Fashion From Nature, the first UK exhibition to explore the complex relationship between fashion and nature from 1600 to the present day, is currently on at the Victoria & Albert museum in Central London. The Graduate Fashion Week team attended a conference surrounding the exhibition on Friday, to learn more about the ethical ethos behind the exhibition, and why the prestigious museum commissioned a forward thinking project focused on design.

“Inspiring V&A show determined to incite change”

Karen Dacre, Evening Standard

The schedule of speakers included Edwina Ehrman, Senior Curator at the V&A, Kathy Gomez, Vice President of Innovation at Nike, Claire Bergkamp, Worldwide Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Stella McCartney, Amy Powney Creative Director at Mother of Pearl and GFW alumni, and Carry Somers, Founder and Global Operations Director at Fashion Revolution to name a few! With so many inspirational and innovative designers, business owners and more on the panels, it was a day of education from all angles.

From a focus on transparency and accountability at Fashion Revolution to material activism and circular bioeconomy, there were many creative solutions proposed, that would aid in building a more ethical, and sustainable future for the industry. Alternative business models at Mother of Pearl has meant that not only are their products in the ‘No Frills’ range environmentally conscious, but actually available at a more affordable price than other collections. Disproving myths surrounding sustainable and considered fashion is one of the ways that we may focus on a positive future - combined with the passion of young people entering the industry, it’s possible to affect real change from day one.

An overarching concept throughout the day, was how we can begin to make an effort in our lives now, as empowered consumer. This creates pressure on brands and companies to change their processes, making a sustainable approach financially viable and in the interest of the business. It’s clear that we, as an industry, must adopt an approach that recognises the multiplicity of problems in the industry from it’s relationship to nature and culture, the power structures that damage individuals in developing countries and understanding fashion as a significant part of society.

“Fashion can be an incredible means for autonomy, livelihoods and to express our imaginations.”

Professor Dilys Williams FRSA

The youngest in the industry, current students and recent graduates, are a driving force for change. We’re eager to see the innovation and creativity of the current final years, to see how the new generation tackles the problems of the industry. It is through positive change and collaboration that we may seek out a new future.

“I am a disruptive fashion lover. What is a disruptive fashion lover? It’s a person who loves what they do, and loves it enough, to care about making it better.”

Caryn Franklin, Professor of Diversity in Fashion

Words by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins