Apr 16, 2018
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V&A exhibition traces the intertwined history of fashion and nature

Apr 16, 2018

A new London exhibition will look at fashion's complicated relationship with the natural world, with a cape of cockerel feathers and a Calvin Klein dress made from recycled plastic bottles among the more than 300 objects on display.

Earrings made from heads of Red Legged Honeycreeper birds, circa 1875 - Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Fashion's use of actual raw materials sourced from the natural world will be examined alongside representations of natural motifs and the industry's role in helping or hurting the natural environment, including designers' search for sustainable solutions.

Objects dating back as far as the early 1600s will shed light on fashion practices of the past, such as an 1975 pair of earrings made from the heads of two Honeycreeper birds -- said to be a hugely popular item at the time -- and a 1960s dress decorated with the green wing cases of hundreds of jewel beetles.

Recreations of designs found in nature will be exemplified by items such as a Gucci bag decorated with stag beetle motifs, a Gaultier leopard-print gown, and -- one of the show's earliest pieces -- an early-1600s women's jacket embroidered with pea shoots and flowers.

Throughout the exhibition, natural history specimens will be juxtaposed with the designs to illuminate how fashion has used animal materials in both designs and production, among them silk, flax, wool, cotton, and the now-controversial whalebone and turtle shell.

The later introduction of man-made materials will also be seen through effects on air and water quality -- yet another facet of the complex interplay between fashion and nature.

Alongside the fashion industry's potentially harmful effects on nature, the exhibition will highlight a range of solutions, with a focus on cutting-edge technologies and textiles aimed at sustainability.

Among examples will be a tunic and trousers made from synthetic spider silk by Bolt Threads x Stella McCartney, a dress grown from plant roots by the artist Diana Scherer, a leather substitute made from grape waste, and the Calvin Klein recycled plastic dress made famous when Emma Watson wore it to the 2016 Met Gala.

"Fashioned from Nature" runs from April 21, 2018 to January 27, 2019.

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