NATURAL WONDERS: The Victoria & Albert museum has opened the doors to its latest exhibition, “Fashioned From Nature,” inviting designers, models and members of the industry to unpick fashion’s complicated — and at times destructive — relationship with nature.
“This is a complex and bittersweet relationship at a time where we are all increasingly scrutinizing fashion and the material impact on the natural world. Fashioned from Nature provides an opportunity to investigate these devastating effects fashion has on the earth,” said the museum’s chairman Nicholas Coleridge.
“This is the first-ever exhibition that puts fashion and sustainability in a historic context. The exhibition also asks what we can learn from the past so that we can better design for the future of the fashion industry, and it encourages us all to consider our own choices more carefully.”
Coleridge, who was joined by the likes of Stella McCartney, Ellie Goulding, Stephen Jones, Jacquetta Wheeler and Arizona Muse at the opening dinner on Wednesday night, stressed the importance of highlighting new technological innovations, both “tested and experimental” that are helping to transform fashion into a less wasteful industry.
In particular, he pointed to Stella McCartney’s partnership with the biotechnology company Bolt Threads to create the Mylo Falabella Prototype 1 bag out of mycelium, a leather alternative extracted from mushrooms.
Arizona Muse, the model and environmentalist, spoke about the importance of using the exhibition as an education platform: “There are ways to dig us out of this hole that we’ve made for ourselves. The first step is to become experts on the subject and this exhibition is the perfect place to begin. This is exactly what we need to open our eyes and our minds to sustainability.”
Muse also suggested that a lot of the answers we are looking for could be lying in the past; “I thought that pineapple fabric was a new innovation when it comes to sustainable material, but I learnt that there’s a wedding dress in the exhibition from the 1800s made of beautiful pineapple fabrics,” she added.
Milliner Stephen Jones was most fascinated by what he referred to as the “murderous hat section,” a part of the show which highlighted the more negative impact of fashion on the environment, including the use of materials such as pheasant feathers on hats.
“As a hat maker you are exposed to a lot of animal product,” said Jones, adding that the exhibition is a great way to spark a debate on sustainability and it has got him to rethink his use of materials and overall design process. “The natural world is far more sustainable than the real world. Look at fur — real fur is a natural product that can last over 1000 years, unlike faux fur. Fashion, ethics, tastes all have their moments in time.”