How the bee crisis inspired my first two collections

After watching Vanishing of the Bees, one of the most compelling environmental documentaries I've seen, I decided that I had to make the honey bee the basis of my first SS18 capsule collection and raise awareness of their plight. Why is the bee so important to us? One out of every three bites of food we take is thanks to the bee. We rely on them for a healthy environment and economy. If bees ceased to exist, we would no longer have strawberries, avocados, apples, almonds, coffee...and the list goes on. In recent years, bees around the world have suffered on a scale never seen before. Thousands of full strength colonies have collapsed, often with adult bees leaving their hives never to return - a phenomenon which has been termed as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD for short. CCD has been attributed to the use of pesticides and insecticides such as neonicotinoids, an influx of the Varroa Mite, the spread of diseases and viruses, poor nutrition and stress factors and habitat loss. Each of these is interconnected and ultimately boils down to how we have been treating the environment and the consumer choices we make.

It seems the bee has been a source of inspiration for other designers. Although they may not be aiming to raise awareness of the plight of the bee through their collections, it nonetheless shows how inspirational such a small insect can be for some of the biggest fashion powerhouses. In her Spring 2013 collection for Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton focused on the bee taking inspiration from honey colours and exploring patterning possibilities of honeycomb...



Whereas Chanel, went for soft tulle dresses beautifully embroidered with bees for their Spring 2016 Haute Couture collection...


For my collection, I explored the myriad of colours that different bee species display - its not just about black and yellow stripes....



...which I've captured in the collection's colour palette.


I took a close look at the bee's anatomy, noting the fine, silky hairs covering its body which actually serve an important purpose. These hairs are vital for their survival and also play an important role in pollination. As bees fly from one flowering plant to the next, pollen from each flower attaches itself to their tiny hairs and gets transferred to another flower resulting in pollination. What's left behind, gets carried back to the hive as food for the colony. I thought the best way to express this in the collection itself, was to choose a fabric with similar characteristics and decided on velvet....a textile that is now transcending all seasons.



Natural hive structures are pretty spectacular and if anything, further showcase how amazing bees really are.


They reminded me of pleats, shirring and layers..



...details which I have incorporated throughout the collection.

The journey so far has been incredible, and it continues to be a process of learning and discovery. My favourite part was the research, it really pushed me to drive my own creativity and imagination as I experimented with silhouettes, textures and fabrics, colours, details, prints and embellishments all of which set my aspirations and vision for the final collection. I admit that I am climbing a mountain and setting my ambitions high, especially since I don't have formal training or background in fashion, but it is the passion I have for fashion that keeps me going. Fortunately, I am able to lean on my long-standing background in research and sustainability (my second passion) which both served me well, and gave me the confidence I needed to keep forging forward.

Taking inspiration from the plight of the honey bee is just the beginning of where I want to take the label. I strongly believe that there is a place for sustainability in fashion despite the industry lagging in response. I am noticing that is changing for the better but, at a very slow pace. Fashion is a global industry, it has global reach and has phenomenal power to influence. It is these qualities that I want to capture with my label to raise awareness about the global environmental and social issues that we face collectively. Each collection will tell a story and each purchase will raise funds for causes that inspire each collection. Equally, I strongly believe that design should be not overshadowed by sustainability - at the end of the day the reason we choose to buy a jacket, a blouse or a dress, is because we love the look of it. My vision is to be mindful of sustainability and turn it into a source of my design inspiration, resulting in silhouettes, colours, textures and fabrics, prints and embellishments that you fall in love with, resulting in clothes that you want to wear all whilst supporting sustainability.

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