Sunday 27 January 2019


Fashioned from Nature, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, explores the relationship between fashion and nature from the 1600 to present day. It is one of those shows that really demands several visits to truly appreciate the inspiring, innovative and also disturbing and potentially devastating effects of fashion on the environment; all interlaced with a message of hope and a concerted effort to create a brighter future for the clothing industry and the consumer. 

Speaking at the opening of the show, curator Edwina Ehrman, explained that, 'I've been a curator for over 30 years and I've always wanted to do an exhibition that interacts with nature. Everything we wear, and have always worn, comes from the earth. 

'I had a sense that we are at a tipping point,' continued Ehrman, 'And I felt that the exhibition needed to reflect that and to link the past, present and future.' 

The mix of over 300 pieces, includes early 1700's embroideries, intricate couture from Paul Poiret, Alix (Madame Grèsand Christian Dior, revolutionary designs by Katharine Hamnett and Vivienne Westwood, plus pioneering modern-day items by Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein and G-Star RAW

With the focus on how each exhibit has been produced, the exhibition sets out to explore what we can learn from the fashion practises of the past and how innovative new fabrics, such as mycelium leather, derived from mushrooms, and grape leather can be utilised in the future.

'This is the first exhibition to put fashion sustainability in this context,' said Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, at the show opening, 'It brings together both exquisite and unsettling pieces from the V&A collection, including Vita Sackville-West's beautiful embroidered cape, which is my favourite exhibit.'

Drawn from Nature: The monkeys decorating this fashionable waistcoat were copied from 
illustrations in the Comte de Buffon's multi-volume encyclopedia Natural History, 1749-88. 
Man’s embroidered waistcoat with a pattern of 
macaque monkeys, silk and linen, France, 1780–89 
Image: Vee Speers © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Woven silk train for an evening dress, France or Britain, c.1897-1905
Image: Vee Speers © V&A