Where most people see trash, Stefanie Nieuwenhuyse spies opportunity. After discovering tiny, diamond-shaped wood chips on a workshop floor at Kingston University in London—the leftovers of some architecture student, no doubt—the fashion master’s student was reminded of a secondhand snakeskin bag she once purchased. Scooping them up, Nieuwenhuys set to work, layering the wooden scraps onto fabric like reptilian scales. The result is an arresting “biomimetic” collection of corsets, floor-length evening dresses, trousers, and neckpieces that marries modern laser-cutting techniques with a couturier’s delicate yet exacting touch.
Nieuwenhuys worked with bio-waste firm InCrops Enterprise Hub in Norwich to obtain discarded pieces of plywood, which she then laser-cut into precise forms. Glued onto unbleached organic cotton, the brown-and-ecru “scales” created a “simulacra of nature, without discarding nature’s inherent harmonies”.
In this project the designer has strived to create a luxurious sustainable garment using nature’s natural patterns and shapes, also known as bio-mimicking, such as reptile skins. By combining modern techniques such as laser cutting with hand-sewn details she has created a garment with a luxurious appeal without depleting any natural resources; using discarded pieces of plywood and cutting the shapes out as efficiently as possible, and applying them on the fabric. This process is both sustainable as it is durable. It is this quality to both retain nature by mimicking its attributes, and making use of the product’s tendencies to last, by means of its lifespan and its aesthetic perception, that makes it sustainable.