Fashion has long been inspired by nature. Signs of the relationship are everywhere: you’ll find fauna and flora inspired textile design, references to nature in shape, images and silhouettes… Sometimes a copy isn’t good enough, the animal itself is used.

When the curator of the Victoria & Albert Museum, Edwina Ehrman, started thinking about an exhibition of the complex relationship between fashion and nature, she had, according to the magazine, Wallpaper, envisioned exploring how fashion designers had been inspired by the natural world over time. But when she started working on the show, she realised that it had to be mainly about the impact of the industry on the environment.

The final result, which opens to the public on Saturday, 21 April 2018 in London, is “a sweeping survey of the industry’s relationship with nature over the past 400 years, exploring both our fascination with and exploitation of animals, birds, plants and natural resources,” according to Wallpaper. The show explores the past relationship which has gobbled up natural resources, and the future of new eco-friendly dyeing processes and innovative fabrics.

The museum describes the exhibition as “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”.

Here are some images from the exhibition:

Woven silk train for an evening dress, France or Britain, c. 1897-1905

Pine Marten fur hat, Caroline Reboux, 1895

Ensemble, Stella McCartney, Winter 2017

Earrings made from heads of Red Legged Honeycreeper birds, circa 1875

Suit, camouflage printed cotton, designed by Richard James, 1998

‘Grape’ dress made with Vegea, a leather alternative made from grape waste

Embroidered silk waistcoat, France, 1780-9

  • Fashioned from Nature will run from April 21 2018 – November 27 2019 at the V&A Museum in London.
  • Photo credits: V&A