An exhibition highlighting London-based designer Bethany Williams’ waste-combating, social-driven vision for the fashion industry has opened at the Design Museum.
Exhibited in the atrium of London’s Design Museum, Bethany Williams: Alternative Systems is a celebration of Williams’ work which explores and responds to social issues through the use of community-led enrichment initiatives.
A number of key works by the designer were exhibited across the four walls of the atrium’s balcony gallery, which is free to entry.
Mannequins are displayed among textiles samples, photography and raw waste materials in efforts to highlight the studio’s commitment to sustainable fashion.
“I decided to organise the display thematically rather than by collection,” said Design Museum’s head of curatorial and interpretation Priya Khanchandani.
“It opens with a section about the studio specifically and then there’s a part about creative process, intellectual references and the way in which they propose alternative infrastructures of working, followed by a section about reuse and another about community collaborations,” she told Dezeen.
“Bethany’s work not only tackles the question of the environmental impact of design, but it also has an amazing social purpose.”
Williams is a fashion designer, humanitarian and artist. She graduated from Brighton University with a degree in Critical Fine Art before receiving a master’s from the London College of Fashion in Menswear.
She launched her namesake brand in 2017 and has strived to spotlight and respond to social and environmental issues, her works see her partnering with local grassroots programs and manufacturing collections using waste materials.
A section of the display exhibits Willliams’ work as part of the Emergency Designer Network. The initiative is a collaboration between herself and designers Phoebe English, Cozette McCreery and Holly Fulton.
The group of creatives, with their textile manufacturing knowledge and teams of volunteers, produced 12,000 scrubs, 100,000 masks and 4,000 gowns for frontline healthcare workers during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Waste from packaging tape sourced from Rimini, Italy was handwoven and constructed into functional items and garments as part of Williams’s Autumn Winter 2018 collection, which was on display.
“I felt it was very important to show not just the finished garments, which you would see in a retail fashion context; being a museum display I wanted to add other layers of information,” explained Khanchandani.
“There are process materials like drawings and sketches, and also source material,” said Khanchandani. “For instance, a jacket made of waste newspaper is shown alongside some of the waste material, the Liverpool Echo, which is dangling next to the garment.”
“You’re able to see the journey of the objects from inception, to finished product.”
Each season, the fashion studio collaborates with different local charities and grassroots programs and donates a percentage of its profits to its causes.
“With our work, we hope to continue to reach new audiences, encourage inclusivity and positive change for the fashion industry,” said Williams. “The Design Museum continues to be aligned with this via the exhibitions curated, including their Waste Age exhibition, which we featured in last year.”
“We are so proud to showcase our new exhibition: Bethany Williams: Alternative Systems, a celebration of the new way of working proposed for the fashion industry by the studio’s work.”
The opening of Bethany Williams: Alternative Systems was timed to coincide with Williams’ Autumn Winter 2022 collection, titled The Hands that Heal Us, which was presented at the museum.
The collection included a cactus leather jacket, and garments made from recycled and organic-based denim with detachable metal hardware that aid the recycling process at the end of its life.
In 2016, Williams graduated from London College of Fashion and showed her MA graduate collection in the university’s show as part of London Fashion Week.
Last year’s Waste Age exhibition at the Design Museum, which featured Williams’ work, explored how design has contributed to the increasing throwaway culture and how people can create an alternative circular economy that doesn’t exploit the planet.
Photography is by Felix Speller.
Bethany Williams: Alternative Systems is on display at the Design Museum from 22 February 2022. See Dezeen Events Guide for all the latest architecture and design events taking place around the world.
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