V&A's Fashioned From Nature Exhibition

Fashion has been on an eco-mission for some time now. Ever since reports have picked up on the industry’s detrimental impact on the environment, insiders and consumers alike have called for change. Just having marked the fifth year of the Rana Plaza tragedy, marked as one of the most important days for fashion, the V&A have concurrently opened an exhibition to explore fashion’s storied relationship with nature.

Photo Courtesy of Inexhibit

Spanning back 400 years, the exhibition includes styles from the 17th century to the present day, showcasing not only popular designs and inspirations yet also the devastating effects the industry has had on the environment. From the expansion of land, farming and hunting animals, the exhibition traces the scale of manufacturing and production during the 1600-1900. Accompanying this, sounds of machinery can be heard, further highlighting the impact and growing demands mankind has placed on the natural world.

 An 1860s muslin dress covered in the green wing cases from beetles.

An 1860s muslin dress covered in the green wing cases from beetles.

The exhibition aims to ask two invaluable questions, what can we learn and how can improve our practices in the future. Raw materials from cotton and silk to fur, whalebone and feathers were on display highlighting some of the cruel practices of farming these natural sources. Moving to the 20th century, manmade fabrics became the prime focus, Alexander McQueen’s SS2010 Plato Atlantic highlighted the environmental impact of the toxins and pesticides that resulted from the industry. Next to this display, a film shows the real-time havoc of fashion’s manufacturing arm – oil spills, deforestation and pollution.

 A display of protest material

A display of protest material

While most of the exhibition focused on the negatives, the final section was all about solutions. Initiatives the industry is already taking and future sustainable plans as well as a call to transparency with posters from Fashion Revolution and sustainable clothing from Katharine Hamnett and Vivienne Westwood. Our past may have been bleak, but there is no doubt that fashion is making changes for a better future.