But it is in the past two decades with the rise of fast fashion that we have accelerated consumption to the dizzying and destructive levels of today.
Yesterday I finally managed to get the time to visit the V&A museum’s exhibition Fashioned from Nature. On a muggy hot day in London, even the shaded rooms of the V&A didn’t offer much escape from the heat, but the exhibit certainly got my brains attention.
It really drove home just how reliant we are on nature as the source and supply of all we wear. Not just today, but throughout history - by wearing feathers, fur, leather and wool. Plants that give us cotton and linen. Insects for silk. Even the synthetics we use and wear are actually decomposed dinosaurs and plants from 1000’s of years ago, which we extract from the earth today as crude oil.
“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 we wear?”
Textiles have been traded for centuries and the exhibition highlighted that the practices to create fashion have rarely put sustainability or environmentally friendly practices at its core in the past either. From the mass slaughter of albatross for their feathers, to toxic chemicals being pumped straight into rivers in the textile regions of Yorkshire in the 1800’s, to today across vast areas of Asia. For hundreds of years we have taken from nature without being aware of the consequences. But it is in the past two decades with the rise of fast fashion that we have accelerated consumption to the dizzying and destructive levels of today. If we keep consuming natures raw resources at the rate we are currently, we are contributing demonstrably to the destruction of the Planet, as we know it.
We must devise new ways of creating yarns, dye stuffs and clothing as well as sustainably producing fabrics that we are already familiar with along with shifting our attitudes towards the consumption of clothes. If you haven’t already listened to my TEDx talk you can find it here, where I cover more good reasons for why and how we need to reinstate the importance and significance of the clothing choices we make every day.
Currently, there is no one solution fits all scenario. The sheer scale of the complex production chain and the vast array of components required to make clothing along with the varied consumption patterns and expectations of what clothes are to us culturally, aesthetically and practically means there will be several solutions derived to create a sustainable future for fashion.
Fashion can and will shape the future of millions of lives, from factory workers, to consumers. The question is how will it be shaped? For better or worse? The exhibition ended posing the question of, what do you want from clothing in the future? Here are some suggestions.
What would you like the future of fashion to hold?
I’d love to hear your views and you can get in touch with me here.