Operation Save Ocean Style (SOS)

PDF of Save Ocean Style (SOS) Proposal Memo – 1Apr2014

To: Waitt Foundation Board and Staff

Date: April 1st, 2014

Re: Fashion to Save Fish – Style Interventions for Rising Stars in Ocean Conservation

Problem: The ocean is dying, with severe ramifications for food security, economies, and culture, yet no one will listen to the scientists and advocates who understand the problem and have solutions. People don’t listen because they can’t hear past the atrocious fashion of the spokespeople. There are influential places where free t-shirts, fleece jackets, and “science pants” shall not tread. Scientists are missing out on invitations to important diplomatic events and losing key audiences due to their woeful sartorial choices. 

Background: Innumerable times, I have overheard comments such as:

  • “Do these people even know what dress shoes are? If I see one more pair of Tevas…”
  • “I get it, it’s comfortable. That doesn’t mean you can wear it outside your house.”
  • “Scientific conference? More like free t-shirt convention.”
  • “Ugh, someone please tell these people that fleece jackets don’t count as business casual attire – even if they’re made by Patagonia!”
  • “Why do scientists act as if wearing a smidge of makeup would make Darwin roll in his grave???”
  • “I’m sure they’re smart, but they just look so out of touch; I can’t relate to them.”

I have even had these thoughts myself, despite attempts to remain focused on style over substance. It’s just so distracting! My guess is that you have had similar thoughts flicker across your minds too.

Reason for Hope: A new generation of ocean conservation leaders is stepping up to the podium decked out in fitted sheath dresses and slacks, some members of the old guard are trying to up their game, and the Waitt staff has endeavored to play an exemplary leadership role in this regard. However, despite the glimmers of hope, there is a serious risk that it may be too little too late. Furthermore, scientists’ salaries are far from commensurate with the cost of keeping au current.

Vision for the Future: What if scientists became style icons? What if people shared the substantive messages of scientists in part because their public images were visually compelling? What if rising stars in ocean conservation were profiled in Vogue? What if the social media followings of brilliant scientists went through the roof as they conducted beach cleanups outfitted in Prada? What if Instagram photos went viral with captions like: “Thanks @Gucci! Loved carrying this limited edition tote as I lobbied #Congress to establish a new #MarineSanctuaries with @OceanConservancy!”

A Modest Proposal: The Waitt Foundation can address this pressing issue by launching a covert operation – Operation Save Ocean Style (SOS). We could identify ocean conservationists with the potential to be highly influential if only they could dress themselves properly. Once these anti-fashionable rising stars are identified, we could conduct urgent fashion interventions.

Ocean conservation doesn’t need better ideas. It needs a better stylist. Fashion can save the ocean.

Happy April Fool’s Day. (Only kinda kidding.)