Wednesday 18th April

| BY Finn Blythe

Five Things We Learned At The V&A’s Fashioned From Nature Exhibition Preview

FFFashion and nature have been pretty much inseparable since the beginning. From the foliage that Adam and Eve intuitively hashed together to protect their modesty in the Garden, to today’s leather substitutes made using grape waste from the wine industry, fashion and nature have enjoyed an intimate, if somewhat fraught and volatile friendship. We can relate. This exhibition examines the highs and lows of that relationship since 1600 –  tracing what has been a largely one way affair, in which fashion has continuously drawn from the natural world – resources, inspiration and otherwise, while giving little in return. The good news is the imbalance is beginning to correct itself. Fashion is beginning to wake up to the fact that nature is too dear a friend to be taken for granted. A new generation of ecologically conscious designers, materials and processes are emerging, while awareness of the need to radically change our patterns of consumption is spreading. Here are five lessons to be learned from the V&A’s Fashioned From Nature exhibition…

Mend More Bin Less

This one’s fairly self explanatory. Tears, rips, holes, fag burns – they are emotionally devastating but need not necessarily spell the end for your clothes. This Spring, an expected 235 million items of clothing are expected to end up in landfill in Britain alone – talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Learn to darn people.

Denim is Dead

OK so you can’t really kill denim, chinos tried that and look where they ended up, but in terms of environmentally catastrophic clothing, denim is right up there. The average pair of jeans consumes 13,000 litres of water during its lifetime, from cotton irrigation to production and washing, and that’s before you take all the nasty pesticides and fertilisers that end up in water supplies into account. G Star RAW have just discovered an innovative new denim that cuts out those nasty bits.

FF2Be John Malkovich

The 1999 cult comedy called it first – we should all try and be a little bit more like John. Why? Many reasons. But in this case because the actor launched his first menswear collection in 2017, on show in the exhibition, using traditional materials like linen. Linen is made from flax which doesn’t need any irrigation and so doesn’t lead to things like draught and cattle death. Which is good.

Mad As A Hatter

And there we were thinking the expression came from the oddball in Alice in Wonderland. How foolish. Back in the early 1700s when people skinned baby otters for their felt, they used mercuric nitrate in the process, meaning the milliners of their day were renowned for being off their heads from huffing mercury fumes all day.

Long Live Leather

In this age of veganism and NutriBullets, you might think that leather was destined to fall first. You were wrong. The exhibition sets out a new epoch for the fabric courtesy of the clever folk at Bolt Threads. In this Second Age, leather no longer needs to mean dead animal skin, because, as demonstrated by Stella McCartney’s Falabella handbag, it can be made out of mycelium – the underground root structure of a mushroom. Yum!

Images, from top:
© Greenpeace/Hati Kecil Visuals
© Victoria and Alber Museum

Fashioned From Nature is on at the V&A from 21st April to 27th January 2019