Since staging ‘Savage Beauty’ back in 2015, the exhibition dedicated to the work of the late Alexander McQueen, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum has looked to continue to satisfy our growing desire for spectacular fashion-led shows. And next week it launches its latest so-called blockbuster, that has been designed to be thought provoking as well as pleasing to the eye.
Exploring the close relationship between fashion and the natural world, ‘Fashioned from Nature’ will not only showcase how the beauty and power of nature has long-inspired what we wear, but how the heavy production demands of the fashion industry have taken their toll on the environment. Spanning a period of over 400 years and with 300 objects on display, the exhibition will invite visitors to consider how clothes are made and sourced, and present some of the innovative fabrics and processes that are advancing sustainable fashion production. “Everything we wear, from clothes and accessories to jewellery, is ‘fashioned’ from matter found in the world around us. We express ourselves through our appearance and enjoy fashion for its novelty, variety and creativity,” explained the exhibition’s curator Edwina Ehrman in an interview with Marie Claire. “Yet, fashion’s demands frequently damage the environment and endanger the world’s flora, fauna and human communities.”
As well as contemporary pieces by designers such as Christian Dior, Dries Van Noten and Philip Treacy, which will highlight how fashion draws inspiration from the beauty of animals and flowers, historical items on display will reveal a more sinister side, including a muslin dress decorated with the wing cases of hundreds of green metallic beetles, a hat made from the fur of pine martens, and a pair of earrings dating from the 1870s which are made from the heads of red-legged honeycreeper songbirds.
There will also be space given to garments that have been created with respect to the natural environment firmly in mind. So outfits by sustainable fashion champion Stella McCartney will sit alongside a Calvin Klein gown made from recycled plastic bottles, worn by Emma Watson at the 2016 Met Gala, and an upcycled dress by British fashion designer Christopher Ræburn who works with reappropriated military fabrics.
Looking to the future, a section of the exhibition will be dedicated to showcasing innovation, presenting materials aimed at reducing the impact of the fashion industry on the environment, as well as several forward-thinking eco-conscious designs. Regenerated materials will include a leather substitute produced from grape waste generated by the wine industry, and an orange fiber derived from waste from the Italian citrus industry. And a dress created by Dutch artist Diana Scherer, who shaped seeds, soil and water into root systems to form its fabric-like material, and a bio-luminescent dress made from genetically modified silk, are among the novel nature-friendly designs that will be on display.
Key to the success of many of today’s major exhibitions is an element of interaction and theater, and as part ‘Fashioned from Nature’ the London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion will present two installations which explore Fashion Now and Fashion Future. ‘Fashion Now’ will take five iconic contemporary fashion pieces and using sensors, visitors will be able to explore the unseen impact on nature of constructing, wearing and discarding each item. ‘Fashion Future’ will immerse viewers into the fashion world of the future, inviting them to question what fashion means and show them a future they are yet to imagine.
“In the exhibition we are asking two important questions,” said Ehrman. “Can we learn anything from the past; and how we can design a vibrant and creative fashion system that respects, protects and celebrates the natural world.“ And she went on to say, “We hope that 'Fashioned from Nature' will encourage visitors to think about their relationship with nature and contribute to this debate.”
The exhibition opens on 21st April 2018 and runs through to 27th January 2019.