Art Imitates Life, Fashion Imitates Nature - Bubblegum Club

Art Imitates Life, Fashion Imitates Nature 

The past few weeks in the world of fashion have demonstrated that as much as art imitates life, fashion imitates nature. Two of those weeks were Paris Couture Week and New York Fashion Week, where fashion houses debuted their Spring Couture and Fall/Winter 2023 lines respectively. Although the fashion calendar has long been structured the same way, one can’t help but recall a more recent fashion history.  

When COVID-19 was looming at its most frighteningly unknown, it seemed like a slowdown would eventually happen. Yet here we are again. Celebs are back to jet setting to and from fashion capitals, hopping from first class seats to front rows on the runway. The elephant dying in the room here is the environmental impact of these productions.  

Emerging from a point of awareness and responsibility, comes Hillary Taymour’s work as creative director of Collina Strada. Having started her ready-to-wear brand just over a decade ago, from the jump, the focus was on an ethically and environmentally conscious production. This was before the discourse around slow fashion had entered mainstream thinking and the subsequent greenwashing of everyday retailers such as Cotton On and H&M. Of course, more radical activist groups like PETA had long since been vocal about the harm of animals in fashion, but that ostracised a lot of casual fans.   

Fashion Imitates Nature 

Life Imitates Art, Fashion Imitates Nature 

Life Imitates Art, Fashion Imitates Nature 

Photographs by Marsha Bernstein

Somewhere along the journey of combining fashion with a sense of responsibility, Collina Strada found that you can do just that with a sense of fun. She always wanted to do something meaningful in an industry of excessive production. “If I’m going to be doing this, I want to be doing it for a purpose. We’re so flooded with products, inventory and consumerism. Why are we doing this if we’re not going to use our voices for good?” Taymour said in an interview with The Face magazine in 2020. 

For the collection, entitled Please Don’t Eat My Friends, Collina Strada sent models down the runway with animalistic prosthetics. Piggy models in tank tops, doggy models with white tops that read “WOOF”, and a series of other animals I either can’t identify or are modelled around fantasy like the Elves-models.  

The prosthetics took over two days to prepare before being applied to the models’ bodies. This meticulous, detail-oriented process reflects the underlying theme of the show – small things and big things living together. Even the smallest of creatures – down to a mouse – living alongside humans, with no distinction of importance between them. It’s a greater articulation of a theme which the house has been running with for a long time. 

Fashion Imitates Nature 

Image courtesy of Schiaparelli SS23

If this is the brand articulating itself, they are having a conversation with the work of Daniel Roseberry’s latest couture collection with Schiaparelli. Schiaparelli entered the conversation with a roar by shocking fans of the esteemed brand with realistic sculptures of lion heads on dresses, wolf heads on fur coats and snow leopard heads on off-shoulder dresses.  

Although it did little to soothe the indignation around the dresses, the brand did disclaim that no animals were hurt in the making of the faux taxidermy apparel. The looks were made through a combination of foam, wool, silk, faux fur and skilful hand paintings. The look divided even those who knew it was intended to be seen as surrealist art, critiquing the very fantasy of wearing animals.  

Although these Schiaparelli and Collinda Strada looks are far from easy viewing, they are important. They enter an industry caught between the rock that is the threat of a diminishing labour force in favour of meta fashion, and the hard place that is abundant, wasteful, quick production of products. In light of this, the degree of thought and consideration in these collections is welcomed. The different contexts are an important consideration.  

Schiaparelli didn’t make these larger-than-life dresses to sell on Net-a-Porter. As couture pieces, clients would have to come in and be ready to have their measurements taken for the piece to once again be created from scratch. In the same vein of slow production, Collina Strada, positioning themselves as more than just a fashion house, only produces small batches of the clothes seen on the runway, in an attempt to be more sustainable.  

It’s also a refreshing take and reminder of the artistic craft that can be paired with fashion. Amidst a surge of AI generated landscapes, intentionally designed to be indistinguishable from real life, it is nice to see fashion so skilfully imitate life. As was said by writer Khensani Mohlatlole, real fashion necessarily innovates. To be able to divorce itself from the use of actual animal products, while still using the visual inspiration the earth provides us, these teams of creatives must innovate. These innovations are the answer to prayers for fashion to be fashion with a purpose.  

Fashion Imitates Nature 

Image courtesy of Schiaparelli SS23

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