Since the last 400 years or more, fashion has successfully and elegantly mimicked, been inspired by and replicated nature. From exotic furs to delicate floral patterns, and from exquisite bird prints to butterfly cuts – nature has always been a treasured inspiration for the fashion world. But Edwina Ehrman has a different take on this nature-fashion relationship. Curator of the show titled ‘Fashioned From Nature’, Ehrman admits that fashion beautifully captures nature in prints, patterns, and cuts; but it exploits the very same nature by over-utilizing water, energy, and raw materials with an equally ruthless manner. In this article, read about how fast fashion is killing our planet – one stylish cut at the time – and how sustainable fashion help the planet thrive.
Fashioned From Nature – A show that asks how sustainable fashion can help the planet to sustain life
For all the ancient, medieval, and modern glamour that fashion takes away from nature and etches on itself, how much has our desire to transform ourselves into something exotic through fashion has cost nature? This is the question that Fashion From Nature – a show held in London this April – has posed quite brilliantly and bluntly.
There is no dearth of fashion that mimics the best of nature. Take this 1780s waistcoat as an example (IMAGE). It is made with silk and has an embroidery of macaque monkeys. A lace handkerchief from the 1600s is laced with ferns. Garments from the 19th century are filled with sea-weed and shell motifs. But what does this fashion cost our planet?
Fashion, in an attempt to symbolically place nature onto the garments we wear, has also destructively exploited that very nature. To add colors to garments, designers use dyes and chemical treatments. This contributes greatly to air and water pollution around us. The leather used in our fashion is snatched away from animals. For a wool or leather handbag, numerous sheep, cows, or leopards are bred and killed off daily.
The problem with fashion that is inspired by nature today is that it is not fashion that benefits the planet. It is ironically the fashion that takes away from nature to make humans feel superficially close to nature. Be it a French cape from 1895 that is fashioned from cockerel and curled feathers of pheasants, a dress that magnificently showcases a wing case of jewel beetles, or a pair of earrings from 1875 that were made from the heads of honey-creeper birds –fashion has always sacrificed nature at the altar of elegance.
How can one make sustainable fashion choices?
Big brands have already taken a step to establish eco-friendly fashion. Gucci and Versace has already opted for one of the best fashion choices – to never use original, genuine fur in any of their clothing. Calvin Klein designed a dress for actress Emma Watson at the Met Gala this year. What was remarkable about the dress was that it was created entirely from recycled plastic bottles (IMAGE). Designer Stella McCartney designs her outfits from MicroSilk, a synthetic fibre that replicates spider silk. A recent outfit from Ferragamo is made from Orange Fiber – a material made from waste products from the Orange industry in Sicily. Sustainable fashion choices aren’t hard to make. The fashion world has slowly started blending fashion with sustainability – one design at a time.
Sustainable innovations in fashion that benefits the planet
Going back to past can actually help fashion designers dig up sustainable materials. Flax, from which linen is produced, is an extremely sustainable fiber. It has been growing in Netherlands, France, and Belgium since the last 4 centuries. French hemp grain sacks is a fiber that lasts long. For that reason, designer John Alexander Skelton designed a vest using the hemp.
You can also opt for eco-friendly fashion by shopping from sustainable brands. Big names such as Levis Sustainability, Reformation, Toad & Co, Everlane, ADAY, and Tonie offer sustainable fashion that benefits the planet as a whole.
Combating fast fashion for a sustainable future
Fast fashion is the second biggest water polluter in the world! People around the world are (thanks to consumerism) hauling new, cheaper fashion every time they go out shopping. Retailers of fast fashion shockingly include H&M, Zara, Target, and many more. Fast fashion utilizes natural resources faster. What is the solution to this ever increasing craze for fast fashion that is taking a toll on raw materials and natural energy around the globe faster than a blink of an eye? The answer is – slow and sustainable fashion.
The key to combating fast fashion is to buy from local manufacturers or indie designers who use eco-friendly materials for their clothing products. Go to a tailor if your clothes need work. Throwing them away when all they need is a little stitching here and there isn’t the best option. Recycling your clothes or turning them into something creative is a good way of saving nature from the brutality of aspiring fashion trends.
Fashion needs to refashion itself
Eco-friendly fashion is truly the need of the hour. In a world where we already have cosmetics and food filling up our landfills, fashion is the last thing that we need to see dumped over there. Sustainable fashion choices ensure that fashion and environment do not become an obstacle for one another. Instead, the point is to allow fashion and nature to develop hand-in-hand, so that humans and other living beings can both live and breathe in style.
By adopting sustainable fashion choices, we are welcoming fashion that benefits the planet and the people who live in it. How sustainable fashion can help the planet is by respecting the original prints and colors on plants, birds, insects, and animals. This is what major brands as well as local manufacturers are trying to do in current times. They realize that in the long run, fashion that isn’t eco-friendly isn’t profitable. The truth is, bio mimicry in fashion should take place without destruction. Only then, will fashion finally be able to pay a real tribute to nature.