Settle petal: How flowers are making their way back into fashion

Designers are raiding greenhouses for inspiration with dresses draped with anthurium and coats covered in palm trees on the Paris runway, while a sea of statement corsages and boutonnieres blossomed on the Golden Globes red carpet.

It’s not a case of nature appropriation by designers hiding green thumbs beneath opera gloves, with florists actively engaging in creative cross-propagation with the fashion industry.

A model in Loewe on the Paris runway in September; Jenny Slate at the Golden Globes in Rodarte; Dries Van Noten menswear takes its inspiration from nature in Paris on Thursday.Credit:Ap, Getty

Stylist-turned-florist Ross Jenkins is among the artists with roots in both camps, taking as much inspiration from an Alexander McQueen exhibition as a walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens.

“I actually interned with McQueen before I moved to Australia,” Jenkins says. “He has always been one of my main inspirations in fashion and creativity in general. It’s a concept-driven approach which is what I like to do with flowers.”

“At first I bridged the gap between fashion and being a florist in Melbourne by focusing on wearable flowers, but I’ve moved onto bigger projects that draw from my background. There are plenty of similarities with how you express yourself. It’s just with different materials.”

Avoiding the classic approach of country roses and peonies standing in tall vases, Jenkins has worked on installations for labels sass & bide and Coach, most recently teaming up with set designer Tyler Hawkins on champagne brand Piper-Heidsieck’s marquee at the Australian Open.

Melbourne florist Ross Jenkins in the Bloom Boy studio.Credit:Eddie Jim

“With our work we are taking people on a multisensory journey and I feel that’s what fashion designers now do with their collections,” Jenkins says.

Sydney florist Saskia Havekes of Grandiflora has collaborated with Belgian designer Dries Van Noten and Aje on installations for events and frequently looks to runway shows for inspiration.

“You can feel this jungle-y mood trickling through from fashion weeks with the anthurium on the runway and beautiful big green leaves in fashion,” Havekes says. “People are reconnecting to nature through clothing and we are seeing it with the arrangements we create too. It makes you feel very fresh.”

In September Havekes travelled to Paris, installing a lavish garden in the Petit Palais for Australian label Zimmermann’s European runway debut. Havekes raided a nursery in Spain for the foliage, returning the plants after the show in the interest of sustainability.

Fashion favourite florists

  • Sydney: Grandiflora, My Violet, Dr Cooper, Colourblind Florist, Hermetica.
  • Melbourne: Flowers Vasette, Hattie Molloy, Bloom Boy, Pollon, Flowers by Brett Matthew John
  • Brisbane: Maison Fleur, Garden Graffiti, Bottega Fiorella, Big Leaf Boutique

“It was a proud moment but creating a video show with Zimmermann during the COVID-19 lockdowns, showcasing the beauty of Australian native plants was another highlight.”

Havekes has seen the move away from pretty petals towards foliage and plants trickle down to orders from customers.

“Young people seem to be seeking this beautiful intake of oxygen with what they bring into their homes. There’s a great attraction to rare plants and different varieties of orchids. It can be quite a challenge to source these plants.”

Jenkins takes more of an anti-fashion approach to his orders. While making use of the on-trend anthurium, flowers once regarded as a fashion faux pas have become favourites in his work.

“In March I worked on a project that made use of gerberas, which prompted quite the response from people who confessed to not having touched them since the nineties,” Jenkins says. “I’m also quite partial to a carnation.”

Along with anthurium and the shift to greenery, Havekes is still loyal to the magnolia, which has been central to her business since launching Grandiflora more than 20 years ago.

“Working with fashion brands helps you push your boundaries, be brave and learn new things but it’s always good to have a signature,” Havekes says. “Thankfully, I snapped that up years ago so no one else can get their hands on it. It’s as synonymous with who we are as the anthurium with Loewe. Sometimes you need a classic.”

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