Nature never goes out of fashion. The mysterious world of colours and shapes has always fascinated people. And there were periods when humans were trying to disguise themselves as flowers or plants, a sign of deepest appreciation. Fashion has been stealing from nature for centuries, as the exhibition clearly shows. Sometimes just copying the flora but often actually stealing animals' fur, feathers, protective shells. It hasn't been quite a healthy relationship between the two. But perhaps Fashion has grown up a little and is ready to face the music and admit its bad behaviours. Perhaps change a little, appreciate and create rather than exploit.
Wedding dress, Britiain from about 1828, made of silk with pineapple fibre
'Fashioned from nature' exhibition at the V&A explores this long and difficult relationship between Nature and Fashion. Ground floor shows beautiful garments from previous centuries with a naughty underlining. Corset dresses with whalebone stiffeners, hats dressed with dead birds or ermine fur. All at the height of sophistication at the time, now making us question the ethics of how they came to be.
Second floor brings us closer to present day and present designers. Who seem to be still very much fascinated by the fauna and flora and yet ever so slightly more aware.
Here you'd see stunning pieces inspired by flowers or animals but made without harming them. Clothes that show admiration of Mother Nature, trying to copy its beauty. A leopard skin dress that after a closer look proves to be made of glass beads rather than an animal, voluminous outfit turning a woman into flower, 'mother of pearl' dress made out of cellulose.
Woman as a flower by John Galliano for House of Dior, Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 2010
Leopard dress by Jean Paul Gaultier, Fall 2013 Coture Collection. The leopard skin is fully made of glass beads!
And it only gets better as designers get more involved in changing the status quo. Catwalk becomes a stage for activism for less consumption and more environmetal awareness. Educating about an impact certain behaviours have on the world, biodegradabilty of materials and going back to the culture of mending, recycling or repurposing rather than throwing away. A few educational videos are available to get to know a bit more about the costs of fashion chain.
Katherine Hamnett 'Clean up or die' jacket 1989,
Bridget Harvey 'Mend more' jumper 2015,
Vivian Westwood dress 2012
This leads us to the most interesting part of the exhibition exploring new materials. And yes, that was my favourite as it featured some of the vegan leather alternatives as mentioned here
These included the Pinatex® bag and Vegeatextile® outfit with a bag. But also explored other great sustainable materials used on footwear, including organically grown cotton and recycled leather Nike trainers. There is wearable paper, a dress made of plant roots, and outfits by Stella McCartney made of microsilk imitating spiders thread along with that Falabella bag made of Mylo™, material specially groomed from mycelium.
Pinatex bag by Mayya Saliba, 2018
Vegea bag and dress by Titziano Guardini
'Rootbound #2' dress by Diana Scherer, 2017, made of plant roots structure
Outfits made of Microsilk and bag made of Mylo by Stella McCartney in collaboration with Bolt Threads, 2017
It looks like Fashion is trying to make amends with Nature. New materials are paving the path to the future as we become more aware of the process and the true cost. Designers are striving to be more responsible and consumers are following suit making smart choices.
Great exhibition to spike awareness of any fashionista.
'Fashioned from Nature' exhibition at the V&A is open until 27th of January 2019
You can book your tickets here