Depicting dystopian London, the need for a return to simplicity, and a seriously dark organ credit system, the shorts form part of The V&A’s Fashioned From Nature exhibition
New exhibition Fashioned From Nature has now opened at London’s V&A, and – given this is the museum that brought you Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty and last year’s Balenciaga retrospective – we’d advise you head down to check it out.
Chronicling the inextricable link that unites fashion and nature (no surprises there), the exhibition features over 300 items that draw inspiration from flora, fauna, and the planet’s vast and varying terrains. As well as decorative earrings crafted from the heads of tiny exotic birds and intricate whalebone corsets from the 1800s, also on show are pieces from Jean Paul Gaultier, JW Anderson, and Calvin Klein. But it’s not just highlighting the beauty of nature that’s on the exhibition’s agenda: Fashioned From Nature has a dark side, too.
As the world’s future rests in the hands of the next generation, the exhibition serves as a timely reminder that it’s time for fashion to clean up its act. With that in mind, three young creatives were commissioned to create a series of films which make their debut as part of the exhibition. Presented in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (London College of Fashion) to mark the tenth anniversary of its opening, Akinola Davies, Carlos Jiménez, and Nadira Amran set out to imagine what the industry and its landscape will look like in 2030.
With the results ranging from hopeful and optimistic, to visceral and foreboding (with some serious Black Mirror vibes), here we bring you an exclusive first look at the three films, and catch up with the people behind them to find out more about the project.
A STORY FROM CHAOS EMBRACE – NADIRA AMRANI
“I was in hospital with a serious case of glandular fever when I got the brief for Fashioned From Nature,” explains Nadira Amrani. “After five days of not being able to eat properly and being on liquids, as well as wearing an oxygen mask, my mum came to pick me up and drove me home to Cambridge past a wind turbine farm. Two weeks later, after some rest, a massive amount of chia seeds, and way too much political TV – mostly discussing Brexit – I’d recovered and was feeling really inspired, so I wrote the film based partly on my experience.”
The result is Export, a story documenting the consequences of another twelve years of increasing air pollution in London, as the city continues to miss the UN’s clean air targets. Following three characters wearing salvaged adidas clothing – repurposed by Brighton-based artist Noki – and oxygen masks, the group leave behind a derelict, dystopian image of London, and head for the countryside. When their van breaks down, they seek refuge in an alpaca farm, where they swap their dirty, synthetic garments for natural wool pieces (designed by CSM graduate Elise Perrotta), and cast aside their masks as their breathing becomes less laboured, as they seek to ‘start again’.
The film ends near the sea, which highlights the edge of the British territory and shows the country’s increasingly fragile state. “In Export, in the aftermath of Brexit, the Sterling decreases drastically in value and we’re forced to use our own resources,” says Amrani. “I’m genuinely not sure if the UK will maintain its status as one of the richest countries in the world when we leave the EU. In fashion, so many of our clothes are manufactured in places like Morocco and Bangladesh based on cheap labour, but with our currency plummeting post-Brexit, we won’t be able to. How are we going to survive on our own? We literally import everything!”
Things look pretty bleak (and worryingly in no way far-fetched) when it comes to Amrani’s vision of the future, but for the filmmaker, they look decidedly less so: “Hopefully I’ll have moved to Jamaica by the time this all happens,” she laughs.
A STORY FROM HYPER HYPE – AKINOLA DAVIES (CRACKSTEVENS)
“The concept was that, somewhere in the future, instead of having money, we’ll end up with an advanced form of credit,” says artist Akinola Davies of his film Contactless. “In the world I created, corporations accept human organs as a down payment on goods. If you pay your bull in time, you get to keep your liver, for example. But if you don’t, they take it away. “
The film’s narrative is based on the idea that corporations will eventually own everything: the same companies that own music festivals and fashion brands will also own factories manufacturing weapons, while pharmaceutical companies will simultaneously run fast food chains. Taking into account a series of factors, Davies’ imagined future develops on the class and societal issues that we face today, giving them even more sinister connotations – as consumers that accrue ‘bad’ credit are given less options as to what they can purchase, and have more chance of losing a kidney.
Set to an ominous, atmospheric soundtrack created by Montreal-based producer SIM (aka Simon Luc-Laporte), and featuring a series of looks from Cottweiler, Contactless gives off some seriously dark Black Mirror vibes, thanks in part to the fact, like Charlie Brooker’s series, it doesn’t feel that far-fetched. “I guess that’s down to the fact I subtly exaggerated things I’ve actually experienced,” he says. “I signed up for a credit card while I was at uni with no knowledge or advice from the bank as to how it worked, and I ended up with really bad credit. It was a shit show, but it helped me learn the value of money and what a trap credit is. I just hope, for future generations, this doesn’t serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
A STORY FROM LIVING WITH LESS – CARLOS JIMÉNEZ
“The brief was about imagining the future, so I tried to give space to people that are doing interesting, considered things now that will echo in the years to come,” says Carlos Jiménez of his film. “The main idea was to show women who are creating and shaping fashion in different ways. I would like to think the future is female, so I collaborated with a crew predominantly made up of women.”
The first part of the film portraits designer Bianca Saunders at her studio, and features pieces from her SS18 collection, as worn by a series of models she works with on a regular basis. “To me, Bianca is one of the brightest talents of her generation, so it was a gift to work with her in a way she hasn’t before,” explains Jiménez. Of all the shorts, A Story From Living With Less is the most hopeful. Art critic Sarah Kent and artist Jamila Johnson-Small also feature as the film progresses, as poet, playwright, and performer Cecilia Knapp’s poignant words are spoken throughout. The result is a moment that feels simultaneously futuristic and frozen in time that quietly reasons the need for change.
“The fashion industry is not facing different challenges than those of any other industry: resources, use of chemicals, sustainability… Manufacturers of any kind need to take things more seriously, not just those in the fashion,” explains Jiménez. “There are some people doing great stuff, and the exhibition portraits some of them. I hope this is the beginning of a truly new revolution of how we live: perhaps slowly and silent more quietly, but with solid foundations and a little more consideration.”