CNN iReport: “Eco-Designer makes bold and positive fashion statement in support of our Gulf Coast’s recovery.”

It was serendipitous, the meeting that I had with eco-jewelry designer Kathleen Nowak Tucci. Her high fashion jewelry made from recycled rubber collected from the Gulf Coast area is preventing used bicycle and Harley Davidson inner tubes from becoming part of an exploding landfill issue.

Our paths crossed when I learned from a friend that Tucci’s necklace was on the cover of the controversial August 2010 issue of Italian Vogue called “The Last Wave”, which featured the theme of water and oil, and interpreted the environmental crisis that has been affecting the Gulf Coast. The 24-page editorial photo shoot was by famed photographer Steven Meisel and depicted model Kristen McMenamy in black couture dresses lying on an oil-soaked beach and caught in nets.

At the time, Tucci stated: ” I never considered this glamorized. I thought it was disturbing and thought provoking and utterly fascinating in its interpretation of the struggle for survival. It is controversial and interpretative which is indicative of great artistic expression”.

However many local residents stated that the photos were “offensive, tasteless and left them wondering if it glamorized last year’s ecological disaster created by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico for the sake of fashion.”

Tucci and I soon found that we have a few things in common:

She lives in the small rural town of Atmore, Alabama, where I was born. And her family has a home on Pensacola Beach, Florida; a large barrier island just a few miles south of where I live on the eastern shores of Escambia Bay.

We both saw, firsthand, the effects of the oil spill as it drifted into our area of the Gulf Coast, just a short walk from Tucci’s home, where the beaches were once smattered with black, tarry oil. And from my Garcon Point home, my neighbors I found a number of oiled-soaked pelicans a few feet from our back doors, as we watched a menagerie of boats and crews doing their best they could to clean up that horrible mess.

Planning & reviewing the shoot

As we began to talk about her artwork and the debate surrounding Vogue’s August issue,we decided to do something about it, something positive, and something that would be in contrast with the beautifully constructed but overwhelming dark images of Meisel. We came up with an idea that would showcase the revitalization and the recovery of the beach in our area of the Gulf Coast through a new photo shoot of Tucci’s jewelry, one that would highlight the beauty of Pensacola Beach and nature’s power of healing, just one year after the oil spill nearly ruined the ecology and economy of the beach community.
We brought together our own creative team drawn from the rich talent pool in our community:

  • Our model was Camille Dauchez, a young femme-fatale exchange student, hailing from Paris and attending the University of West Florida.
  • Kathryn Miller, Dauchez’s American-exchange mom served as makeup artist.
  • My partner Jeff Griffey was boat captain and all around project coordinator.
  • And, of course, Tucci provided the jewelry and visual placements.
  • Drawing from my daytime job as a hair designer and my second love, photography, I served as hair stylist and visual artist.

Prepping hair and makeup with "mom" K. Miller

We gathered at Tucci’s family home, which faces the Intracoastal Waterway on the north side of Santa Rosa Island, where we boarded the “Honey Hush”, a pontoon boat that we used last year to assist in coastal oil monitoring of our Garcon Point area. We took to the sea at sunset and found the perfect location for our photo shoot, a place that we could show how wonderfully creative Tucci’s jewelry is and how well our little slice of paradise had returned to its near pristine beauty.


On location

I wanted our shoot to represent both Tucci’s creativity and highlight the eco-friendly recycled, rubber jewelry and the beauty of a place that so many, including myself, were afraid would never be the same. If anything, in my view, I know last year’s experience has made me appreciate the efforts of so many people who came together and to think outside the box, to do their part to help clean up the oil, educate themselves and others on how we impact our environment and what we can do to improve and influence a negative situation with positive actions…and do it with a bit of style.


Tucci has been creating art for more than 25 years. Recently she has shown her work at fashion trade shows, and at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. and has been invited to shows there again this fall for the Craft2Wear Show. She also prides herself in being part of private, corporate, and university collections nationally and internationally. You can find her unique and fashionable artwork in exclusive boutiques across the country and at,

These photos and Kathleen’s talents will be featured in , Coastal Lifestyle Magazine,, as well as several trade magazines that will be published this fall.


2 Responses To  “CNN iReport: “Eco-Designer makes bold and positive fashion statement in support of our Gulf Coast’s recovery.””
  • aeg

    This is amazing what you’ve done here! Beautiful and hopeful.

  • Jefferey Cantarano

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

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