The timing could not be more appropriate as fashion designers and retailers worldwide respond to environmental issues. This April, London's Victoria & Albert museum will host its very first fashion exhibition on sustainability; Fashioned from Nature.
The ambitious and timely show will explore the environmental and social implications of fashion from the 17th century through to the present day, analysing what we can learn from the past and how we can design a better fashion industry.
ORDRE attended an intimate talk at London's Chelsea Physic gardens, by senior textiles and fashion curator of the V&A, Edwina Ehrman, introducing the upcoming event. "It's meant to be a celebration of fashion from nature, but also a warning. A warning to think more about what we wear, how we care for it, how do we get rid of it," she says.
While many designers and textile companies are embracing eco-friendly solutions, most consumers are still reluctant to buy, or engage with sustainable fashion. They are easily put off by the worthy but dull connotations of the word eco, implying (for many) a lack of beauty, luxury and desirability.
"That's why we were very keen to include stunning garments that show their engagement with nature," says Ehrman. "Good clothes don't have to be earnest, they don't have to be boring. You can have great clothes that are fashionable and sustainable."
The exhibition will showcase garments made from alternative recycled materials and using a variety of sustainable production processes. Some of the pieces on display will include: a leather alternative dress by Italian company Vegea made from grown wine waste; a pineapple fibre clutch bag by Belgian-Lebanese designer Mayya Saliba; a J.W. Anderson red washed Irish linen dress; and Veja footwear designed by model Lily Cole using Amazonian tree rubber.
Ehrman suggests that the way we produce and think of fashion is too focused on the temporary rather than the made-to-last. She says, "What we have really tried to do is introduce people to what clothes are [really] made of. We want people to value the clothes they are wearing much more, to have an emotional affinity with them."
The V&A is also welcoming a conceptual experiment by Diana Scherer for the show. The German Fine Artist is growing a sculptural dress made from the roots of oats. The nature of her work is ephemeral, naturally disintegrating over time. It's another first for the exhibition. As Ehrman says: "We are questioning how durable it will be. This has never been done at the V&A before... we've never had shedding in an exhibition!"
Fashioned from Nature runs from April 21 2018 to November 27 2019 at the V&A.