photo credit: Lucila Mantovani

Naomi Bailey-Cooper PhD Practice-based Research Student at London College of Fashion has been selected for the AER residency with LABVERDE in the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil happening in July 2017.

Here is what Lilian Fraiji – curator and the coordinator of LABVERDE program had to say about the selection of Naomi:

          “Our evaluation criteria considered all of the applications for the residency which was a wonderful heterogeneous group.  The work of Naomi Bailey-Cooper is an unceasing chase for the extraordinary in nature. Aware that the notion of nature it’s a cultural concept, she explores working across disciplines in order to create innovative textiles solution to confront the Anthropocene”


Naomi’s winning residency proposal:

I am a fashion textiles designer currently studying for a PhD at the London College of Fashion. My practice-based research topic is ‘How can embellishment deliver an alternative to the decorative and seductive notion of exotic animal materials?’ The research focuses on identifying the key motivators for the application of exotic animal materials as decoration. Furthermore, I then apply that knowledge to design embellishments made from alternative more ethically, socially responsible materials and methods. The design of these embellishment samples – created from non-animal materials – undergo evaluation to determine whether it is possible to achieve similar responses to that generally elicited by the use of exotic materials as decorative embellishment.

My PhD research is funded by the Victoria and Albert Museum which has enabled me unique access to their historic archive and engagement with relevant curators. Imperative to my research aim is the exploration of not only the contemporary, but the historic use and appreciation of exotic animal materials as decoration. My focus within this is the Victorian era; a boom period in the use of feathers, fur, reptile skins, and other ‘exotic animal materials’ as decoration. The relationship between scientific discovery and the application of animal materials in fashion at this time has been particularly fascinating. Namely, the influence animal specimen collection and exhibition may have had on the public’s desire for animal products.

image: Naomi Bailey Copper, Material Research

I would like to use this fantastic opportunity in the Amazon Rainforest to further explore the potential relationship between scientific discovery and fashion textiles. I see the Labverde residency as a unique opportunity to not only appropriate the rainforest itself, but to engage with biologists and discover the way in which they are documenting life in the forest. My understanding is that appearance, DNA and sound currently make up the key criteria for new specimen identification through photography and sound recordings, and as such there is less need to take a euthanised animal specimen. My aim would be to explore the recording of specimens further as a designer by using a more poetic approach linked to my research project; to understand the decorative and seductive appeal of exotic animals. In light of those appeals, I would like to expand the purely aesthetic associations and explore sound, for example bird song to inspire textile embellishment. My goal therefor would be to inspire alternative ways of being engaged with nature; promoting habitat and life. In essence; to achieve similar public response to that generally elicited by the interaction with real birds.

image: Naomi Bailey Copper, Material Development

In a similar manner to how my current research is immersive in order to explore sensory appeals, I feel that this particular idea would achieve its full potential by immersion in the rainforest surroundings. It would use the residency opportunity as a key part of my PhD research; observing and understanding the balance of life in one of the last truly ‘exotic’ places on earth. Factors such as sound and movement, which one cannot comprehend through photographs but which are so apparent to clothing, are extremely relevant.

Much of my previous work has centred on promoting sustainability, with my current PhD research born from animal welfare and ethical considerations. Maintaining biodiversity and promoting environmental sustainability remains a core topic within my own work, and through my research I have discovered that rare species are not only threatened due to loss of habitat but also through trafficking. I am particularly interested in the ‘over-collection’ of birds from the Amazon such as macaws for the pet and feather trade and how this is impacting the delicate balance of life there. The recent discovery of 15 new bird species in the Amazon, described for the first time in 140 years demonstrates that there is a lot still be to be discovered by biologists. As mentioned previously, I see the residency as a unique opportunity to learn and exchange ideas with the experts at Labverde but also to engage with other artists and designers and be inspired by the diverse ways in which they are promoting preservation of the rainforest.

image: Naomi Bailey Cooper, start-up enterprise ‘Cornpostable’

Prior to commencing my full-time PhD studies in 2015, I worked in a team start-up enterprise called ‘Cornpostable’. Our concept was to create a material made from corn waste that could compost, as part of a closed-loop supply chain system. The group consisted of engineers, designers and scientists, who met during a summer school exploring climate-related issues. In addition, I have undertaken research for Burberry exploring the sustainability of their supply chain and quality of key fibres. The focus of my work is new materials inspired by natural processes, and exploring the potential of working across disciplines. Since my graduate collection in 2012 where I grew crystals on fabric as embellishment to highlight the potential of biodegradable decoration, I have been developing a textiles recycling initiative which was pre-selected for Bio-art and Design award. This particular idea evolved after speaking to scientists from Nottingham University after taking part in a summer school in Mathematical Modelling and Microbiology. Currently I am involved with the Oxford Futures Forum on ‘Climate Imaginaries’ which promotes this way of co-working and learning to explore solutions. My goal is to merge traditional research methods with practice to understand and stimulate thinking around some of these complex issues.

Naomi will be reporting back to us on this blog after her residency on how she got on, WATCH THIS SPACE…


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More information about UAL’s AER Programme:

In 2015, internationally acclaimed artist, Professor Lucy Orta UAL Chair of Art for the Environment – Centre for Sustainable Fashion, launched the The Art for the Environment International Artist Residency Programme (AER), in partnership with residency programmes across Europe. Applicants can choose from a 2 to 4 week period at one of the hosting institutions, to explore concerns that define the twenty-first century – biodiversity, environmental sustainability, social economy, human rights – and through their artistic practice, envision a world of tomorrow.

Through personal research, studio production time, critiques and mentoring sessions with Lucy Orta and a selection of Europe’s most exciting cultural institutions, the residency programme provides a platform for creative individuals, working across various disciplines, to imagine and create work that can make an impact on how we interact with the environment and each other.

New Residency opportunities are being added all of the time, please keep checking the dedicated webpages for other AER Programmes available for application.  

NOTE: Applications accepted from UAL graduates, postgraduates and recent alumni (within 12 months from graduation date).

The LABVERDE Residency:

LABVERDE is designed for artists and creators who are eager to reflect on nature and landscape. The programme will promote an intensive experience in the Amazon rainforest aiming to explore the connection between science, art and the natural environment.

The LABVERDE program is a 10-days Art Immersion Program in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest for art, nature and science lovers.

The core of the artistic research will be based on issues related to the Amazon environment as well as its importance for the planet’s ecological balance. The opportunity to develop innovative studies in the cultural field will be mediated by a high qualified team of specialists within the fields of arts, humanities, biology, ecology and natural science.

Experimentation and knowledge will be the tools used to inspire artistic working processes and contextualize discourses. By appropriating nature, participants are expected to promote aesthetic and poetic expressions that boost a conscious relation between humankind and nature.

The journey will take place in 2 different locations enabling a diverse scale and perspective of the amazon rainforest. Participants will be lodged at the boat and at the scientific headquarters of Adolpho Ducke Reserve administrated by The National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA)


The AER Team:

AER