Wednesday, May 18, 2011


"Weedrobes" is the name of a multi-faceted project that Canadian environmental artist Nicole Dextras began in 2005. "Striking a careful balance between style and commentary, the message behind Weedrobes is aimed squarely at the not-always-so-sustainable practices of the fashion industry, while also redefining the perceived immortality of haute couture," writes Kimberley Mok of TreeHugger. Instead of fabric, Dextras' designs are made from materials including wild red rose, willow, hydrangeas, crab apples, kale, rose hips, laurels, thorns, and even invasive species like Japanese knotweed.

The "Camellia Countessa" (be sure to scroll to the right after following link) is based on the 18th c. French Pannier dress, which required turning sideways to fit through the doorway. Dextras constructed it entirely from leaves (yucca, laurel), branches (willow), and flowers (camellia buds and blooms, lilac blossoms). Harvesting the materials from her garden, she taught herself how to work with them, including plaiting together the yucca fronds. Once the dress was finished and modeled (1st image), it was restored to the garden, where it withstood 3 months of rainstorms, wind, and bleaching by the sun. The pinks and purples faded to golden and rusty browns (2nd image).

In her Artist's Statement, Dextras explains that the Weedrobes series plays out in several steps: 1st, constructing the wearable sculpture from local and renewable plant materials; 2nd, photographing the garment being worn in a landscaped urban setting to emphasize the impact of humans on the natural environment; 3rd, allowing the model to interact with passersby in a shopping area to highlight issues about disposable consumer goods; and 4th, installing the garment in a garden or park and letting it decompose over time. The project relates to ecology, culture, and eco-feminism, and draws on the tradition of art in which clothing is an extension of the body.

The artist grew up in her mother’s ladies-clothing store, worked in a non-union sweatshop in her teens, and became a costume designer as an adult. She writes, "The Weedrobes philosophy is based on being a free thinker, creating one’s own sense of style while also raising awareness about the impact of industry on our eco-system. Our most effective tool for change is for consumers to demand more equitable products. It may be impractical to wear clothing made with leaves but our future depends on the creation of garments made from sustainable resources."

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