by Jincy IypeJan 13, 2021
The exhibition Fashioned from Nature attempts to showcase and compare the historical narratives behind fashion and nature in the East and West while probing into the vital role of design in making the industry more sustainable. Charged with its spatial design, Shenzhen-based practice Studio 10 has developed a scheme that, according to them, is an 'abstract yet poetic interpretation and comparison of the eastern and western views of nature, as well as the evolution from classical through contemporary garden spaces’. Hosted at the Sea World Culture and Arts Center in Shenzhen in China, the exhibition has been co-curated by Victoria and Albert Museum, China Silk Museum, Design Society, and guest curator Edith Cheung.
For centuries, fashion has been influenced by the sheer beauty and multiplicity inherent in the natural world, with elements such as feathers, floral motifs, and animal prints being referred to as go-to trends until today. Nature and fashion have a complex relationship, which at its core embodies the intricacies of how humans interact with the environment while simultaneously causing irrevocable damage to its continued subsistence. This relationship has manifested in different ways within diverse cultures and geographical contexts over the years.
Having selected 'nature' as the subject and 'gardens' as the theme, the design team at Studio 10 endeavoured to 'explore the similarities and differences of the natural views embodied in eastern and western gardens through the exhibition spatial design'.
Fashioned from Nature is the first of the exhibition's two sections and features pieces from the original showcase held in London between April 2018 and January 2019. The narrative enumerates the complex relationship between fashion and the natural world, from 16th century onwards. The second section titled Fashioned from Nature In China: Then And Now presents a reflection of the theme in the East.
A Tyvek-finished archway forms the entrance to the exhibition, and when lit from behind, subtly reveals vine-like fibers, which create an abstract ‘green corridor’. Passing through this corridor, one enters inside the first segment of the showcase that highlights the English classical period. Here, a highly geometric, axially symmetrical layout with a strong sense of perspective formed by translucent fabrics recreate an abstract notion of a western classical garden.
Showcases of varying sizes form a linear progression through the space. Three circular spaces underline the importance of axial symmetry in the design of western classical gardens. Domed, independent volumes within them provide a 360-degree visibility for the exhibits they display.
An assortment of acrylic tubes shapes the layout of the last garden, and their contemporary aesthetic implies the narrative's approach towards modernity. On entering this wing, the space rapidly opens up to contrast its previously rigid, geometrical character as the zone's organic showcase unveils a free-flowing layout that echoes the flexibility and open planning of modern spatial design.
Finally, a pill-shaped plan enclosed by translucent fabric houses the Chinese section at the space's centre. Leaving only a small slit for the entrance, the fabric curtain permits limited visibility from the exterior. This restricted view serves the purpose of piquing visitors’ curiosity as they wander through the V&A section, culminating in the revelation of its contents at the end of the narrative.
Models dressed in the exhibition's collection are positioned on a translucent black ramp designed to resemble a mountain trail or a stream winding its way down from the sky. Here, the spatial design allows visitors to explore the area intuitively as if they are in a 'romantic natural setting'.
Using lightweight and translucent materials, such as Tyvek, TPU, and fabric, Studio 10 expresses the 'abstract' and 'poetic' views of the East and West in both modern and classical contexts. In doing so, the design team 'inspires visitors to ponder and reflect upon the relationship between human and nature from fashion or with a broader perspective’.
The fashion industry today is a sizeable contributor to global carbon emissions. The intent behind Fashioned from Nature is to inspire the fashion industry towards adopting more sustainable approaches to design. The collection includes pieces from five continents dating as far back as 1600s. It places alongside contemporary garments by multinational brands such as Dior, Gucci, Burberry, and Stella McCartney, with works of celebrated modern designers such as Alexander McQueen, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Roberto Cavalli, Dries van Noten, Vivienne Tam, and William Tang.
The exhibition is on display till June 6, 2021.
Name: Fashioned from Nature
Location: Sea World Culture and Arts Center, L1 Main Venue, 1187 Wanghai Road, Shekou, Nanshan, Shenzhen, China
Completion Status: December 2020
Area: 1280 sq m
Curator: Design Society, Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), China Silk Museum
Guest Curator: Edith Cheung
Design Consultant: Studio 10
Principal-in-charge: Shi Zhou
Design Team: Cristina Moreno Cabello, An Huang, Jiaying Huang, Meishi Zhao, Xin Zheng, Jiaxiao Bao (Project Assistant), Feifei Chen (Project Assistant)
(Text by Jerry Joe Elengical, intern at STIRworld.com)