Fashioned From Nature
Exploring interactive ways to recognize citizens as contributors, recipients, and participants in nature through fashion as it is now and through speculative future scenarios.
Fashioned from Nature is an exhibition that explores human relationships with nature through the medium of fashion from 17th to 21st century. Commissioned by Victoria and Albert Museum, CSF’s Professor Dilys Williams acted as Special Advisor to the exhibition, working closely with the V&A team, led by the exhibition curator, Edwina, Ehrman.
The commission also included the conception and creation of two cornerstone installations for the exhibition, Fashion Now and Fashion Futures 2030. These two interactive cultural probes recognize visitors, clothes wearing humans, as contributors, recipients and participants in nature. Fashion Now provokes consideration of the agency of each of us as citizens, in relation to the attire that we choose, endorse, buy, wear and value. Fashion Futures 2030 uses scenarios that offer opportunities for visitors to take part in a set of imagined futures, thereby being shaped by and shaping them. Research data was gathered from the responses to the installations to better understand contemporary fashion aspirations in relation to nature.
The public exhibition ran at the V&A in London from April 2018 until February 2019, visited by more than 175,000 people, before going on an international tour including Denmark in 2019/20 and China in 2020/21. Fashion Now and Fashion Futures exhibits were also exhibited in a stand-alone exhibition at Albeit Studios, with CSF’s Francesco Mazzarella and Camilla Palestra, as part of Walthamstow’s Borough of Culture with workshop events with local schools and community groups.
The UK Environmental Audit Committee held an evidentiary hearing as part of a public enquiry into the fashion industry and sustainability at the V&A during the exhibition. Parliamentarians were taken around the exhibition as a precursor to the hearing, which made parliamentary history with the largest audience to date for a parliamentary hearing.
Every element of fashion comes from nature. Each day, we express our relationship with the natural world through what we choose to make or buy and wear. But how much do we actually know about what we are saying through the clothes that we wear? Examining five contemporary fashion items, this display follows how we relate to nature across a five-stage fashion lifecycle: design, make, acquire, wear/care, discard.
Referencing eight elements of nature relating to fashion’s lifecycle, the installations, based on familiar fashion dialogues, such as Instagram, purchase receipts, illustration and video, show that fashion’s interaction with these elements frequently reveals an unequal partnership. They go on to suggest questions we can ask ourselves and others, to help us develop a healthier relationship with nature in our fashion choices.
Fashion Futures 2030
Although we cannot accurately predict the future, we can shape it through our values and actions. It is urgent that we change our current fashion habits in order to keep within a safe operating space on earth.
Fashion Futures 2030 explores what fashion and nature might look like within four world scenarios. The scenarios are based on environmental, economic, social, cultural and technological changes taking place across the globe. They are not predictions, but stories of how the future might unfold, developed through research and with contribution from Forum for the Future.
Stories from these scenarios have been developed into four short films depicting elements of how we might live, dress and value nature. Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to share how they would like fashion to be designed, made, acquired, cared for and disposed of (or not) in 2030 through an interactive set of questions.
Scenario 1: Living with Less
In 2030 the world is economically slow and air pollution and migration are top priorities. Citizens are connected through global peer-to-peer networks, and countries work together to reduce emissions and share scarce resources. Fashion is designed with customers and made with materials that do not contain polyester. Fashion is bought from community owned online stores and repaired by the brand as part of a 15-year product guarantee.
Scenario 2: Hyper Hype
In 2030 the world is high tech and adapting to widespread consequences of climate change and loss of wildlife. An ultra-globalized economy runs on innovation, data and hyper consumption. Fashion is designed with artificial intelligence and made using lab grown materials. Fashion is bought online from global megabrands and maintained through self-cleaning properties. A daily collection service picks up items no longer being worn.
Scenario 3: Safety Race
In 2030 the world is regionalised and protectionist whilst competing on action towards climate change. Trade alliances connect regions but water scarcity causes tensions globally. Fashion is designed by high profile designers and made using regionally sourced materials. Bought from national brands, fashion is cared for through a digital valet app. It is worn until it is returned to the seller after a couple of seasons.
Scenario 4: Chaos Embrace
In 2030 the world is in retreat from globalization and communities are focused on becoming self-sufficient. Climate change has slowed but with restricted trade energy, food and water are top priorities for many communities. Fashion is designed by local makers and made with re-used materials and a revival of local techniques. Fashion is bought from local small businesses and maintained by the owner before being re-sold.
To date, Fashioned from Nature and installations Fashion Now and Fashion Futures have been shown in following UK and international venues:
21 April 2018 - 27 April 2019 – V&A Museum, London
April 2019 - September 2019 – Natural History Museum, Copenhagen
November 2019 - December 2019 – Arbeit Studios Waltham Forest
December 2020 - June 2021 – Design Society China
Chapter in accompanying exhibition publication:
Williams, D. (2018) ‘Fashion and Nature 1990 - Present’. In Ehrman, E. (Ed.) Fashioned from Nature. London: V&A Publishing, pp. 149-173 include no. of images ISBN: 978-1-85177-945-1
Dilys Williams, Professor of Fashion Design for Sustainability and Director Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UAL
Renee Cuoco, Project Manager at Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UAL
Mina Jugovic, Project Assistant at Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UAL
Ligaya Salazar, Curator/Director Fashion Space Gallery at London College of Fashion
Julian Stadon, Interaction Designer
Mouhannad Al-Sayegh, Technical Designer
Filmmakers – Crack Stevens, Nadira Amrani, Carlos Jiménez and Cieron Magat
Therese Vandling, Graphic Designer
MA Fashion Futures students