A Surprising Solution to a Plastic Problem

May 24, 2018

A Surprising Solution to a Plastic Problem

Every brand we feature here at The Mantique is carefully chosen for their quality, individuality and provenance. We want to get to know the designers and the stories that lie at the heart of each brand so they become a part of our community.

If you follow The Mantique on Instagram or Facebook, you may have seen the recent posts about one of our designers, Riz Boardshorts and the amazing window display we created. I think it has to be one of my favourite displays so far and I hope it’s given you an insight into their unique and innovative designs. 

Riz Boardshorts, sustainable swim shorts for men made from recycled plastic bottles

I came across Riz Boardshorts quite by chance but was immediately taken with the beautifully made shorts and the philosophy behind them. Riz Smith and Ali Murrell are the founding partners behind the brand and like me they have a love for our beautiful coastline and playing by the sea. Their passion for our coastline has led them on a mission to create the ‘most beautiful sustainable swim shorts in the world’.

We’ve all seen the footage in the press and watched the beautifully filmed Blue Planet series by David Attenborough. If you visit any of our beaches then chances are you’ll see first-hand the disgusting sight of plastics and detritus washed up with the tide.


Plastic bottles and rubbish washed up on our beaches


So what can we do about it?

Riz and Ali decided to turn something ugly into something beautiful by transforming filthy ocean plastics into their stylish shorts. When they visited us here in Winchester for our recent Meet The Designer event, I took the opportunity to interview them and learn a little more about the brand and their innovative approach to business. 


Riz Smith, designer from Riz Boardshorts in his studio. British designer sustainable clothing


How did you come up with the concept for recycling plastic bottles into shorts?

When setting up the brand we had already come across recycled polyester fabric which is made from recycled plastic bottles. We knew that we wanted to make the most sustainable shorts possible, so it would have been crazy not to use this fabric which was available, it just wasn’t popular at the time.


How long did it take to turn your idea into reality?

After sitting on the concept for four or five years, it probably took us a year of research and development before we had our first pair of shorts in our hands. And the first pair were awful, so we had to resource and develop further.


How do you turn the plastic into fabric?

We don’t actually turn the plastic into fabric. We source the fabric from a mill in Taiwan that sources recycled plastic bottles from the recycling system. They then grind and boil the plastic into pellets and then extrude these into a yarn. We are currently trying to develop our own fabric from plastic bottles collected from UK beaches and rivers, but this is a work in progress.


How many plastic bottles are used in each pair of shorts?

It’s hard to say exactly but we think it’s about 20 bottles by weight per pair of shorts. 


Endangered flower swim shorts from Riz Boardshorts, designed from recycled plastic bottles. Inspired by the British flora and fauna


Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?

The inspiration for the designs comes from the juxtaposition of being a London brand that dreams of escaping to warm sunshine and soft waves. There is an elegance and sartorial underpinning that comes from being inspired by Saville Row and perhaps the gentlemanly spirit of British menswear, then there are the rich, luscious prints that derive from Hawaiian and Surf culture, the tropical feel of flowers and exoticness. To give it a signature we use British endangered blooms, fish, insects and rare species that link back to our local nature and create a story. The idea is that the shorts challenge what is smart or relaxed, city or sea, masculine or feminine, they are to be worn in that space where you are totally free.


Do you have a favourite pair?

My [Riz] current favourite pair are the Black Endangered Flower Braunton’s, they’re dark and smart, yet flowery and rich. They balance various worlds. Ali’s current faves are the Buckler black fish shorts as they’re bold and different.


Buckler fish swim shorts for men, designed by Riz Boardshorts and made from recycled plastic bottles


What’s next for Riz Boardshorts?

We’d like to continue crafting shorts with soul if we can. We’re trying to work out ways of making each and every element of the shorts more sustainable, useful and beautiful if possible, and then replicate that philosophy across our whole business. It would be fantastic if by having a stronger voice we could also make people more aware of the plastic problems our world faces and inspire some change in how we consume and live through a deeper connection with nature.


Thank you so much Riz and Ali for coming down to see us, it was a real pleasure to chat with you both.

You can see our whole collection of shorts here or if you’re in Winchester then pop in to the shop on Parchment Street to say hi and take a look in person. You can also take part in beach cleans in your area and the Marine Conservation Society has a list of events on their website here


Braunton swim shorts for men by Riz Boardshorts. Designed using recycled plastic bottles.

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