Barbara DeVries, activist and designer of Plastic is Forever

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. KOR is thankful to be able to partner with The Nature Conservancy to support their ocean and conservation programs in the Caribbean. However, we are even more excited to learn about the unique and inspiring individuals who are leading the cause of conservation and change!

Throughout our “Be the Change” series, we will be focusing on the local heroes who are, in their own special way, changing the world. This week, we wish to introduce you to Barbara de Vries, a former Cosmo cover girl turned into an “anti-beach plastic pollution activist.” Here’s what she had to say about her work:

Introducing Barbara de Vries, anti-beach plastic pollution activist, teacher and jewelry designer — Eleuthera, Bahamas

Everything I have ever done is my work…

I was born in Amsterdam, made clothes for myself, made satin pants for friends in bands, carved and sold leather belts and hippy-ish jewelry, became a model, lived in Paris, did shows for Yves Saint Laurent, lived in Australia, was a Cosmo cover girl, lived in London, worked for Vogue and Bazaar, went to the Royal College of Art to study fashion, had my own post punk collection called Giraf, held runway shows during fashion week, closed Giraf in a UK recession, moved to New York, worked for Calvin Klein as Sr. design director, launched CK and worked with Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg in the ads, burned out, left Calvin, had my own collection in Japan, met my husband, moved to Princeton where he taught, converted an old terra cotta factory into our loft home, had my first daughter, started a children’s wear collection, had twin daughters, closed the children’s wear collection, went freelance and worked for Ralph, Dim, Go Silk and Pantone, became less and less interested in fashion, moved to rural Upper Delaware area of Pennsylvania, designed books with my husband, wrote a novel, found plastic on the beach in Eleuthera, fell in love with beach plastic, made jewelry, started Plastic is Forever, moved to Miami. Now spend my time designing, working as anti-beach plastic pollution activist and teaching kids locally and in the Bahamas through beach plastic workshops.

Plastic is Forever is a multi-layered project. My main objective is to remove beach plastic pollution off the beaches and re-cycle it into fashionable, designer products like jewelry, objects for the home like tiles, countertops, chairs, bowls and use it as embellishment on clothes. Plastic is Forever alone will never be able to make a noticeable difference in the amount of plastic that washes up on every beach with every tide and every wave. That’s why I encourage others to be inspired by my work and use beach plastic to make consumer products and help introduce this material (that nobody owns) into caring ownership. If diamonds are forever then maybe beach plastic, which will last forever, can also be loved forever. To inspire and educate I travel the Bahamas, Florida and Caribbean to teach workshops in local communities how to stage a beach clean up and pieces of beach plastic that are suitable for jewelry and “beads.” I show the process from raw material to a marketable piece that can be sold to tourists. I also speak at schools, colleges and institutions about plastic pollution of oceans and beaches, and how to turn a negative into a positive by flipping the Modern design philosophy on its head and have function follow form – the form of beach plastic.

You can hear Barbara’s TED talk at  www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iVKNwQKouY or visit her Plastic is Forever site at www.itsamanmadeworld.com.