Sew what you sea

Designer Lorna Doyle ‘closes the loop’ with recycled wetsuit wonders


We are becoming more used to the idea of repurposing a product and adapting it for another use like work boots to plant pots and curtains made from plastic straws, but moving an item from the surf to the sewing machine might be one of the more adventurous transitions.

Deal-based designer Lorna Doyle is making waves in the world of eco creatives by taking water-worn wetsuits and giving them a new lease of life.

Turning the tides against waste, the designer has created a range of bags, accessories and artworks leading to vast interest from water sports fans, pro-green perusers and the art world.

“It is about making a product out of waste, but a decent product that is going to last, not just make more waste,” she says.

“Once they are worn out, wetsuits often just get chucked and they take about 100 years to break down in landfill. There is a recycling process for it but it is really refined.”

Doyle has been exhibiting at the Go Eco Exhibition at the Bluecoat Display Centre in Liverpool, featuring designer-makers with a focus on sustainability, alongside international names such as textiles artist Jo Atherton, who features sea flotsam artwork.


“It has been really useful in finding out what sells and what doesn’t,” says Doyle. “When I first started making the bags, I was trying to hide that they were from wetsuits in a way. But now, I find that if it looks like a wetsuit and people recognise it, they sell more.”

Doyle is also creating artworks out of the wetsuits. 

“People will hang it on their wall,” explains Doyle. “Like in a surfers cabin or, for example, to a lady who had a holiday home by the coast in cornwall.”



It hasn’t been all art and design for Doyle, who was on a “crazy adventure” in the army for seven years. But having left to study textiles at Chelsea School of Arts, Doyle began using neoprene for all her design samples. 

The designer got involved with disruptive entrepreneur programme Closing The Loop in Dover, which encouraged people to create sustainable businesses.

Following a workshop with Faversham-based eco designers Elvis & Kressie - who make bags out of re-used fire hoses - Doyle changed her approach.

“Kressie advised me to use a material that was free, and because I was working with neoprene already, it made sense to use old wetsuits,” she says. “So, I started to approach local surf schools and yacht clubs in the Kent area, to collect their old wetsuits.

“It worked, because they wanted to get rid of the waste.

“Surf schools, for example, get a lot of usage through their wetsuits, loads of kids use them repeatedly, so they have a quick turnaround and lots to get rid of.”


The make of wetsuit can often be seen within the design, while DOyle also makes sure to promote the surf schools or the donors on the label, too.

“Instagram helps with approaching the clubs. We work alot with Joss Bay Surf School, Whitstable Yacht Club and Action Watersports Lydd, who give me used kites as well fr the interiors,” says Doyle.

“The only thing not recycled is the zip.”

Doyle took part in the Future Foundry Waste to Wealth exhibition at the Turner Contemporary, Margate, in April and is in the process of acquiring a more indusrtial sewing machine to keep up with the demands of the business.

She adds: “My business is trying to keep that material out of landfill for as long as possible.”