Artists and designers of many types find inspiration from nature for functional or aesthetic aspects of their works. Indeed, the Museum’s own natural history collections have been looked to for this purpose by various people, and not just our artists in residence and the school students who visit for our Artlink program.

Fashion Less Waste celebrates and encourages the practice of finding inspiration from nature – each year there is a natural history theme related to one of the Museum’s upcoming temporary exhibitions. Entrants need to research the theme and make the inspiration that they have drawn from it visibly apparent in the outfit they create – by colour or texture, shape or manner of movement.

What have the themes been? In 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, it was Australian animals. In 2011 it was birds of paradise. In 2012 it is Deep Oceans – we’re looking forward to the Museum’s Deep Oceans exhibition! It opens in June.

Fashion Less Waste 2011
Young peoples fashion parade. Designs inspired by BoP. Image: Stuart Humphreys
© Australian Museum

And whatever an entrant’s idea of research is – going outdoors and looking around, reading or viewing video – an opportunity is created for a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world. Reading the Fashion Less Waste entry forms is an absolute treat. Entrants usually focus on one or more animals suited to the competition theme. Then on the entry form they describe the influence of that animal or animals. In so many cases it's apparent that if the entrant wasn’t already enamoured of their chosen animal or animals when they began their FLW entry, they certainly were by the time they had finished.

Of course too, Fashion Less Waste is one way in which the Museum can help our culture to become more environmentally sustainable. Outfits need to be mostly made from used, non-clothing materials. We're looking for outfits that are eye catching and thought provoking, so that competition onlookers (as well as the entrants themselves) are prompted to consider environmental issues in the fashion industry, and to exert whatever influence they have to move the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction.

We’re not suggesting that clothing should only be produced from recycled materials – though there are some fabulous clothing and fashion accessory makers out there who do just that!