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The plastic fashion passion of Sarah Bellum 

click to enlarge INGENIOUS RECYCLER:  Not only does Sarah Bellum craft custom-made bikinis out of recycled plastic bags, she also makes hats, handbags, and beer cozies. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • INGENIOUS RECYCLER: Not only does Sarah Bellum craft custom-made bikinis out of recycled plastic bags, she also makes hats, handbags, and beer cozies.

Although they’re illegal in SLO County, someone you know and love has one—several maybe—stashed away in a dark place. They were probably smuggled in from some nearby safe haven.

These plastic bag delinquents need not hide in the shadows anymore, however. Their savior is here to make everything beachy keen.

Sarah Bellum is a fashion designer with a heart for environmental preservation. She creates sexy string bikinis out of an unlikely material: plastic bags. After moving to California three years ago, she became especially interested in the ocean, but was upset to see how much waste the beaches collected.

“I have witnessed trash littered on the beach every time I go, and it breaks my heart to see our ocean being abused,” she said. “So I picked up every piece I could find.”

To make her swimwear, Bellum first collects bags from recycling centers, donations, or strays floating in her path. She cleans them, cuts them into strips, and ties them to create “plarn”—or plastic yarn. After she sketches out a design, she crochets the plarn to make her vision come to life. She then lines the inside with recycled under-armor for comfort.

“When I learned about plastic bag crochet, making something eye-catching like bikinis with plarn was a no brainer,” she said.

Bellum makes each suit herself, using 25 to 50 recycled plastic bags per suit, depending on client body type. She strives to give her clients exactly what they are looking for.

“Every bikini is custom to fit my customer’s body and style,” she said. “I design the bikini with my customers, and the colors depend on what I find at the time.”

Bellum has been making waves in the community and has gained support from local businesses for raising awareness about wasteful ways. Many locals have started saving bags for her, and she sets up a drop off box at Yarns at the Adobe in downtown SLO to make it easy to donate to her cause. She hopes to spread the message that “it’s good luck to pick up trash” and “it’s sexy to consume less.”

“I hope people who see my bikinis are motivated to start using reusable products and protect our shared and limited resource: water,” she said.

See these custom suits on the Sarah Bellums website ( or buy them via Etsy ( Each suit starts at $100 and takes about a week to construct. Bellum is excited to create new ways to spread the message about environmental preservation.

“I am looking forward to collaborating with other artists and foundations who are intercepting the waste stream and creating solutions to this growing problem of waste,” she said.

Fast fact

The Exploration Station in Grover Beach is having its second annual fundraising event, Chemistry of Cocktails, on Sunday, Nov. 3, from 2 to 5 p.m. Local restaurants, such as F. McClintock’s and Sidecar, will participate in a bartending battle, creating original concoctions judged by local celebrities and event attendees. Cocktails will be judged on taste, originality, and “cutting edge molecular mixology techniques.” The top three cocktails will be awarded judges’ favorite, while one specialty drink will receive recognition as the crowd’s choice. The event will also bring in musical guest Zongo Combo, food, activities, and a silent auction. Tickets for this 21-and-older event cost $45 at or $50 at the door. Come to 867 Ramona Ave. in Grover Beach. All proceeds will benefit the Exploration Station’s educational programs to encourage learning for people of all ages.

Intern Tally Meyers compiled this week’s Strokes and plugs. Send your business and nonprofit news to

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