Growth is what fashion designers are seeking more than ever and a new exhibition in Amsterdam illustrates how that can be done with natural and sustainable materials.
“Grow: The Future of Fashion” is on view until April 1. Despite sounding like the offshoots of a supermarket’s produce department, the designs on display at the Fashion for Good Museum include banana plant clothes, an orange peel silk dress, coconut leather creations and vegan leather designs made in part from cork powder. While such materials have been showcased in museums before, the Amsterdam institution commissioned young Dutch designers to give them a fresh take. The work of Huong Nguyen, Frederieke Broekgaarden, Eva Sonneveld and Charlotte Bakkenes is featured in the exhibition. They were tasked with making sustainable fashion look good and be good for people and the planet.
More seasoned talents like Iris Van Herpen and Karim Adduchi also provide styles that reflect their expertise in using biomaterials. Organizers want to relay that while nature is often a source of inspiration in fashion, it is also looted in the current climate. While new natural materials have been developed, they are often unknown to consumers or available in stores. To try to change that, Fashion for Good’s “Grow Talent” project led to this exhibition.
The designers were selected by a jury and they were guided by Van Herpen, Nina Ricci creative directors Lisi Herrebrugh and Rushemy Botter, former Vogue Netherlands’ editor in chief Rinke Tjepkema, and designer and inventor Daan Roosegaarde. The up-and-comers received a master class on design, inspiration and production from designer Karim Adduchi. They also learned about the material properties of each of the eco-friendly fabrics from the innovators of each. They were financially compensated with the Fashion for Good team helping them through mentorship, as well as with production of the expo and the entire design process of their garments, according to Anne-Ro Klevant Groen, marketing and communications director.
One of the participants, 25-year-old Sonneveld, used Green Whisper, a sustainable fabric made from banana stem fibers for a printed ensemble. Through the Fashion for Good-supported meetings, conversations and guest lectures, she said she learned that it’s “completely fine to break from the norm and freestyle in whatever direction feels good for your own personal and professional development.”
Visitors are meant to discover how the natural and sustainable fibers can shape the future of fashion. They are encouraged to take a closer look and also feel the materials, such as natural rubber from Mirum. Bakkenes, for example, made a dress using materials from kapok trees.
Wishful that the fashion industry would let go of old habits, Sonneveld said, “There’s a new wave of creatives who are creating things that matter and benefit the planet, instead of things that just sell.”