The Wilder Side of Fashioning Self and the Environment

Fashioning self and the environment goes to wild fiber extremes.

It has been a wild and woolly spring for me. Despite the endless rain in NYC, there has fortunately been non-stop sunshine in the form of inspiring collaborations with fiber artist and designer friends. This past Earth Day I organized an art/fashion open house called, ‘Fashioning Self and the Environment’ at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, New York. Earlier this week, I also had the opportunity to discuss these ideas in a talk for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Face and Places in Fashion lecture series. Both occasions brought together the design work and images of some of my favorite fiber artists and accessories designers. Here is a sampling of what the wilder side of fashioning self and the environment looks like.


Handcrafted necklace from gathered native lichen, dried pods, and recycled wire

I was excited that there was such a fantastic response at both of my events to the work of Bulgarian textile artist, Ceca Georgieva. As an artist who has been using green materials and textiles in her sculpture and environmental installation work for decades, Ceca’s more recent experiments with vegetation in  jewelry has received impressive global coverage on reputable art, fashion, and design sites.

Inspirational images from Ceca Georgieva’s blog

A resident of Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia, Ceca maintains a rustic art studio at the base of Mount Vitosha, and it is here that she spends her days en plein air crafting with natural materials, pruning trees in the family orchard, and gardening galore. For the event at the Textile Arts Center in April, I created a textile installation of Ceca’s new fiber cord cuffs in conjunction with my recycled fiber forms and examples of traditional Bulgarian embroidery from my personal collection. It was our intention to show how traditional fiber and exquisite handwork techniques can be adapted for contemporary styling and chic fashion accessorizing.

Recycled cotton cord cuff embroidered with cotton thread / wood toggle

Ceca’s new handmade cotton cuffs are recycled from military parachute cord and reference the traditional detailing of Bulgarian costuming. She has also been experimenting with pods and lichen for one-of-a-kind collars and necklaces that serve as reminders of sylvan outings and hikes in the mountains.


Vegetation and seeds suggest ethereal and dreamy possibilities for the fashioning of harvested natural materials in the designs of Wieteke Opmeer. I first learned about this celebrated Dutch product designer from sustainable design trend forecaster, Annouk Post at Hiphonest. As described on Annouk’s must-follow blog, “Her work has more to do with positive thinking than with ethics. People like Wieteke play with our conscience. And if you do that, as she does, with so much passion, feeling for form and love of life, it gives you the happy feeling that everything will be okay.” Wieteke’s accessories are temporary in nature and delicately crafted out of wildflower seeds that are meant to slowly dissolve over time or disperse with movement or the wind.

The artist/designer recently exhibited in the exhibition, “The Future That Never Was Alter Nature,” at the Museum of Hasselt in Belgium.

LITEN BLOMMA by Jessica Lennertz

Handcrafted resin rye flower bangle by Liten Blomma

The preservation of natural materials is a primary focal point in the jewelry designs of Jessica Lennertz at Liten Blomma. Her  handmade resin bangles are a new favorite of mine. I asked the designer a bit about her process and her dedication to work with “liten blomma” or “tiny flowers” in Swedish, and the small steps that she has taken to green her latest collection.

“The flowers that I feature in the resin are grown in the US on organic farms and are dried naturally. I also dry my own flowers from local gardens. I have been using rye, flax, lavender, larkspur, pansies, and English daisies, to name a few. I am in the process of looking for an eco friendly resin; it is a challenge to find.

I use metal filigree beads and recycled glass pieces made by the Ashanti and Krobo Tribe of Ghana. Many of my spherical paper beads are from, which supports women bead makers from several parts of Uganda. I also use pebbles, moss, mulberry paper, raw gems (some I mined myself in North Carolina), and as well as vintage treasures collected from around the world.

I am always looking for more ways to be green.” – Jessica Lennertz of Liten Blomma

I learned of Liten Blomma’s floral-inspired wearables via the Afia collection‘s recent photo shoot for their Summer 2011 collection.

VILTE  by Vilte Kazlauskaite

On the next frontier of wild fibers and fashioning self, Vilte Kazlauskaite is a total art fashion pioneer in applying the ancient and eco-friendly crafting technique of Nuno felting to couture collaborations for fashion week collections and the runway. Vilte’s handmade felted pieces combine raw wool and natural fabrics to create a primordial and highly feminine expression of sending fleecy tendrils deep into the soil.

Vilte’s February 2011 collaboration with designer Josephus Thimester for his AW2011 collection during Paris Fashion Week  put a new spin on wilder interpretations of couture and the possibilities for sustainably farmed wool for the latest new wave of felting chic.

As I shared with the FIT community at my talk this past Monday, I feel that it is important to highlight the innovative work of fiber and textile artists when discussing the history and future of sustainable fashion, as many of these individuals have been asking important questions about self in relation to the environment before terms like eco-art, eco-fashion, or green fashion came into vogue. Fiber and textile artists also create a direct life line to the soil, as the materials that they use often mirror the methods and intense labor that goes into the cultivation, farming, harvesting, and processing of our textiles and garments. Crafting the future is in our hands and embracing style begins with a celebration of self as the best model and script for positive change. Time to roll up our sleeves and dig in.

image(s):, all others courtesy of the designers and their respective blogs