The Nettle Dress
Equal Opportunity Institution. 24+ hours advance notice is appreciated for accommodations.
A Feature Documentary Presented by WWU Department of Art & Art History
Part of Doctober 2023 at The Pickford Film Center
Director Dylan Howitt
Textile artist Allan Brown spends seven years making a dress by hand from foraged stinging nettles, all picked on the South Downs near Brighton. This is ‘hedgerow couture’, the greenest of slow fashion. It’s also his medicine, the way he survives the death of his wife that left him and his four children bereft. Beautifully filmed by award-winning documentary maker Dylan Howitt, The Nettle Dress follows Allan along the whole seven-year journey. The challenge of making near zero carbon clothing sourced within a few miles of his home means re-learning ancient crafts and recalls Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale ‘Wild Swans’. From early experiments making nettle thread, through foraging, processing, spinning, weaving and cutting the cloth. Finally, a vision of the dress back in the woods where the nettles were picked, worn by one of his daughters.
Images: film stills thanks to Dylan Howitt
Winner, Audience Award, CineCity Brighton Film Festival 2022
"This is an exquisite Film. Extremely beautiful and helpful for anyone suffering loss or grief. An inspiration." - Sir Mark Rylance
"If you've ever wondered what the Earth would have fashion do, this is your answer." - Professor Kate Fletcher, Sustainable Fashion Activist
"I felt I shared in the joy of the dress coming into being, woven with magic and tragedy."
"Magical storytelling, with charm, humour and great cinematography."
"Beautiful, enchanting, inspiring and full of love."
Artist, Allan Brown
Allan Brown is a textile artist living in Brighton, East Sussex. His practice focuses on the creation of location specific textiles from fibres and dye plants that are grown or foraged in and around the South Downs.
He spins, dyes and weaves to capture the spirit of time and place, and is best known for his experiments and expertise using nettles to produce cloth. He founded the Nettles for Textiles group on Facebook which is now over 23,000 strong. He grows flax and numerous dye plants, as well as food, on an allotment he's cultivated for over twenty years. He is also a published author of popular books on sacred geometry.
Director, Dylan Howitt
Dylan Howitt has been directing, filming and editing compelling stories from all around the world for more than twenty years. Twice BAFTA nominated, his work is both intimate and political. From Mozambican artists creating sculptures out of decommissioned guns, to running video and story-telling workshops with young people in Guatemala City, or a portrait of a death row survivor in Ohio. His first feature documentary Out of Thin Air for BBC Storyville and Netflix told the story of Iceland's most notorious crime case and won rave reviews.
The Nettle Dress is his second feature length film made for cinematic release. He says: "I'm interested in finding new ways to tel stories about nature. I see our film as a love story about nettles, about connecting with the natural spaces where we live and the solace to be found there. It's a kind of fable about finding a slower, simpler, more connected way to do things that is more in tune with the natural world".