Vin + Omi described its spring/summer 2020 show, “Sting,” which opened at London Fashion Week Tuesday, as a “very British affair.” So British, in fact, it has a royal family connection.
Featured on the catwalk were several dresses made from nettles gathered from Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate.
The duo behind the label had met the Prince of Wales for tea last year as part of the British Fashion Council’s Positive Fashion initiative, a new platform that promotes ethical and sustainable best practices in Britain’s 32-billion-pound ($40 billion) fashion industry.
Prince Charles, as the Guardian reported, latched onto a mention of the use of nettles in clothing in an attempt to swerve conversation away from his son Prince Harry’s impending nuptials to the American actress Meghan Markle.
“I’ve got lots of those at Highgrove,” he told the designers, who have experimented with fabrics made from cow parsley and horseradish in the past. A little while later, the prince extended an invitation to Highgrove, and before they knew it, Vin and Omi (who both go by mononyms) were directing a team of students from Oxford Brookes University to harvest 3,000 nettle plants.
Nettles, known for their stinging hairs, sound like a hostile feedstock to work with, but they’ve been woven into fiber since the time of the Romans. In the Himalayas, nettle production generates income for many Nepali people. Vin + Omi employed a new technique that turns the fibrous “strings” from the stalks into a fluff so “wispy [and] airy…you might think it was a type of alpaca or maybe a very fine fleece,” Omi said.
“Sting,” the designers wrote on Instagram, marks a new direction by the label “against fast fashion [while] championing sustainability.” Other materials in the collection include polyester derived from recycled plastic bottles, flax, natural latex and “no-kill fleece” from pet alpacas. Its slogan minces no words: “Stop f-ing the planet.”
“Nettles are perceived to have no value,” Omi told the Guardian. “Hopefully that challenges the way we think about fashion. Nettles are everywhere, they are a weed, they are an abundant natural resource in this country. We want to start people thinking about how fashion can work with what the environment has on offer, rather than forcing itself on the environment in harmful ways.”