Words by Antti Rimminen | English editor Julie Uusinarkaus. Main photo: Embroidered silk waistcoat, France, 1780-9. Image by Vee Speers © V&A

Fashioned from Nature is an exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum that explores the complex relationship between fashion and nature from 1600 to the present day. It presents fashionable dress alongside natural history specimens, innovative new fabrics and dyeing processes, inviting visitors to think about the materials of fashion and the sources of their clothes.

Around recently visited the exhibition and this article features some of the ideas that caught our attention regarding the future of materials in clothing.

The exhibition is full of interesting examples and definitely worth a visit if you get a chance. Fashioned From Nature runs at the Victoria & Albert Museum until January 27th, 2019.


Grass Roots Fashion: Diana Scherer explores the potential of plant roots as a material for garments.

Diana Scherer trains the roots of plants to grow in intricate structures, creating a 3D textile. When the roots are fully grown, she removes them from the soil and cuts off the plant stems. The pieces produced are not yet suitable to be worn, but hint at a potential, more sustainable future in which we grow our own fashion in the ground.



“There are only about 30 types of fibre used in the fashion world, and the last new one really came around at the end of world war two. But since that time, almost nothing has happened. So the market is always hungry for new innovations,” says Jamie Bainbridge, VP of product development at Bolt, the company that has created a spider silk that requires no spiders in the making.

Spider Silk by Bolt
Spider Silk by Bolt

Spiders produce silk fibers with remarkable properties including high tensile strength, elasticity, durability and softness.

Using genetically modified yeast, sugar, water and salt, Bolt Threads have developed a closed-loop process to bio-engineer a new protein fibre mimicking the structure of spider silk.

It requires neither the polluting chemicals of petroleum-derived materials nor the land, water and pesticides of conventionally farmed fibres.



Scientists and designers in Sweden and the UK have created a paper-like fabric that is inexpensive and has an intentionally short lifespan, and can be recycled or industrially composted.

Made from unbleached wood pulp and other bio-based materials, the non-woven paper is finished using natural dyes, laser surfacing and efficient ultrasonic construction.

Energy and chemicals are reduced at every stage. With automated production, consumers could customise each garment’s colour, pattern and shape. Acknowledging that disposable fashion forms part of most wardrobes, this new material could offer a more sustainable approach to fast fashion.

Fashioned From Nature
Woven silk train for an evening dress, France or Britain, c. 1897-1905. Image Vee Speers © V&A

The Material Age is an ongoing series of articles here on Around that focuses on innovative and interesting materials and trends within material design. The aim of this series is to challenge our readers to re-think about the materials surrounding them. Click here for previous stories in the series.