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Loewe pairs with Spanish designer for plant-covered collection

While it may not be the most practical fashion choice, wearing fabrics that support growing plant life could bring us closer to nature.

At Loewe’s Spring 2023 fashion show in Paris, spectators were pleasantly surprised to see models strut down the runway in unique garments covered in greenery.

Think sneakers decorated with live chia plants, coats carefully patterned with grass planted in asymmetrical rows, and matching pants covered in wild, growing weeds.

The ‘Symbiotic Nature’ collection was made in collaboration with Spanish designer Paula Ulargui Escalona, a graduate of the Istituto Europeo di Design in Madrid, who found a love for plants after spending time growing her own food while studying.

While wearable living designs might be a little too out there for some, the collection aims to ‘draw attention to the biological interaction between organisms of different species’ and to place emphasis on how we coexist in the natural world.

Of course, creating a project like this isn’t simple. Designers had to consider which plants could grow in different fabrics, whether seeds could be nurtured in this environment at all, and learn how to keep them alive as long as possible.

‘The main focus of the project was to reconnect humans with nature by feeling the moisture, the texture, and the life,’ Ulargui said in an interview with Refinery29. ‘I wanted to show that the fashion industry could be as sustainable as nature itself.’

As you’d probably imagine, getting plants to take to wearable materials wasn’t easy, as numerous factors come into play. Mushrooms – a sustainable fashion favourite for vegan leather – were too difficult to grow in fabrics, for example, because ‘inoculating the mycelium is super tricky.’

During the process, some plants wouldn’t take to the fabric and others would die after just a few days. But after adjustments to their water, light, and temperature needs were made, Ulargui began to see success.

In the lead up to the Loewe show, which Ulargui described as ‘mind-blowing,’ she worked alongside the brand’s Creative Director Jonathan Anderson to grow plants in clothing over the course of 20 days.

Despite having samples ready, Ulargui wanted all the greenery to be fresh. She packed up her seeds and drove from Madrid to Paris where she would grow the plants inside a polytunnel, an alternative to a greenhouse – restarting the three week process from the beginning.

Naturally (excuse the pun), many people are sceptical about the practicality of eco-clothing concepts, but the Loewe collaboration received a ton of praise in online spaces.

On Twitter, fashion-lovers were impressed by the idea of bringing elements of nature to apparel, as well as the message it projects about our relationship with the environment.

A lack of harmony and long-term disconnect with the ecosystems that support our everyday life has led to gross negligence and their slow, but steady destruction.

The fashion industry in particular has played a huge role in the waste crisis we currently face. It’s only been recently that big brands and organisations have finally begun to acknowledge this.

And while I don’t expect to see any plant-wearing fashionistas venturing into the Underground anytime soon, putting nature directly onto high-end clothing makes a powerful statement about sustainability to the sector.