Going Green: Floriculture in Fashion

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Opening Ceremony S/S16
Opening Ceremony S/S16Courtesy of Opening Ceremony

Inspired by the verdant runways of Coach and Opening Ceremony this NYFW, we chart the greatest living show spaces in fashion history

From the lily of the valley famously pinned to Christian Dior’s lapel, to the rose-trimmed dress worn by Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, flowers have often been historically used to enhance the human visage. An effect often emphaised on the catwalks, Viktor and Rolf adorned dresses with 3D tulle roses in their S/S03 Flowers collection, Alexander McQueen embroidered a nude organza gown with fresh blooms in S/S07, and for its A/W13 collection, Maison Margiela Artisanal presented sheer spotted jackets embellished with vintage fabric buds. Most recently, horticulture has been making a verdant mark on Spring/Summer 2016 New York Fashion Week – take Opening Ceremony's live-garden catwalk for example, or the tender, swaying grasses that lined the runway at Coach – and so, we couldn't think of a better time to revisit the chicest, green-fingered runways in recent fashion history...

Opening Ceremony S/S16
At its S/S16 show last week, Opening Ceremony emphasised the power of plants, with a live-garden catwalk set influenced by the utopian community designs of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Inspired by the landscape drawings of Wright’s unbuilt Cloverleaf housing development, lemon and fig trees, rosemary bushes and purple cabbage patches were arranged concentrically on set. Models recruited from the NYC ballet arabesqued down the catwalk in bonsai tree-printed silk tees and jackets with shiny pebble like buttons, reinforcing Wright’s belief in organic architecture and the interplay between man and nature. The setting bore resemblance to Opening Ceremony’s Resort 2016 lookbook, which was shot against a suburban backdrop of pruned lawns and clipped topiary. Post-show, the plants were donated to non-profit organisation, Edible Schoolyard NYC.

Coach S/S16
Since the appointment of Yorkshire-born Stuart Vevers at Coach in 2013, road-tripping has become visually synonymous with his exploration of Americana. His S/S15 catwalk backdrop of Texan gas stations illuminated by a fading sunset evoked the Ford Thunderbird-bound adventures of Thelma and Louise, while his A/W15 collection, set on an elevated traintrack, echoed the freight hopping adventures of the beat writer Jack Kerouac. For his S/S16 show in New York, Vevers erected a catwalk on the High Line, an elevated linear park that houses a disused section of the New York Central Railroad and is lined with long grasses, shrubs and trees. His models sported dropped hem diaphanous dresses with Pointillist floral prints and patchwork leather ankle boots in hues of burnt orange and sky blue, reflecting the serenity of the American pastoral advocated by writers like Henry David Thoreau.

Dries Van Noten S/S15
For Dries Van Noten’s feted S/S15 show, Argentinian artist Alexandra Kehayoglou created a 48-metre long carpet artwork that resembled a moonlight-speckled forest floor. Nymph-esque models appeared in floaty chiffon dresses, striped silk shorts and patterned kimonos, and navigated a verdant mossy catwalk inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece Ophelia by John Everett Millais. Made out of pure Patagonian wool, the carpet was woven and tufted by hand over four weeks, and at the show’s finale, the models lounged on the catwalk as if under a soporific spell, like the fairy queen Titania from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream.

Chanel S/S15 Couture
The house of Chanel is no stranger to extravagant, nature-themed show sets, which have famously included F/W10's supersized frozen glacier, and S/S13 Couture’s balmy beachside forest. For his S/S15 Couture offering, Karl Lagerfeld transformed the Grand Palais in Paris into a giant greenhouse, filled with 300 watercoloured paper plants, that mechanically bloomed into colourful gardenias, pansies and bluebells. The set resembled a robotic version of a scene in Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring (1913), in which young pagan worshippers dance in rings prior to a ritual human sacrifice. In Lagerfeld’s robotic re-enactment, his models encircled a greenhouse dressed in beanies, peter pan-collared dresses and ab-revealing bustiers embroidered with sequinned flowers.

Christian Dior S/S14
Raf Simons presented his S/S14 Dior show in a hyperreal hothouse erected in the Jardin du Musée Rodin. Created by the Parisian florist Eric Chauvin, vivid wisterias and birds of paradise flowers unfurled from the ceiling, like a dystopian version of the gardens at M. Christian Dior’s childhood home Villa Les Rhumbs. The set emphasised Simons’ futuristic adaptation of Dior's iconic Femme Fleurs, who wore classic Bar jackets reimagined with cropped waists and rose printed pleats, and metallic silk bustier dresses embroidered with flowers. As explored previously by anothermag.com, floristry is synonymous with Simons’ aesthetic code: for his final A/W12 show at Jil Sander, he encased bouquets in Plexiglass cubes, and for his debut A/W12 Couture show for Dior, he bedecked the walls of five salons with over a million flowers.

Alexander McQueen S/S11
Sarah Burton’s inaugural S/S11 collection for Alexander McQueen was a triumphant symbol of rebirth. The first show since Alexander McQueen’s tragic death, models sported trailing pagan hair braids and dresses constructed using gilded corn and pheasant feathers. A dress with monarch butterflies emerging from the neckline was a reincarnation of the butterfly headpiece in McQueen’s S/S08 collection, and a runway with fresh grass growing through whitewashed floorboards was a poetic symbol of life emerging from darkness. In A/W14, Burton revisited the gothic romanticism of the house with a woodland stage set composed of 280 square metres of wildflower turf and 8,700 heather plants, and in S/S12, models at McQ walked down a catwalk scattered with decaying autumnal leaves.