The Enduring Appeal of Green Leaves

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GracePhoto © Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos

Championed by Grace Coddington, Céline and Hermès, we chart the rise of the green leaf in fashion

Flowers make plenty of appearances in fashion imagery. Lesser known or celebrated is the green leaf. These striking images of Grace Coddington were taken by Antonio Lopez in 1975 and are currently part of a new exhbition curated by Coddington for Paddle 8 entitled No Clothes. On sale through to May 16, the sale features 35 nude works.

The Coddington/Lopez/palm leaf image is not dissimilar to the autumn/winter 2011 Céline campaign photographed by Juergen Teller. Phoebe Philo and Teller's campaigns for the house have always garnered attention for their standout props, including skateboards, cherry blossom and the aforementioned green foliage, as these simple yet often unusual and unexpected inclusions always provide a modern backdrop rather than fighting for the attention. This season, Philo has demonstrated her continued interest in the green leaf, featuring plants at her autumn/winter 2014 show and installing indoor plants at her new Mount Street London store.

In botanical terms, a leaf is an organ of a vascular plant. Typically they are thin, flattened organs borne above ground and specialised for photosynthesis, but many types of leaves have adapted in ways almost unrecognisable in those terms; some are not flat (for example many succulent leaves and conifers), some grow below ground (such as bulb scales), and some are without major photosynthetic function.

Whilst they don't get as much glory as flowers, there are various interesting references in history and popular culture. For Christians, the first Sunday of Easter is known as Palm Sunday and is a reminder of Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, when he rode on a donkey over scattered palm branches. The palm branch was the emblem of Judea and appeared on the coins of the land, symbolizing one of the country’s riches. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the trees were in bloom, so in covering the way with palm branches, the people were offering a symbol of great value and luxury. But palms were a symbol of necessity, too. To the Jews, palm branches represented a gift from God because of their many uses in the people’s lives. The palm was so important that when countries in the area went to war, they cut away the enemy’s palm branches, causing their enemy to suffer from the loss of food and other necessities.

Greek mythology also features the famous laurel wreaths, and the French Post-Impressionist painter Henri Rousseau's works featured luscious green plants.

In the autumn/winter 2012 issue of AnOther Magazine, two shoots featured green leaves – Sarah Burton's Alexander McQueen collection was photographed amid the lush foliage of the Kew Gardens conservatories and Cathy Edwards and Martina Hoogland Ivanow's surrealist story featured girls and house plants eerily and exquisitely intertwined.

For the spring/summer 2013 issue of AnOther Magazine, Ben Toms and Robbie Spencer featured beautiful bonsai in their story. For spring/summer 2014, Hermès celebrated the beauty of green leaves, using them as a backdrop for both their womenswear show and their Metamorphosis campaign.

In August 2013, Malaysian artist Tang Chiew Ling debuted her Fashion Leaf project. "I never thought leaves could be so beautiful. Some of them are full of structures, patterns and lines, there are different colours in a leaf, even in withered leaves. So, I applied them into different types of dresses according to the different types of leaves," she explained.

Of course, the best way to celebrate the beauty of green leaves is to invest in one or a selection of house plants. As well as looking chic, they also have been proven to remove harmful contaminants carried in the air.