the UN Global Compact, independent charity Human Rights at Sea aims to end human rights abuse in the maritime environment.
They work for the benefit of the international community in exposing and ending abuses at sea.
Their mission, as stated on their website, includes these objectives:
:: Increasing global awareness of the explicit requirement for protection of, respect for and provision of effective remedies for human rights abuses at sea through international advocacy, the publishing of case studies and where applicable, the provision of teaching materials.
:: Contributing to the international development of effective, enforceable and accountable remedies for human rights abuses at sea.
:: Investigating and monitoring abuses of Human Rights at Sea.
:: Developing the 2011 UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights in the maritime environment.
:: Commenting on and supporting proposed national and international human rights legislation, policies and best practice, where applicable.
For more information and to access research and resources, go to humanrightsatsea.org.