Celebrating 350 years at the Scottish Parliament

January 2020

  • In January, the grand achievements of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh over 350 years were celebrated at a special reception at the Scottish Parliament.

    As part of the evening’s festivities, over 200 guests were treated to a fashion show, created through a collaboration between the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Edinburgh College of Art.

    Parliament’s famous Garden Lobby was briefly transformed into a catwalk as second year students from the Art School revealed a magnificent array of garments and styles inspired by the treasures of the Edinburgh collections.

    The event was sponsored by Christine Grahame MSP, within whose constituency the Dawyck Garden sits, and there were uplifting addresses from Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, and Dominic Fry, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

    We are proud of our National Collections – and of the creative brilliance they inspired in the students.  Join us and enjoy the show virtually through our gallery below, and hear in the students’ own words the different ways in which they were inspired by the Edinburgh garden: from the architecture of our temperate Glasshouse to our tropical blooms, from the preserved specimens in our Herbarium to the koi carp in our Glasshouse pond.

    Students model designs on the stairs of the Scottish Parliament

Gallery of student designs and creations

Designers - in their own words

Amelia See

I was drawn to the habitats and wildlife that the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh supports. I focused on the Koi Carp fish found in the pond inside one of the Glasshouses and decided to centre my attention on the movement of the fish. I drew the fish in the style of Korean Koi Carp art and added lily pads to create depth and dimension.  I edited it to photoshop to finalise my print.

I then looked at the history of the shirt, and the way the human form has been presented throughout history. I played with proportion and distortion, changing elements of the shirt.

Esther Nixon

My project explores the abstraction of the ‘classic’ shirt through folding fabric and altering scale. My garment changes the classic silhouette of the shirt and features printed fabric I designed, based on research I did at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Playing with asymmetry and looking at how the shirt has been worn historically has been essential in the development of my project. I have worked with components of the shirt such as the collar and button stand and challenged the way these can be used through altering the scale and position of them on the body. I have explored folding techniques on my shirt and combined that with the printed fabric to create a balance between printed and plain areas of my designs. Through collaboration with the Botanic Garden, I created a contemporary and organic print that was thoughtfully placed on my garment in a bold and effective way. I used a mixture of watercolour paints and marker pens to create my print and then refined it further using Photoshop.

Botanical research from the gardens informed the inspiration of my print.  In particular, research done at the Herbarium lead me to focus my inspiration on the organic shapes of natural form.

Chiara Jack

The stimulus for my Garment is the architecture of the Victorian Temperate Palm House. I was inspired by the longevity of the building as it symbolises the Botanic Garden’s deep history and how the institution still stands strong despite facing adversity throughout the years, which it is very fitting for the Garden’s 350th anniversary. At the start of the design process I took inspiration from shapes and repeat patterns throughout the Palm House, I also took influence from Art Deco posters which gave the print the bold and architectural look.

As for the silhouette of the shirt, I decided to focus on the concept of layering and how the multiple layers change in movement.  Through the multiple layers, the shirt has a relaxed feel to it.

Celia Birchall

My project seeks to subvert expectations and stereotypes of gender and body diversity in fashion, taking inspiration from depictions of idealised beauty and the distortion of the human form throughout history - in particular through the mediums of sculpture and painting. I was particularly inspired by classical art and the portrayal of the female body, as well as abstract depictions of the body by sculptors such as Henry Moore.

I was particularly drawn to the large collection of Rhododendrons at the Botanic Garden and wanted to celebrate this in my print design. Using specimens from the herbarium as a starting point, my design stemmed from quick, initial line drawings of the Rhododendron specimens, which I then developed into a large-scale print, incorporating colour. My final print became abstracted within the shirt, as I manipulated it into folds and seams.

