Fashion has always had a penchant for social and environmental causes. Just look at Dame Vivienne Westwood, who comments on global warming, human rights, and social injustice through her crusading designs. But it’s safe to say that “save the bees” is a new concept for the style set. We saw bumble-inspired looks on Alexander McQueen’s spring runway, where Sarah Burton presented honeycomb hats and bee chokers with her dramatic, feminine frocks. But bees created the biggest buzz in emerging British designer Fred Butler’s spring collection. Butler, whose quirky, off-the-wall looks have appeared on the likes of Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, offered gilded honeycomb harnesses, bangles, bags, and even clever daisy-embellished hexagonal headphones. “I had fun playing around with hexagons and how they tessellate together to make 3D forms. This led me to honeycombs. The Natural History Museum let me look at their specimens of bees, which was fascinating and gave me a new appreciation for these amazing crucial characters of our animal kingdom,” said Butler when asked about her unorthodox inspiration.
And appreciate the bees she should! Scientists have discovered that, in recent years, commercial and wild bee colonies have been dying out at rapid rates. The causes are widely debated, although climate change, disease, and insecticides are thought to be among them. A decline in bee population means a decline in pollination, which will have a dire effect on plant growth and the earth’s food cycle. Working to help the cause, Butler crafted a limited edition key ring (available on her blog) – the proceeds will go to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
On a less serious note, Butler further built on her theme of a “hip hop honey bee” to create cheeky bee-stinger “bum bags” and street-chic hexagon hoops. “I also met someone who told me that I had a bee in my bonnet, which inspired me to design an interpretation of a bonnet for the final Queen Bee of my show,” Butler said. The bonnet in question was a new-age honeycomb cloche accented with iridescent flowers.
This all may sound a bit kitsch – and it was. But that’s Fred Butler’s charm. And from a technical standpoint, the clothes were a playful study in texture and shape. “Every season I like to concentrate on expanding a craft technique in an unexpected material and form to turn it into a totally new surface texture or silhouette,” Butler explained. In addition to the honey-coated urban pieces she created for spring, Butler has been working on a Swatch collaboration, which will debut on November 1. The candy-colored accessory mimics the honeycomb shapes that ran throughout her spring collection.
Whether or not Butler’s bee-saving efforts will reach beyond the fashion hive is still in question. But from the skin-baring gold-embroidered looks to the draped daisy chains, anyone who wears her spring designs will certainly attract a swarm of attention.