In pictures: the garments grown from seed – FFA

Imagine if you could make your own clothes from seeds. Artists have done this. Will it catch on?

Her camera lens has captured the ethereal beauty of her subjects in some of the world’s most extraordinary places – from the sea women, or HaenyeoKorea to freedivers exploring underground rivers (or cenotes in Mexico). 

But it was a fibrous mass of willow roots – a bold flash of red against a muddy Kent riverbank – that inspired artist Zena Holloway’s latest project. Holloway is taking a detour into bio-design and growing wearable sculptures entirely out of seed. 

“It brings the conversation back to ourselves, and to climate change,” says Holloway. “Putting climate change and sustainability front and centre, the works are 100 per cent compostable and carbon negative.” 

Holloway has also spent 30 years in commercial underwater photography. She snapped celebrities and sports stars like Kylie Minogue, Tom Daley, and Holloway. 

One project took her to the River Dour in Dover, where her keen photographer’s eye was drawn to the crimson roots of a willow. Already interested in bio-design – the use of living materials such as fungi, algae and cultured tissue in crafts and manufacturing processes – she began experimenting with grass seed. 

But rather than the green grass shoots above the ground, Holloway’s interest lay in the busy network of roots that usually lie below it. 

The textiles used in the creation of these garments are made from grass root structures. Image: Zena Holloway

“After a couple of weeks of growth, I had a wet, heavy root mat,” Holloway explains. “And as it dried, the roots melded together and became really quite strong. I kept looking at it and thinking how much it looked like bleached coral, in the sense that they’re so white and delicate and almost lace-like.” 

Realising the potential to share a conservation message – and harking back to the decades she has spent in the ocean – Holloway began using carved beeswax moulds to coax grass roots into striking textures and patterns emulating coral growths. Holloway’s designs are a reminder of the destruction caused by coral reef bleaching by global warming. 

“It’s building with something new and completely organic,” says Holloway. “And I thought that, if I could make it wearable, it all comes back to us and what we’re doing to the planet.” 

The works can be composted 100 percent and are carbon negative Image: Zena Holloway

While Holloway’s root-grown textiles represent the height of sustainable, compostable fashion, they are – for now – concept pieces. She believes that the possibilities are limitless by our imagination. 

“I don’t think it’s impossible that in the future people could be growing these things,” she says. “Who’s to say that you couldn’t coat them with some sort of resin or shellac to make them stronger? You could make them into hats or corsets or furniture. 

“I’m really just playing with one tiny seed. It’s one tiny exploration into the opportunities that might exist.”


Gallery: The garments that were grown from seeds

Main image: Zena Holloway