Artist Karen Ingham’s latest project is guaranteed to make a buzz. The British insect-lover has produced a series of dresses designed to aid shrinking populations of bees and other pollinators, a growing environmental crisis that threatens our global food system. Featuring electron-microscopy images of pollen, Ingham’s “Pollinator Frocks” are treated with a nectar-like sugar solution that attracts and nourishes bees and their brethren. She even created outfits for separate occasions: day-wear to draw bees and butterflies and evening-wear for nocturnal critters such as moths.
FROCKS THAT ROCK
“Populations of insect pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths, and the plants on which they depend, are declining at alarming rates due to deleterious human activity,” says Ingham, who collaborated with entomologists, botanists, microscopists, and engineers to develop her prototypes. “These symbiotic relationships must be protected.”
Treated with a nectar-like sugar solution, the dresses mimic the way insects relate to flowers.
Working with technologists at the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating, Ingham examined aromas and materials that mimic the way insects relate to flowers before settling on her arresting printed fabrics, which she dubs “wearable gardens.” Ingham sees her dresses having the most impact in urban spaces, where gardens are limited in number, nectar-rich plants are rare, and public engagement is most needed. “The clothing can be hung out as clothes are hung on a washing line, to act as an attractant to pollinators,” she says.