From 21 April 2018 until 27 January 2019 ‘Fashioned from Nature’ exhibition at the Victoria & Museum in London, 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. 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.
The natural world has always provided rich inspiration for beautiful fashion. This is shown in displays of exquisite garments from the historic to the contemporary. One of the earliest pieces in the exhibition, a women’s jacket from the early 1600s, is intricately embroidered with designs of pea-shoots and flowers. The exhibition also focuses closely on the raw materials used in the production of fashion. Arranged chronologically, it introduces the main fibres used in the 17th and 18th centuries – 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, and turtle 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. The exhibition presents a range of solutions to reducing fashion’s impact on the environment from low water denim and using wild rubber to more conceptual, collaborative and sustainable projects. 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. 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 on show, 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.