Museum exhibit to explore nature’s influence on fashion

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"Fashion + Nature" is coming to the Grand Rapids Public Museum next month. Courtesy GRPM

The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) is rolling out a new exhibit that explores the intersection of nature and fashion.

The “Fashion + Nature” exhibit will be on display beginning on Saturday, April 23, at the museum, at 272 Pearl St. NW in downtown Grand Rapids.

The exhibit will have three areas: discovery, exploitation and sustainability, featuring artifact displays, interactive displays and photo opportunities. A variety of scientific specimens and garments from the museum’s collections will be on display.

Interactive components of “Fashion + Nature” include “touch-its” of tactile samples, which include fabric textiles and 3D printed models of objects on display, and an augmented reality Imagine Mirror interactive where patrons can virtually “try on” fashion pieces from GRPM’s collections and take a photo.

There also will be an interactive water activity to test visitor knowledge of how much water is used in various fashion-related activities.

“The museum has over 10,000 pieces in its fashion collection, and in this exhibit, visitors will see rare pieces from the collection that complement the topics addressed,” said Andrea Melvin, collections curator at GRPM. “Visitors will encounter a variety of garments and accessory pieces, many donated by Grand Rapids residents, ranging from the 1800s to new and unique pieces created by local designers. Through a blend of historical context and interpretation, visitors will learn how nature has been at the forefront of the fashion design process, in addition to showing the evolution of fashion over time.”

Visitors will learn about historic fashion trends, including how mussel shells were used in the button industry, how beaver pelts were made into hats and how iridescent beetles were incorporated into garment embellishments.

The exhibit will conclude by highlighting sustainability, focusing on various ways fashion producers and consumers are taking steps to reduce the impact of the fashion industry on the environment.

“The wide variety of natural history specimens in this exhibit showcase how nature has influenced the patterns, colors, textures and materials used in the fashion industry,” said Cory Redman, GRPM’s science curator. “Natural history specimens are paired with garments to show how fashion is reliant on nature and also to inspire and encourage the community to become better consumers and reduce the harmful impacts of the industry.”

More information is available online.

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