Cosimo Damiano Angiulli

The inspiration behind the design for my print mostly came from the ‘Amorphophallus Titanum’, a flower I liked in the Glasshouse. Nicknamed “New Reekie”, the plant currently measures 3.1 m in height, which after blooming once a year dies after only a few days. It also has its own social media account! I wanted to recreate a collage of block colours, so I took my inspirations from the multiple pieces of the New Reekie in the herbarium.  I also decided to incorporate text from 350-year-old books found in the Botanic Library archives and took inspiration from books by Anna Atkins, an English photographer who created the first book with botanical illustrations using cyanotype. Inspired by her work I decided to experiment with the same technique and used it to develop an abstract repeated pattern.

For the silhouette of the shirt, I decided to explore gender identification in garments throughout the centuries. I created an oversized long length shirt dress, combining menswear and womenswear shapes to create a genderless garment.

Isabelle Taylor

My garment is inspired by the macro photography exhibition at the Botanics, by Levon Biss. I drew some of his imagery and played with reflecting the image to make more abstract shapes. In addition, I took some of my own macro photography of some of the botanical plants at the Glasshouses to create the large abstract prints found on the garment. To add a personal element, I also included imagery from a painting done by my great Aunt Marianne North, an influential botanical artist who travelled the world solo, discovering new species of flower. She was a good friend of Charles Darwin who appreciated her work. I have included a claw hand to the cuff of the dress to highlight the darker aspects of the carnivorous plant.

Cairistiona Fletcher

On my initial visit to Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, I was inspired by the large variety of different plants and the way that they all harmonise together. In particular, I admired the shapes and patterns found in the leaves of the Glasshouses.

>Furthermore, whilst visiting the Herbarium, the samples from the Amorphophallus titanum (an extraordinary plant gifted to the gardens) caught my eye. The plant samples had gorgeous, intricate linear patterns and textures. I liked how this contrasted with the bold leaves I had been investigating.

I showcased my findings through print design. I combined and layered photographs I had taken in the Garden and focused on contrasting block leaf shapes with more textural and colourful elements. Through this, I was able to celebrate and symbolise the vast variety of plants in the Garden, showcasing the beautiful and harmonic synchronicity between them all.

The print was applied to my final shirt design. In order to break away from classic shirt conventions, I experimented with asymmetry and faced classic shirt features back to front on the body. Carefully considered placement of the print was utilised to further emphasise the contemporary style and silhouette of my final garment.

Rowan Stallan

The core theme behind my shirt design is the deconstruction and reconstruction of the shirt, looking at the body between states of transformation, evolution and growth. The aim was to develop a contemporary shirt design that was neither feminine or masculine to fit alternate body shapes and sizes.

I was motivated to respond to progressive culture that challenges gender and body image stereotypes within our communities, celebrating a more ambiguous sexual expression and diversity. I deconstructed the traditional shirt structure and collaged alternate body images to create striking imagery that tested the potential of the idea. As a metaphor that challenges the strict ‘boy girl’ view of the world, I incorporated asymmetry into my shirt compositions. Further exploration I undertook was the distortion of scale and volume, by stretching a sleeve, extending one side of a collar and contrasting lengths I hoped to reinforce the opportunity for a wearer to curate their own look regardless of body shape. Through distorting the structure, symmetry and scale of a generic shirt, my new shirt dress appears part familiar, part surreal.

In collaboration with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, I incorporated the application of select plant imagery into my shirt. The natural references of stalks, stems, leaves and flowers are symbolic, reflecting my core theme of changing states, that a person’s body and identity is able to transform, evolve and grow.

Ele Cundall

For centuries, Japanese fashion and art has evolved around the beauty and worship of nature through the country’s Shinto beliefs, and this is what drew me to it as a concept for my project. Where the kimono was designed as a canvas to conceal the human form and display the print and surface design, the shirt and western fashion was nearer to sculpture, manipulating and exaggerating the human form; through this project I sought to create a fusion of these approaches.

