'Wild', West Dean and a report on Fashioned by Nature

Fashioned by Nature is a superb exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum explores the complex relationship between fashion and nature from 1600 to the present day (on until 29 January 2019) 
The exhibition presents fashionable dress alongside natural history specimens, innovative new fabrics and dyeing processes, inviting visitors to think about the materials of fashion and the sources of their clothes.

On entry your look at how some exquisite examples of hand embroidery take their inspiration form the natural world and indeed, in subject, reflect how they were being influenced by flora and fauna beyond theses shores as the rich detailing of this waistcoat which includes monkeys reveals.

Waistcoat, 1780 – 1789, France. Museum no. T.49-1948. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Skirt with train, about 1890, England. Museum no. T.35-1950. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Womens embroidered top 17th against and embroidered bed cloth. 

Split across two floors with which you could divide into historical examples which covered a range of applications including the complexities and dangers of the dyeing industry (which you could replace with ‘dying’ in some cases. How industrialisation and mass production created both health problems particularly in the cotton industry and led to the current crisis we have surrounding issues of sustainability, the environment and ‘fast fashion’. 

Fashion over time has always led to some issues surrounding ethical use of materials and resources, dresses decorated with beetle wings, whalebone corsets. The attraction to using feathers or whole birds gave rise to the founding of the RSPB in protest. The organisation started life as the Society for the Protection of Birds (SPB), founded by Emily Williamson at her home in Manchester in 1889. The group quickly gained popularity and in 1891 it merged with the Fur, Fin and Feather Folk, to form a larger and stronger SPB, based in London.

The upper floor looks at the development of new products and re-use and a relationship to a sustainable future.

The uncomfortable truth is that because fashion is indeed 'made from nature', its current industrial practices gobble up staggering quantities of water, chemicals and fossil fuels, degrading the land and the diversity of nature's species while belching out 1.9 billion tonnes of waste per year.
Dilys Williams, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion; Professor of Fashion Design for Sustainability, London College of Fashion

A conference on the 5th October will bring together industry experts to explore creative and practical ways to reduce the environmental impact of fashion, from small-scale innovations to new methods being introduced by global brands. 
 Two of my favourites were this landscape coat by Dries Van Noten.  What I would not do to wear that on the day that my book  Textile Landscape launches next month.
And this wonderful piece of designer upcycling by John Alexander Skelton

I only buy from charity shops (except for underwear) and am still wearing clothes from my college days and Mompei (work trousers) and a Yukata (which is my travel nightgown) purchased in Japan in the eighties

Talking of travelling, I have just  returned form a busy week at West Dean College on my summer school, Unfolding Landscapes. Found materials were used at participants explored individual landscape as they unfold and reveal their story The Summer School also includes a swapover session and I was delighted to find some of the participants to that short session utilising their improvised sketchbooks and drawing in the gardens in their free time. I return to West Dean in December.

A quick turnaround to spend the weekend at the Festival of Quilts. You can se a few images of members work represented in our show Wild below. We are touring the exhibition and will post updates on our website Art Textiles Made in Britain and on Facebook

Shards:group collaboration around the outside of the gallery
Sandra Meech

Hilary Beattie
Louise Baldwin
Edwina Mackinnon

Jenny Rolfe
 Pauline Barnes
Elisabeth Brimelow (guest artist)
Stephanie Redfern
Christine Restall
Jessica Grady (guest artist) and Sylvia Paul 
(Jenny Rolfe's work on back wall)
Rosie James
and my Trees shortly off to World of Threads in Ontario

Finally, a quick visit during my breaks allowed me to see:

The massive cathedral-like space containing the work of master colourist and mark-marker Nancy Crow. 

Ruth Singer's Criminal Quilts exhibition next door...one of the most thought provoking shows as was:
UnFOLD and the Button Box project based on Lynn Knight's book of the same name) looking at issues surrounding women, identity and domesticity.

 Stuff for Thought finished its tour at Festival organised by Heidi Drahota marking the rights of cloth workers.


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