Allowing us a glimpse of paradise on earth, the UK’s flower and garden shows inspire anyone with a creative spirit. They can show us how to balance order and chaos, how to work with shape, texture and pattern, cut the profusion with a simple line, and celebrate and make sense of nature and its beauty.
Nature has entranced fashion this season, as designers exhibit an almost obsessive interest in the botanical and the organic, manifesting itself in prints, decorative detail and form. Find paradise too in simple organic curves in white and orange, perfect set against the colours and textures of the garden.
In terms of print, the look is beautiful and striking, sometimes a little strange and ethereal, rather than pretty. This is a relief to those of us who have tended to approach floral prints with trepidation, unable to shake the fear that there is no way that we could pull off a floral frock without looking as if we had run something up out of chintzy old curtain fabric, in the manner of Maria von Trapp.
On the international catwalks for spring and summer, designers have taken the concept of plant and floral print and patterning and run away with it in many different directions. There was a historical and artistic approach from some, epitomised by Giambattista Valli’s repeating intricate rich floral patterning, reminiscent of William Morris and medieval designs, while Vilshenko sets out floral borders, on a long sleeve high-neck maxi dress, like a 17th century parterre formal garden. Gucci is adding motifs of embroidered rose heads to prim tailoring, while Erdem showed sheer fabric embroidered with twirling fine boughs of blossom. Then there are palm trees and exotic plants, geometric daisy florals, huge photographically real flower heads up close and organic. Everywhere there are flowers, leaves and stems, dense and insistent, not just as print but as lace and as embossed stamping, as well as three-dimensional effects created with fabrics or embellishment.
Flower and plant designs are tipped for this summer’s special events, weddings and garden parties, and they can work especially well for day-to-night, particularly those prints with darker backdrops and exotic blooms. Consider white or orange too, especially effective for standing out against garden backgrounds.
For our fashion shoot focusing on organic and floral patterning, The Botanist restaurant and bar in Leeds provided an intriguing and atmospheric backdrop. Set back a little from the busy Boar Lane traffic, inside is like a large and beautiful potting shed decked out for a party with coloured lanterns and caged lightbulbs dangling from the ceiling.
Gareth Vance, creative director at Sassoon in Leeds, created a sleek and smooth look for model Rebecca’s hair, to set against the bursts of pattern and bloom, but with movement and a parting that is straight but zigzags strands of hair across the parting. He explains how to do it in the behind-the-scenes video on The Yorkshire Post website.
For the make-up, Rosalie Whittingham, from Illamasqua at the Victoria Quarter in Leeds, created a look that teamed soft, dewy skin with defined eyes in earth tones and lips in a summer berry shade,
Find more inspiration for summer special event fashion at the season’s flower and garden shows. The Chelsea Flower Show takes place from May 24-28; the RHS London Rose Show is at the RHS Lawrence Hall from June 3-4, when the Chelsea School of Botanical Art will run a pop-up classroom with demonstrations of botanical painting techniques; and June 10-12 sees the first RHS Garden Harlow Carr Flower Show, with more than 30 nurseries taking part, plus live music and plenty to snap and take note of.
Clothes and accessories from Replay, Armani Exchange, Next, Marks & Spencer and Coast, all at Trinity Leeds. Location: The Botanist restaurant and bar, Boar Lane, Leeds. See thebotanist.uk.com. Styling: Stephanie Smith. Photography: James Hardisty. Model: Rebecca Parkin at Boss Model Management in Manchester. Hair: Gareth Vance, creative director at Sassoon Salon, Albion Street in Leeds, assisted by Amber McNiff. www.sassoon-salon.com. Make-up: Rosalie Whittingham at Illamasqua, Victoria Quarter in Leeds. www.illamasqua.com. Fashion assistants: Sophie Atkinson and Jake Setterfield at Golley Slater.