Fashion, Venue

Seeing clearly: an interview with student entrepreneur George Bailey

UEA student, George Bailey is making strides in the sustainable fashion world, with his brand ‘Coral Eyewear’, in an effort to reduce the amount of harmful plastic in the ocean. Seeing a gap in the market, the brand has begun producing stylish glasses made from recycled fishing nets after gaining funding of £50,000 from the UEA Enterprise fund. Bailey was kind enough to answer some questions about his brand and the future of sustainable eyewear. 

When did you first conjure up the idea for Coral Eyewear?

From the outset, Coral Eyewear has been driven by a desire to disrupt an industry which contributes significantly to plastic pollution. My family have worked in opticians [sic] for decades so I have seen a lot of developments recently. Last year, there was a new contact lens recycling scheme introduced in the UK. However, I don’t believe anyone has created a range of glasses and sunglasses which combines sustainability and industry-leading design. 

All of our frames are created with ECONYL regenerated nylon – a hybrid of recycled fishing nets and waste nylon intercepted from oceans and landfills all over the world.

Did you find any difficulties in getting people on board with the idea? 

I don’t believe I’ve encountered anyone who is strictly against the idea of producing glasses and sunglasses from ocean/landfill waste. Our main difficulty was finding a factory willing to work with the new material. However, once the interest and demand for our products became clearer those conversations became much easier.

What do you hope other brands will do in the future to be more eco-friendly? 

Every fashion brand needs to recognise the need for a more circular production process. There are so many possibilities and we are now at the stage where the quality of ‘recycled’ or ‘regenerated’ material is on a par with virgin plastic, nylon or fibres. 

What’s coming up next for Coral Eyewear? 

It’s looking like a busy 2020 for Coral Eyewear. We’ve agreed initial deals that will see the glasses and sunglasses in opticians and fashion stores all over the country. There’s also a couple of really exciting partnerships with charities and high-profile individuals that should help raise awareness of plastic pollution – the issue we are trying to address.

Do you have any advice for students wanting to shop in a more sustainable way?

I don’t like to advise anyone on what, or what not, to buy. A simple rule to follow would be asking yourself whether you really need the product. Every item uses up resources or has an impact, so I think looking towards minimalism is always useful.

Photo courtesy of Coral Eyewear

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George Bailey and Maya Coomarasamy

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May 2022
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