London’s Design Museum has unveiled a new, free exhibition celebrating sustainable emerging designer Bethany Williams exploring her “alternative vision” for the fashion industry by using waste materials and forging community collaborations.
The ‘Bethany Williams: Alternative Systems’ display opened today, February 22 and will run throughout spring, showcasing the designer’s creative approach, the materials she uses, and how Williams’ work confronts social and environmental issues through community collaboration and a spirit of reuse.
Priya Khanchandani, head of curatorial at the Design Museum and the display’s curator, said in a statement: “Bethany Williams’ work fuses a streetwear style with handcrafted forms that are rooted in human values. I see it as a joyous example of design that is socially produced and kinder to our planet.
“The display is framed around the notion of Alternative Systems because it shows the immense potential for the design industry – fashion and beyond – to confront social and environmental issues through more ethical ways of working. The exhibits unravel the voices of the studio’s many collaborators, their creativity sewn into the garments’ every stitch, and celebrate what inclusive design could be.”
Bethany Williams exhibition at the Design Museum opens
The free display, exhibited across the four walls of the balcony gallery in the museum’s atrium, is part of the Design Museum’s ‘Designers Thinking in Public’ programme and highlights Williams’ innovative approach to design, through garments, textile samples, archive material, photography and film footage.
Visitors can follow the design story behind each of Williams’ collections, including garments with stories embedded into them. Such as the ‘Prison messages’ sports jacket from the Women of Change collection, which features screen-printed words from letters exchanged between the women of HMP Downview prison in London, and the women of the San Patrignano community about what change means to them. Alongside it is an image of the 1912 Suffragette Handkerchief embroidered by women at HMP Holloway, which inspired the design of this garment.
There is also a special tribute to the work of the Emergency Designer Network, a collaboration between Phoebe English, Holly Fulton, Cozette McCreery and Williams, which resulted in thousands of sets of scrubs, masks and gowns being provided to frontline workers during the pandemic.
Bethany Williams added: “With our work, we hope to continue to reach new audiences, encourage inclusivity and positive change for the fashion industry. 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.”
Bethany Williams showcases AW22 collection during London Fashion Week
To celebrate the exhibition opening, Williams presented her autumn/winter 2022 ‘Hands that Heal Us’ collection at the museum during London Fashion Week.
The collection is inspired by what Williams calls the “ever growing community of makers, creatives, local and social manufacturers,” who play an integral part in the brand and supply chain, which is highlighted through a collaboration with artist Melissa Kitty Jarram, who has interpreted all the making partners and their specific role in the supply chain in the print story.
This season the sustainable designer is also adding to her essential wardrobe offering to build on entry price points with the debut of denim into her mainline. Williams has collaborated with denim experts, Road and their founders Rosie Ingleby and Amy Roberton to merge her signature details with sustainable dark indigo raw denim supplied by Isko.
The denim range also features Bethany Williams branded unscrewable eco-finished metal buttons to ensure they are easily removable to continue the life cycle of the garment, as buttons can often be a barrier in the upcycling process.
There are also more refined outerwear styles, building on the tailoring in her last collection ‘All Out Stories,’ with trench coats, wool overcoats and a vegan leather jacket, made from cactus. The collection also features bamboo silk including her first set of pyjamas.
Commenting on the collection, Williams said: “The primary focus of this collection are the many hands that touch our clothing throughout the making process, through the integration of artisanal and handcrafted elements, in the form of weaving, knitting, printing, patchworking and embroidery.
“The life of each garment delicately passes through the hands of our intricate supply chain, and for that we feel immense gratitude to our makers, our tools and our team that surrounds us.”