Vivienne Westwood, an icon of the fashion industry, recently delivered a speech at the British Fashion Awards 2018 that was both hard-hitting and relevant. Sustainability has now been an ongoing discussion that has begun to gain traction but still has a very long way to go. The media coverage of the event was largely focused on David and Victoria Beckham, and The Duchess of Sussex’s surprise attendance, which sadly seems to have undermined the meaningful message that Vivienne aimed to put across. As much as the round of applause gave credit to the points she made, the media’s failure to provide a wider platform of awareness to the public is a testimony of just how much work is yet to be done.
With documentaries such as “The True Cost” having addressed many of the challenges faced by the fashion industry, and major labels introducing ethically manufactured collections, the discussion of retail’s impact on the environment is still waiting to grab the attention of social urgency.
The V&A’s exhibition entitled “Fashioned by Nature” was one that not only took me by surprise but also served as an eye-opening insight into fashion’s shortcomings. On arrival I was simply expecting to see some ornate floral embroidery and perhaps materials inspired by animal iconography, but my senses were given much more than they had bargained for.
Flicking through an edition of Vogue magazine and any of the photobooks from the plethora of noteworthy fashion photographers shows how much the praise of aesthetic has been highly revered over the years. My discomfort at seeing how raw “materials” are used in production, such as whale bone, feathers and fur, left me pondering my own ignorance, consumerist choices as well as contribution to the bigger picture.
The posters used to promote “Fashioned by Nature” merely scratch the surface of what lies waiting behind the velvet curtain. With little information on what is actually on display, I truly feel as though a great opportunity to entice more fashionistas to the exhibition may have been missed. I mean, of all the people in the industry I’m following on social media I’ve not heard one person mention having seen it. With pieces displayed from designers such as Alexander McQueen, Gucci and Vivienne Westwood all supporting the exhibition’s political undertone, it’s not as if there aren’t enough big names to allure more visitors.
The space set aside for the exhibition lies within the permanent fashion section, which strangely enough seemed to be a metaphor for the actual status quo; there is a movement taking place within the mainstream which is wide open for those who seek a more substantial truth.