Fashion's Changing Relationship with Nature
Fashion and nature have always been intrinsically interlinked. From the elements and the weather to wildlife and plants, the connection between the natural world and fashion design is something that’s impossible to deny. The correlation between the two was perfectly illustrated in a recent V&A exhibition. The 2019 exhibit, ‘Fashioned By Nature’ placed historical and modern designs alongside taxidermy and plant and animal fibres, encouraging visitors to examine the complex relationship between nature and fashion and think about the source of their clothes. As the exhibit proves, the relationship between the two powerful forces of nature and style has changed and developed over time.
Elements of Style
The elements have always had an impact on the way we dress - but not always from an aesthetic perspective. Before fashion trends were influenced by cultural references and a desire to represent our individuality to the world, the clothes we wore were often dictated by our habitats. From the fur insulated parkas of Inuit tribes in the Arctic to the light-coloured barely-there tunics and wide-brimmed hats of the Ancient Greeks, the style has historically had the primary purpose of protecting us from the harsh elements that surround us.
For modern designers, the elements have been a source of creativity rather than necessity. Flames have been a recurrent motif of Prada’s collections and innovative designer Iris Van Herpen used 3D printing technology to create ‘The Ice Dress’. Our own Fire and Ice collection is inspired by the beauty of the natural world and in particular the power and intricacies of fire and ice. The natural geometry of ice formations sparked the idea for both the Ice Flow and Icicle ranges whilst Flaming Heart is a homage to the burning passion and volatile nature of both love and fire.
Historically, animals not only inspired the design of the clothes we adorned ourselves with but formed part, if not all of the materials used. Furs and skins have always been a status symbol. Not only did they represent a level of wealth, but in some cases, they represented courage and strength - the animal skins worn by Roman soldiers were indicative of the battles they had won and the exotic lands they had conquered. Many of these included every part of the beast, including its head, something we captured in our Dionysus leopard pendant.
Today, many designers find more creative ways to incorporate wildlife into their collections. Designers like Alexander McQueen have used nature as a cornerstone reference throughout their work - most notably he used snake print as a recurrent theme in his Plato’s Atlantis collection. In the Simon Harrison Fire & Ice collection, snakes are not used for their prints, but are included as a symbol of protection. The intricate piece made up of Swarovski crystals can be worn as both a necklace and a bracelet.
Insects have also been featured in fashionable styles and accessories over the years, wealthy and fashion-forward Victorians would often sport accessories made of live beetles. They would wear them around their necks in small cages, or some would even sew them to their garments for maximum impact. Insects also feature in the Simon Harrison collection, but they certainly aren’t alive. Our Ladybird pieces evoke the carefree feeling of a summer’s day and are also a symbol of luck.
As nature constantly evolves, so too does it’s relationship with fashion and style. Whilst now it’s influence may be more figurative than literal, it is no less forceful.