Fashioned from Nature, traces the complex relationship between fashion and the natural world since 1600.
It shows how fashionable dress recurringly draws on the beauty and power of nature for inspiration, with exquisite garments and accessories from Christian Dior, Dries van Noten and Philip Treacy.
It explores how fashion’s processes and constant demand for raw materials damage the environment, featuring campaigners and protest groups that have effectively highlighted this issue such as Fashion Revolution and Vivienne Westwood.
It looks at the role of design in creating a better, more sustainable fashion industry. The exhibition showcases contemporary designers of desirable, creative and sustainable popular fashion.
Menswear and womenswear from Stella McCartney, known for a commitment to and success in developing new alternative sustainable materials, is displayed alongside an upcycled dress by Christopher Raeburn.
At the 2016 Met Gala, actor EmmaWatson wore a Calvin Klein look made from recycled plastic bottles. With separate parts, it was intended to be re worn in different ways. The look was created as part of the‘Green Carpet Challenge’ with Eco-Age,an initiative to p
air sustainabilitywith glamour.
It is shown with a floral dress from Erdem’s Green Carpet Challengecollection. Fashioned from Nature draws attention to the use of innovative fabrics. Vegea use grape waste from the wine industry to form a leather- substitute and their Grape gown is onshow, as is a Ferragamo ensemble made from ‘Orange Fiber’ derived from waste from the Italian citrus industry and an H&M Conscious dress made from recycled shoreline plastic.
The exhibition looks to the past 400 years of fashion to explore what we can learn from
fashion practice in the past, with objects dating to the early 1600s.
Items include an 1875 pair of earrings formed from the heads of two real Honey creeper birds–a hugely popular item sold in enormous volumeat the time–and a 18 60s muslin dress decorated with the iridescent green wing cases of hundreds of jewel beetles. They are shown alongside natural history specimens to indicate the ways fashion has used animal materials in its designs and production.
The natural world has always provided rich inspiration for beautiful fashion. This is shown indisplays of exquisite garments from the historic to the contemporary.
They range from a 1780s man’s waistcoat, expertly embroidered with a pattern of playful Macacque monkeys, to Gucci’s contemporary bag decorated with stag beetle motifs. One of the earliest pieces in the exhibition, a women’s jacket from the early 1600s, is intricately embroidered with de signs of pea-shoots and flowers. A 2016 Giles Deacon haute-couture dress features a pattern of delicate bird’s eggs, whilst gowns from Jean Paul Gaultier (1997) and Busvine (1933-4) both feature leopard print.
The exhibition also focuses closely on the raw materials used in the production of fashion. Arranged chronologically, itintroduces the main fibres used in the 17th and 18thcenturies–silk, flax, wool and cotton– as well as now controversial materials like whalebone,demonstrated by an x-ray by Nick Veasey of a pair of 1780s stays, andturtle shell,used in a fan from 1700.
It goes on to chart the expansion in international trade, import of precious materials, and later introduction of man-made materials, which brought fashionable dress to the masses but also contributed to the air and water pollution to which the textile industry is such a significant contributor. A bold display of posters, slogan clothes and artworks show how protest movements have helped draw attention to the harmful side of fashion.
Figures like Vivienne Westwood have popularised these issues and a mannequin pays homage to an outfit worn by her whilst protesting against climate change.
A man’s outfit from Katharine Hamnett’s 1989 ‘Clean Up or Die’ collection is on show alongside posters from Fashion Revolution, a collective aiming to change the way clothes are sourced, produced and consume.
Customising and re-wearing clothes arehighlighted through a vintage outfit and a jacket customised by London designer Katie Jones for fashion writer and editor Susie Lau to wear during Fashion Revolution Week 2015.