Textiles student creates garments inspired by nature from discarded and natural materials

‘Moss and Smudge’ – interlocking seating made from hand-dyed reclaimed materials, using traditional craft and mending techniques.

Image: ‘Moss and Smudge’ – interlocking seating made from hand-dyed reclaimed materials, using traditional craft and mending techniques.

Alice Burnhope is one of many final-year students in Loughborough’s School of Design and Creative Arts currently showcasing her work online as part of the annual Arts Degree Show.

Inspired by childhood memories of playing in her grandparent’s garden and the source of comfort and wellbeing it provided, Alice created A Sense of Nature: a diverse collection of garments and interiors influenced by and made from discarded and natural materials.

“When I revisited my grandparent’s garden, memories of being young and immersed in nature were joyfully reignited in me,” said Alice.

“However, there are many people – particularly those in urban areas – that have not been exposed to these wonderful and therapeutic experiences the way I have and not sensed this unkempt beauty. With the recent lockdown measures being in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen even more so how people can be deprived of access to these spaces.”

Alice was influenced by her time spent working in central London where she felt detached from nature, and during her lunch breaks would seek out any form of green space.

The collection includes an edible plant wall hanging that can convert into a dress, contemporary wooden spinners, a bag made from water-resistant oil cloth, and interlocking cushioned seating inspired by the ‘feeling of your feet sinking into mud’.

As part of the project, Alice researched into Natural Deficit Disorder (NDD) and how it affects various demographics of the UK.

NDD follows the ideological belief that those – particularly children – who spend less time experiencing the outdoors can result in their physical health, psychological and cognitive senses being restricted or hindered to some extent.

In response, the project’s collection addresses this challenge by helping individuals to connect with nature in the home through textiles, not only by encouraging them to go out and explore the outdoors, but also by investing time in new hobbies and activities away from built environments.  

Alice has credited nature as a form of therapy for her own mental health, citing Erich Fromm’s term ‘biophilia’: ‘humankind's primal urge is to be immersed in nature and benefit from its regenerative power of mental and physical healing due to the medical properties of plants’.

The garments created within the collection were sourced with the planet in mind, so Alice used a mixture of reclaimed fabrics donated by The Shelter Boutique Kings Cross and discarded textiles from family and friends. Examples of unwanted materials used in the final pieces included old socks and duvet sheets, and materials purchased as new were sourced organically and possessed durable qualities to ensure that both the life of the products was prolonged and minimum waste was sent to landfill.

‘Unrooted’ – a carrier made from biodegradable digital embroidery, reclaimed fabric and water-resistant oil cloth.
‘Unrooted’ – a carrier made from biodegradable digital embroidery, reclaimed fabric and water-resistant oil cloth.

In addition to A Sense of Nature, Alice chose to focus her dissertation on how university libraries can incorporate ‘wellbeing zones’ to support students’ mental health and learning. With student anxiety, depression and low mood becoming a more prominent discussion point within higher education institutions in the UK, she investigated how colour, materials and finishes can transform public spaces for the benefits of its users.

During her time as a student, Alice has worked as an intern for the likes of PriestmanGoode, Anne Kyyrö Quinn Design and John Alexander Skelton.

She was also the lead organiser behind Loughborough Students’ Union’s first-ever clothes swap event which took place last November, as part of her work as an ambassador for Fashion Revolution.

When asked about her aspirations for life after Loughborough, Alice said: “I want to use textiles to create playful community spaces inspired by nature. By working with local people and bringing them closer to textiles and the natural world, I hope to promote nature’s ability to improve personal wellbeing in a holistic, socially and environmentally considered philosophy.

“In the short term, I would love to work in the creative sector learning from the best designers, thinkers and makers in sustainable design. In addition, I would love to undertake artist residencies and complete a masters. My long-term goal is ultimately to become an established textile designer in my own right.”

All photos included in this press release are credited to Luke Burnhope.