The V&A’s latest blockbuster exhibition is one which performs on a personal, political and global level and is very much one of halves. Both are excellent halves, but one surrounds the viewer with the depths of man’s depravity before lifting the spirits and allowing us to dream of a better life in the second half.
The exhibition, generously supported by the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp (CELC) with further support from G Star Raw, takes us back some 400 years to the moment where arduous creation started become mechanised, and become an industry with the heft of the Industrial Revolution behind.
With more convenient methods of production now in play, thus began a widespread process of pillage and plunder that raised the human need to look fabulous beyond that of conserving everything that makes our planet beautiful. Nothing was safe – with albatross, sealskin, wolfskin and baleen (cut from the keratinous plates found in the upper jaw of the baleen whale) forming part of the wardrobe of the well-dressed gentleman/woman.
It makes for a depressing display, curated for maximum impact by displaying such objects with no mawkishness, underlying the way that such resources became subject to being taken for granted within the process of consumption.
Moving upstairs, one recovers hope, and begins to rejoice again progress, and the conscience of today’s creators and those leading the charge and turning the tide on plunder and profit. Emma Watson in an environmentally friendly Calvin Klein gown at the Met Gala, Alexander McQueen theming his last realised show ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ around the effects of climate change and Stella McCartney leading the charge of sourcing sustainable materials.
Within the second part of the exhibition, an installation from the London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion devises a working plan for the future of a sustainable fashion industry and lifts the spirits wholeheartedly.
The time couldn’t be more right for this exhibition, which piggy-backs off a groundswell of general awareness of our impact on the planet, embodied by those envisaging a future where fabulous fashion needn’t equal exploitation, whether personal, political, or global.
Fashioned from Nature | Victoria & Albert Museum
21 April 2018 -27 January 2019
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