Flowers have been aligned with fashion for centuries in many cultures, from bright Indian saris, Japanese kimonos, to Boho and Grecian headdresses or stylized a la Frida Kahlo. Flowers adorned during rituals represent powerful symbols of our deepest traditions and rites of passage—from birth to marriage to death, and to all matters of the heart in between.
Women used flowers as the first makeup. They adorned lips, cheeks with reddish, pinkish floral hues. Today the utilitarian flower still works. Fresh and bold, wildly colorful flower makeup and eyeliner designs bounce all over Instagram and into streets and summer festivals.
Flowers are so often the thread that stitches together our identity, weaving through fashion, ritual, art, music, and even shaping the way we view the most powerful female artists of this century.
Iconic photos, art and images that feature flowers, given their evocative and feminine nature, continue to attract, influence and inspire the best artistic minds today.
The 60s flower power generation would have been incomplete—or nonexistent—without the dazzling Joni Mitchell whimsical daisy crown photo; Mitchell herself later painted numerous self-portraits, nearly always surrounded by nature’s floral greenery. In one, she holds a bouquet of flowers forward as if in a peace offering to the young singer songwriters, designers and artists of today, like singer Lana Del Rey with her penchant for floral fashion and stated 60s influence, and many others.
What of sultry Billie Holiday’s trademark gardenias? The flower is central to Ms. Holiday’s iconography. A white flower pinned in her hair is all a young jazz singer need do to nod to Ms. Holiday.
Given this mix of historical and ultramodern significance, it is unsurprising to find florals at the center of Spring/Fall 2018’s hottest looks. With their feminine, cultured beauty, flowers are the ultimate fashionistas of the plant world. It’s easy to reinvent the floral look and keep it fresh and appealing as posies have so many colors, varieties and styles.
They’re far too beautiful to be limited to a dress, suit coat or headband and are a natural to create more innovative, wearable pieces of art. Flowers as other types of fashion accessories, adornments or ultra personal or bold statements, bring life and design together in a fresh and stunningly visual way. The best designers honor floral traditions while turning them askew.
Comme des Garçons Fall 2018
One such example is Comme des Garçons, which has turned a flower into a sculptural declaration of wearable art. Propelling oneself as a giant walking flower where only the head peeks through a bed of petals and legs slide through puffed layers of fabric, this super-girly creation is a new and rebellious statement. It pays homage to Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay on things “Notes on Camp.”
Botanical nail art is the rare innovation that is utterly of this moment and next level fabulous. Using mini succulents from her garden as source material, Australian designer Roz Borg, who goes by the name Arozona on Instagram, creates sheaths for nails made of miniature sedum, cacti, and more. Borg fashions lovely “mini bonsai” bridal rings and wedding accessories as well. The inimitable botanical rings made of mini succulents of astonishing, eye-pleasing colors, large, dome-like shapes and dramatic sizes scream conversation starter. These art form pieces are truly “breathable,” as succulents store water in their leaves and continue to grow while worn. In a nice recycling touch, they can be replanted afterward.
How fitting, too, that this summer London’s Victoria & Albert Museum will keep the love affair between fashion and flowers alive. It will display Frida Kahlo’s famous dresses, with their wonderful chain stitch and floral motif, and stylized with Kahlo’s famous dahlias in her hair, alongside her paintings. Flowers are beautiful because they never die.