Fleur Memoire – A Flower Fashion Story

The ‘Fleur Memoire – A Flower Fashion Story’ is one of our online ISSUE segments, head to ‘THE ORIGINS ISSUE’ for for the complete digital release.

In the words of Miranda Priestly, “Florals for spring? Ground-breaking.” Whilst Mrs Priestly is right (and we wouldn’t dare disagree with the editor-in-chief of Runway magazine), florals can feel overdone and predictable, but the use of flowers in fashion is far from boring. In this editorial, we’ll explore how designers have taken inspiration from what feels like a somewhat unsurprising theme and turned it into high fashion. 

Before fashion, there was botany and nature’s inner workings. Have you ever wondered about the life of a plant? The plant life cycle starts when a seed falls to the ground. To grow, the seed needs warmth, water and sometimes light. Its tiny root pushes down and soon the first leaves appear. It is important that the seed is planted in the right place at the right time in order for it to flourish. Finally, flower buds develop. Some plants flower within days while it can take others months or even years. Flowers will begin to wilt when they don’t have access to enough water. To give them afterlife, flowers can be stored in a careful way until they dry, then they can be used as decoration.

And that’s a wrap on the science. When did flowers become a part of the fashion universe? 

Flowers in fashion – nature meets haute couture

Flowers have always been a part of this earth, beautifying our existence and experiences. It’s only natural that designers throughout history have taken inspiration and incorporated them into their art. When it comes to the coupling of fashion and flowers, we can trace flower design all the way back to Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians’ designs were simple, structured and contained repetitive use of a particular pattern, with specific flowers having special meanings. For example, the lotus blossom was considered sacred. The Ancient Greeks and Romans made use of real flowers to decorate clothing through bouquets, wreaths and garlands which would add a special scent for any occasion. Flowers have been a staple in fashion from ancient times, all the way to the 21st century. 

Interpretation of flowers by designers: floral high fashion highlights

Who can get Queen Elizabeth II and Anna Wintour to sit side by side at the front row of their show? The answer is Richard Quinn. The designer’s excessively floral showcase of silky dresses, oversized puffer jackets, motorcycle helmets and of course the Queen’s signature head scarfs for his London-based autumn winter 2018 show got the attention of Her Majesty (and broke the internet). Clearly, we shouldn’t be dismissive of the power of florals. 

Outside of incorporating flowers as decorative patterns on their pieces, many designers have used real flowers for their shows and designs. For his Spring 2007 collection titled “Sarabande” Alexander McQueen showcased a selection of highly ornamented gowns. Notably, the final gown was entirely covered in real flowers. The gown was worn by model Tanya Dziahileva who made her way down the circular Cirque d’Hiver runway as a trail of flower heads was left behind her. McQueen was known for some of the most dramatic and impactful runway moments. In a 2007 interview with Harper’s Bazaar he said of this collection: “Things rot…I used flowers because they die. My mood was darkly romantic at the time”. 

Moschino’s ex creative director, Jeremy Scott, is known to take the themes of his collections quite literally. For the house’s spring 2018 ready-to-wear collection, Scott took inspiration from florals and not just any flower-based decorative pattern but actual life-size flowers. Supermodel Joan Smalls walked down the runway wearing a skirt made out of red roses whilst Gigi Hadid and Kaia Gerber closed the show dressed as flower bouquets with a red ribbon. Before Jeremy Scott dressed Kaia Gerber up as a flower, there was Jean Paul Gaultier. The creative genius Jean Paul Gaultier in Spring 2002 impressed the world with his “Robe Végétale”. This couture design, sewed with different types of real leaves portrayed a captivating hybrid of nature and fashion. That was not the designer’s only time playing with the sewing of real plants. In Spring 2010, Jean Paul played with palm leaves creating bags, headpieces, and dresses, creating a tropical sensation.

