By Amy Rolph

Nicole Dextras is a Vancouver B.C. artist with an unusual medium and motif: Where weeds and fashion meet.

Dextras’ work consists of seasonal collections that make statements, usually about consumerism, nature or both. (See her “ice typography” collection for one example.) This summer, she created “Weedrobes” — clothes from plants commonly found in gardens. The result is a stunning display of  eco-fashion.

Granted, these aren’t the kind of clothes you’d want to wear out and about, but Dextras said during a recent interview she’s still trying to communicate a consumer-grade message: “Our future depends on the creation of garments made from sustainable resources.”

How did you get started making Weedrobes?

For years, I had an interest in environmental art but I was looking for my own personal expression. I had been photographing fabric submerged in water, when we got a cold snap in Vancouver, I decided to freeze a dress in a slab of ice. From that moment on I was hooked and I found my true passion. Once spring came around I tried making a garment out of leaves, which has led to my ongoing Weedrobes Collection.

What are you trying to communicate with your creations?

I create nature based garments as a stance against corporate fashion labels who produce cheap goods, pollute the environment and pray on our most sensitive insecurities: our looks. The Weedrobes Collection instead promotes the current DIY and eco-fashion movements. I strive to make my garments from 100% biodegradable materials, so that they create no waste and leave no trace, as inspiration for young designers who are struggling in an industry that is wasteful and non-renewable. I work with nature because it teaches us that change and aging is inevitable and it should be celebrated and not denied. The plethora of ads for anti-aging treatments begs the question: if you are not happy with the way you look now, how are you going to deal with it 10-20 years from now?

How do you make them/what’s the process like?

It is a long and labored process, which takes 3 to 4 weeks. I begin with sketches and I refer to books on historical costume. I then set out to source out my plant materials. I have to research what is in season and where I might be able to get it. I then begin to make a framework for the garment on which to fasten the leaves and flowers. I begin with leaves as they are the most hardy and can last several days. Then I apply the fast wilting materials such as flowers at the last minute and organize the photo shoot as soon as possible. I will sometimes spray the dress with water to keep it hydrated and flexible for the model to wear.

Are Weedrobes ever worn as clothing, or are they typically just admired as art?

The Weedrobes philosophy is based on being a free thinker, creating one’s own sense of style while also raising awareness about the impact of industry on our eco-system. Our most effective tool for change is for consumers to demand more equitable products. It may be impractical to wear clothing made with leaves but our future depends on the creation of garments made from sustainable resources.

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