Geometric and spherical forms in nature were the starting point of both my print and shirt design at the Botanics. The kaleidoscopic patterns found in succulents and cacti inspired me to challenge what is perceived as botanical and organic through my print. Islamic sacred geometry uses complex geometric patterns, often incorporating plant motifs to signify the endless complexity and infinite beauty of the universe we live in, in this case to help comprehend the power of Allah; this resonated with me as I aimed to portray the infinite complexity and the hidden geometry behind the beauty of the botanical world.

Robyn Taylor

My concept is distortion: considering ways in which distorting the traditional pattern of a shirt can affect the perception of the human body. Using surrealism as my focus, I began researching the Surrealist movement and Francis Bacon and Salvador Dali, masters of distortion and juxtaposition, were my main source of inspiration. I applied this to my moulage with shirts creating and developing the distortion further.

As I focused my research, I understood that to achieve a surreal distorted appearance the shirt sleeves would be a relevant place to start as the sleeve pattern can alter the way we convey the shapes and proportion of the body.

For the print, I decided to use as an inspiration some of the traditional botanical drawings that I saw on my visit to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, drawing and then distorting them into a continuous pattern. I wanted to display these botanical drawings to imply the usefulness of the Library, Herbarium and scientific research to the world.  I used yellow coloured leaves and red stems to convey the importance of the conservation of plants, helping them survive in the future.

May Taylor

The concept for my shirt was based on my research into historic and contemporary men’s shirts. As a part of my diversity research I wanted my final design to be inclusive to everyone, so anyone can wear it. I chose to research portraiture and how it shows fashions which covered and hid the contours and shapes of the body underneath. This resembles religious dress and so I drew inspiration from the body represented in John Copley’s religious artwork.

For my print I wanted to create a garden like the Garden of Eden by taking the different parts of the botanical garden and making one garden of paradise. I did research into historical paintings of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden to help the composition and ways of communicating the different elements. Instead of Adam and Eve, I incorporated staff from the Botanic garden and positioned them observing Primula Scotica, a plant native to Scotland, to represent the history and importance of the gardens. I also placed flesh eating plants which have legs coming out of them to convey that these plants could harm us and we can harm them and that why it is important to look after plants because we depend on each other. To create the print, I drew every section and placed them together digitally.

Emilie Ricordeau

My shirt design focused specifically on creating a genderless piece by distorting pinstripe shirts and how they are often tied to dominant, masculine connotations. My research touched on the idea of the business shirt and how it has been subverted throughout history, by mixing the masculine with feminine. Through this, I began to think about how practices like corsetry and the patterned bones within corsets somewhat mirror the classically linear pinstripes of business shirts, and how in both of these ideas, line distorts the body.

When visiting the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, I have always been specifically drawn to the glasshouses, which I see as the heart of the garden. I focused primarily on the architecture of the Victorian Palm Houses, whilst drawing inspiration for the linear style from the neighbouring 1967 Glasshouse. Inspired by these aspects, and aiming to incorporate parallel stripes and structure, I created a bold, minimalist print and experimented with how pleating could mirror my print as well as my research, by making the pinstripe a physical part of my design.

Emma Corcoran

Taking inspiration from my visits to Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden, my objective was to create a genderless garment showcasing some of the Garden’s beauty through print. My main inspiration came from the impressive Glasshouses, in particular the Tropical Palm House and Arid plant Glasshouse. I gathered photographs and sketches from this and worked digitally to layer sketches and play around with the colour palette. My concept for the shirt was based on deconstruction.  Through my research on the classic shirt I was drawn to uniforms where I was inspired by the likes of Karategi and traditional Japanese clothing. My garment consists of two oversized shirts with the top layer being draped over the shoulders while the sleeve forms a belt around the front. I wanted to incorporate a panelling effect inspired by the architecture of the Glasshouse and feel I achieved this by differing the length of the hems.    

