I was invited to the launch of Fashioned From Nature exhibition at the V&A and it was sod’s law that I just couldn’t make it. The worst part was that I would be walking straight past it as I went to another event but sometimes you just have to prioritise! Even though I couldn’t make press night, I made sure I was able to attend during the opening week.
The V&A is one of my favourite museums and they always put on a good show and The Fashioned From Nature exhibition did not disappoint. All three hundred of the objects on display at the V&A’s Fashioned From Nature exhibition are beguiling. They all invoke some sort of feeling within you whether it’s stunning beauty, uneasiness or a sense of shame. Together, they lay out the colossal inspiration which nature has provided to fashion over the past 400 years, in a narrative that spans cause, effect and solution.
Starting off the exhibition, we go way back in time to the early 1600s where silk embroidery took off. The ground floor looks at exploring design, materials and consumer behaviour of the 17th and 18th centuries. Everything is stunning and beguiling. Iw as particularly drawn to the dress embellished with the iridescant scarab beetle wings.
It’s all just wonderfully resourceful; that is until we ascend the staircase up to the second floor.
The second part is the contemporary wave of the exhibition. This features the solutions the fashion industry has presented to reduce its carbon footprint, for example Vegea – the leather alternative made from grapes – and other prototypes currently making a stir. We are also privy to a number of effective protest campaigns that have triggered change and shaken up centuries old precepts. I wasn’t expecting this bit but it was still interesting nonetheless.
INSPIRATION OR EXPLOITATION?
I actually went round this second part twice to fully understand it. I realised (on my second way around) that actually
sustainable fashion doesn’t have to be boring. They have displayed Jean Paul Gaultier’s shimmering ‘Cat Woman’ dress, crafted entirely from beads and a studded motorcycle jacket from Katharine Hamnett’s ‘Clean Up or Die’ collection, part of her ‘fashioning a better future’ project in the eighties. And all against the backdrop of commissioned videos, often heartbreaking, driving home the devastating effect that fast fashion is having on our planet.
The upper level is not just a continuation of the bizarre paradox of ‘look how beautiful nature is, let’s kill it’ implied in the lower section. The upper level rather brings together the development of fashionable style, industrial trends, and occasional protests at injustices into a meaningful whole: where are we and where do we go from here? It was hard hitting and made me feel slightly guilty because I shop fast fashion regularly.
Fashioned from Nature is a thought-provoking and intriguing journey through centuries of contradiction: humanity’s amazement at nature’s beauty and her continuous tendency to destroy it while exploring that beauty. Unafraid of challenging uncomfortable truths – that free trade and capitalism are at the root of the problem – the exhibition certainly presents despair but it also offers hope. Here’s to creating and shopping more ethically and conscientiously in the future.
The Fashioned from Nature exhibition is running from 21st April 2018 to 27th January 2019. Definitely worth a visit for fashion lovers.
Tickets are £12 and can be bought here.