Washed Up is a Show About Endangered Coral

washed up photo

Photo: B. Alter
Selfridges Department Store (think Saks Fifth Avenue in the USA) is having a green moment and presenting a five week campaign, Project Ocean, to highlight the disastrous impact of overfishing the oceans.

Washed Up
is part of that campaign. It is a glorious exhibit of vintage and haute couture clothes set amongst endangered coral shells. Lady GaGa's crystal-encrusted lobster hat is there, as is a lot more.
ladies swim photo

Photo: B. Alter
Washed Up is an exhibition of clothing: old (above see ladies' swimming costumes from the 1920's) and new (think Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood). The pieces are exhibited in huge "antique" glass showcases, set amidst a boardwalk of dead bleached corals. Visitors wander along the winding weathered timbers and see a series of ocean-inspired fashions.


Photo: B. Alter

The small but exquisite collection includes some extraordinary hats, including Philip Treacy's lobster hat made for Lady Ga Ga. Other hats include a bead encrusted bathing cap from the 1920's and one with fish balanced on wires around the head.

ernst haeckel photo

Photo: mblhoilibrary.org

The garments are presented conceptually as an homage to Ernst Haeckel, a 19th century German naturalist known for his engravings of ocean life. The exhibition has been designed using dead coral confiscated over the years by customs officers. It has been taken from people bringing it back illegally from their holidays and smuggling it.

coral blue photo

Photo: B. Alter

In the basement of the store is a display of corals that have been confiscated at the airport. Created with the London Zoo, and usually in the aquarium there, the corals are luminous in colour.

The coral is a poignant reminder of the destruction of the ocean's beauty and life-sustaining resources. Illegal trade in coral smuggling is big business. Without laws to control the trade, they would face the risk of over-exploitation of their wild populations, which are already under threat from climate change, pollution and disease.

The coral in the show was donated by the UK Border Agency. They have confiscated 10 tons of coral, most of which originated in the Philipines. Some of the larger colonies may have been hundreds of years old when they were taken from the coral reefs.

More On Selfridges and Project Ocean

Project Ocean Is " Retail Activism " at its Best
London Department Store Features Eco Jewellery Successes
Seed Bombs are a Business Now

Washed Up is a Show About Endangered Coral
Washed Up is part of that

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