Comprised of over 300 objects from the V&A archive, Fashioned From Nature is the first ever exhibition to put the topic of fashion sustainability into historical context. In response to the question ‘why now?’, the curator of the showcase, Edwina Ehrman answered that ‘there has been a tipping point in public opinion of late – on fashion, nature and sustainability…it’s provided the opportune moment to reflect’. This exhibit is a showcase of all three topics, and not only does it identify the link between them but it also acts as a reminder that ‘everything we wear and have ever worn comes from the earth’.
Displayed across two floors, arranged chronologically and focusing on past, present and future, there’s a certain eclecticism to this showcase that’s undeniably fascinating. Some items date as far back as the 1600s and include one particularly striking wedding dress made of preserved pineapple leaves, remembering a time when fashion had no choice but to be sustainable. More recent pieces include designs by John Galliano, Gucci, Margaret Howell and Philip Treacy as well as the recycled bottle Calvin Klein Met Gala dress worn by Emma Watson in 2016. Ehrman says [this dress] ‘shows that sustainable fashion is far from dull… and I hope in the future it will become a part of our everyday lives’.
There is also a powerful display attributed to the 1970s protests against fast fashion and to Vivienne Westwood, whose collections have acted as a presentation of her activist views since the launch of her namesake label. But whilst the exhibit draws from the past to explore how the fashion industry has impacted the planet, it’s the modern day twist in perception – and how current retailers are responding – that’s perhaps the most poignant message here. Stella McCartney’s newly developed production processes (the Colourfix dying process and the use of mycelium ‘leather’) and G Star’s dedication to crafting low-water denim sit at the cusp of innovation, but Fashioned From Nature argues the importance of continued change. Two interactive installations – designed by the London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion – complete the showcase. Fashion Now and Fashion Future explore the unseen impact that fashion is having on the world and showcase how we can create a better, more sustainable future for this industry.
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