Eco-designer displays biodegradable bridal dress

Zena Holloway weaves dresses from wheatgrass roots after she saw the impact of pollution as an ocean photographer

Many brides regret the wedding gowns that hang in their closets, unworn.

One grower tried to solve the problem at the Chelsea Flower Show this week by weaving biodegradable bridal dresses from the roots of wheatgrass.

Zena Holloway, who designed the material, created it after years of being an ocean photographer and seeing plastic pollution.

She said: “I became concerned about the use of materials after seeing the increasing amount of plastics in the ocean.”

Holloway hopes her work will inspire others to use sustainable, biodegradable materials. Photograph: Jim Powell/The Guardian

She became fascinated with the mycelium, the root-like structure that fungi have, after growing mushrooms in the basement. “It grew into substrates and roots and it joined together to form new materials,” she noticed. Then, I was doing a river clean-up with my camera when I noticed bright red roots growing in the water.

The penny dropped because I was thinking about the binding properties of roots or mycelium.

Holloway started growing roots in his home to “understand how it might mesh and how it could become a new material.”

She grows wheatgrass on different materials, such as corals or beeswax, so that it can take the shape of natural molds. She treats the wheatgrass with beeswax when it has grown enough roots to give it natural strength. The material that results is ethereal and looks like bleached corral.

Holloway explained that the concept of this dress was a sustainable wedding gown. She could, for instance, if they were married near the ocean, trash the dress in a sustainable way and then… dive into the water, where all the fish will eat it, and it’ll become part of the ocean.

Holloway hopes her work will inspire other designers to use biodegradable, sustainable materials. According to the World Resources Institute, the fashion industry accounts for between 2% to 8% of the global greenhouse gas emission. Despite pledges to reduce emissions, the sector is expected to increase its environmental footprint by 60% in 2030.

The Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) flower show focuses more than ever before on sustainable gardening, and gardeners are asked to demonstrate how their work is environmentally friendly. For the first time ever, each garden must have a plan to relocate it after the show.

Lindum Wildflower turf, the first product to be grown without the use of plastic matting, won the competition for the sustainable gardening product. Its compost is recycled and peat-free, and its 27 native UK species of wildflowers, perennials, and herbs support a variety of pollinators, insects, and other beneficial organisms.

The drought of last year has led to a renewed focus on plants that are resilient. On Monday, the Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year award was given to the deep-purple agapanthus blackjack. This plant is drought and heat-tolerant, and pollinators love it.

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