Izzie Jones

My concept for the shirt was minimalism. In this project, I really wanted to bring forward the more delicate aspects of the botanical Garden. I illustrated different flowers that I was drawn to whilst visiting the gardens and archives. I felt that the pink and orange colours really complimented each other, being bold, yet delicate, which I really tried to showcase in my print, with vivid colours against fine, delicate line drawing. I decided to place my print mainly over one sleeve of the shirt, growing larger as the sleeve draped and cascaded down the body, creating a ‘blooming’ effect. Adding hints of the print to the rest of the shirt, I kept it minimal and clean in mostly white fabric and linear, origami-like shapes, but lots of volume. I wanted to retain the recognisable aspects of a traditional shirt, such as collar and cuffs, yet these were distorted, or blown up in size. I feel this simplicity in my silhouette complimented the bold detail and shape in the print. The result was androgynous, subtle and delicate, but hopefully made a statement.

Emily Martin

For this project, I wanted to look into and explore distortion and abstraction in the natural world. I chose to investigate distortion of the classic white shirt through layering and draping techniques. Through alteration of scale and proportion and even multiplying, the silhouette was formed.  Research from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and its Herbarium led to the injection of colour and elements from nature and flora both into the print and garment, combining organic form, shapes and colours with the white shirt. Looking at the many preserved plant specimens in the Herbarium was one of my main inspirations for the digital print design. Introducing fundamental designs and patterns from the natural world such as leaves or pressed flowers and combining these with line and vibrant colours is how the final digital print was created. Through pattern cutting, slashing and layering, this led to, not a reinvention, but a restyling of the classic white shirt as there was an emphasis to hold onto the traditional collar, cuff and button stand all seen in a traditional white shirt. By also doing an all-over print, the already abstract print becomes even more abstracted and more symbolic of its roots from nature by bringing the piece alive.

Wenwen Yang

When I walked into the Glasshouses of the Botanic Garden, I was especially attracted by the appearance of the tropical plants. Their unique plant organisms and exaggerated form and structure showed the extreme climate they grew in in the tropics. The representative colour palette of the topical plants, vivid red and green, brings a sense of danger and mystique to their beauty. But this was not exactly what I was going to do for my print design. After getting the inspiration from the Botanics, I started to incorporate this with my personal style. I also researched the drawing style of many of the surrealism artists such as Luigi Serafini.

My final drawing expresses the relationship between humans and nature and shows how human beings are nurtured under nature and how plants play an inextricable role in nature.

Ella Parr

The concept for this project as a whole, has developed from the idea of how perspective distorts specimens under a microscope. Throughout the project I looked at microscopic images of plants and how there is more than you can see with the naked eye. I created my print using images of microscopic flora I had collected from a lab.  I thought it was particularly important to use flora native to Scotland as samples for the basis for my print, as this type of plant is something Scotland is densely populated in. In fact, Scotland has one of the world’s largest species of flora, so this is something I wanted to highlight in my project and how the work at the Botanic Garden fuels the conservation of plant species. During trips to the botanic garden, I was shown how the university helps with conservation through ecology and the process of documenting specimens and the way in which they are preserved in the archive.

Katherine Naesheim

The concept of my shirt and the research behind it derived from historical blouses, Greek statues, numerous artworks, and other cultures. I was very interested in combining different timelines of fashion and making something modern. I was heavily influenced by the drapery of cloth in Greek statues and how the body showed through. Those bodies were also fuller figured than the body ideal in recent decades which is an important aspect to consider when reflecting on diversity. The dramatic collars and cuffs derived from the middle ages where the shirt details had gone through many iterations.

For my print I looked to the Royal Botanic Gardens where I was especially influenced by the South East Asian section. I found the juxtaposition of Edinburgh’s climate with the South East Asian tropics an interesting combination that I found resonance with. As I myself am from South East Asia, born and raised, I was inspired by the bright colours of the tropics and the play of colours melting into each other at times and contrasting at others. The Glasshouses were a raw explosion of colours and textures and I wanted to reflect this harmony in my design.