Pia Interlandi’s bespoke burial clothing is helping to rebuild those lost connections. The Australian designer’s work allows families to easily perform the meaningful rituals of preparing the dead body for burial, rather than consigning them to a professional.
As a student, the Order of the Good Death member experimented with dissolvable textiles, which gorgeously suggested the body’s own tendency to disintegrate, and eventually disappear, after death. Her explorations of clothing and mortality began as a metaphor. But when her grandfather died, she helped her relatives dress his body in his funeral suit; the experience sent her research in a more practical direction. Interlandi saw how important the ritual was for her family—and also how challenging it is to dress a dead person in clothes designed for the living.
In 2012 she debuted a collection of bespoke clothing designed for cremation or burial. Made from ivory-colored silk, cotton, and hemp, without any metal zippers, plastic buttons, or synthetic fabrics, the garments are completely biodegradable. The overall effect, including delicate silk pockets for the hands and feet, is reminiscent of a beekeeper who has fallen asleep wearing Comme de Garçons.
A less fashion-forward, but still innovative alternative is the Infinity Burial Suit. The suit went viral after the artist and entrepreneur Jae Rhim Lee wore it while she delivered a TED talk about the eco-friendly design. Created by Lee in collaboration with fashion designer Daniel Silverstein, the suit’s current design resembles a matching set of children’s pajamas, and is made from mushrooms and other microorganisms. The mushrooms grow and consume the body as it decomposes, speeding the decomposition process, neutralizing the body’s toxins and leaving nothing but clean soil where plants can grow.