When British underwater photographer Zena Holloway stumbled across the tangled roots of a willow tree in a local river a few years ago, a buzzword caught on. What if she could take root in organic and compostable clothing?
Fast forward to London Design Festival 2022, where Holloway showcased her intricately sculpted garments made from roots grown to look like lace textiles. The clothes have a decidedly high-fashion, futuristic feel to them that would have made them feel right at home alongside Bella Hadid’s innovative spray dress from Paris Fashion Week last week.
Holloway configures grass roots into desired shapes using molds she carefully sculpts from beeswax. The shoots take about 12 days to reach 8 inches (about 20 centimeters) in height, with the roots underneath forming a naturally woven structure that can retain their original hue or be dyed for textile sculptures that look like pieces of coral lively.
“I want to imagine a future that still has coral reefs,” says Holloway, referring to the disappearance of structures due to natural disasters, overfishing and climate change.
Holloway sees herself as part of the biodesign movement that explores the intersection of design and nature with the aim of creating new, bio-inspired products.
Her pieces “strive to embody the dream of organic design, increase material awareness, and inspire a more thoughtful and sustainable world,” says the designer, whose work I first spotted on Designboom.
With sustainability at the heart of Holloway’s Rootfull initiative, runoff water is reused and animals can enjoy leftover locally sourced grass seedlings.
But at the same timeHolloway’s grassy clothes aren’t ready for the closets yet.
“It takes a little more R&D to make the dresses totally wearable, but I’m getting there,” Holloway tells me, adding that several brides-to-be have inquired about couture wedding dresses made from her natural material.
Alongside Holloway, international designers at London Design Festival’s Material Matters show last month touted their designs, including a collection of furniture made from recycled newsprint pulp; sewn orange peel lighting pieces; and sandals made from plant materials, including agricultural waste.