Thierry Mugler’s interpretation of flowers in his spring summer 1981 women’s ready-to-wear collection was a different type of literal. He dressed up the models as real-life sized flowers – playing with texture, layers and colour to create a perfectly balanced illusion. Beyonce graced the cover of Vogue for September 2021 wearing a flower headpiece designed by Phil John Perry for Rebel Rebel. Shot by the extremely talented Tyler Mitchell, the cover story depicted “black people and people of colour in a really real and pure way”. For his powerful yet utterly surreal fall 2013 ready-to-wear collection, Thom Browne had his models walk down the runway carrying red roses. The models were instructed to caress their male colleagues, who lay down in beds set up at the centre of the runway–a bold statement of female empowerment. The roses represented a direct contrast to the structured and masculine design of the garments Browne showcased for the collection and were also incorporated in the hair and tights worn by some of the models. Of course, we have to mention the fashion industry’s latest flower trend: the anthurium. For Loewe’s spring summer 2023 collection, Jonathan Anderson took a humorous and optimistic approach to his designs. Models made their way around the runway wearing hybrid garments: half dress, half anthurium petal. Anthurium details also made an appearance in the brand’s shoes. 

Other iterations of flowers in the fashion world

When we think of flowers, a colourful fresh image comes to mind. However, the incorporation of plants into fashion can take multiple forms. Several artistic geniuses have departed from this traditional connotation of flora in fashion. 

Simon Jacquemus’ spring 2021 menswear runway was a celebration of love. The inspiration, in the designer’s words, was “a simple country wedding or a harvest festival”. The designer presented his collection in a rolling wheat field. A dramatic wood plank runway appeared through an infinite grain field, intended to bring forth the romantic and authentic side of the brand. L’amour; a collection infiltrated by tradition and nature. Models such as Kristina Grikaite and Noeme Semedo Borges, wore clothes embroidered with wheat, showcasing how the beauty of the outdoors can be incorporated into our daily garments. This show was a coup de maître. It was a statement of diversity, inclusion, and authenticity through the linking of fashion and nature. 

Maria Grazia Chiuris, aimed to pass a vital message to the world by sourcing 164 different types of trees–the importance of biodiversity and sustainability. The artist perceives a fashion show as a chance to pass a message, a platform to share convictions, but also an encouragement for people to act. Maria Grazia’s execution was truly a twinkling to the senses. The significance of this collection also lies in its double symbolism, and  its romantic twist. Tribute was paid to Cathrine Dior, Christian Dior’s sister, the carer of the family gardens, to the soul inspiring the character of the brand. Flowers have been implanted deeply to the House’s personality, but this was truly a fresh and unique way to remind us all.

Iris Van Herpen linked nature to fashion in her own unique way in her collection Roots of Rebirth during Paris Haute Couture Week, in January 2021. She referenced the intricacy of fungi and the complexity of life that moves deep inside the earth. The collection was a poem for the human body and the natural world, a sequence of looks inspired by roots and spores. Hand-embroidered roots surge and symmetrically entwine the body in transformative tones, from liquid copper to deep shades of burnt umber. 

The LOAD perspective

Flowers are a symbol of beauty, grace but also fragility. Their short lifespan makes them precious and unobtainable. No matter how much effort is put into maintaining and keeping them alive, they inevitably die – either forever or until their next season. Dry flowers bring a lasting memory of what the flower once was and the beauty that comes with its age and decay. 

This elusiveness can be viewed as a parallel for so many different things: beauty, love, happiness. Humans would like to be in control of these states of being but ultimately nature and the universe have other plans. Flowers die, beauty fades, love ends and happiness is circular but not continuous. 

There lies the secret behind why flowers have inspired and will continue to inspire countless designers. Whether alive or dried out they reflect the human experience. 

This editorial explores and celebrates the symbolism of the floral universe. Shot in Mykonos, against the island’s dry background and intense heat, the focus is placed on a summer iteration of what is conventionally considered to be a spring theme. An ode to Greek summer and finding beauty at the end of the life cycle.

Nothing says summer quite like a bouquet of sunflowers, poufs of straws and dry flowers. Not only does it instantly elevate the mood but it’s also a symbol of strength, loyalty, faithfulness and intelligence. With this editorial, the LOAD team have created images that activate the flower’s natural beauty – there is power in being able to create a mood which makes us feel special. 

Petridis Luxury Floral Creation (@petridiscreations) helped us bring our vision to life with their fringed raffia hats, poufs of straw, dry flower decorations in garments as well as the show-stopping sunflower earrings. 

Conclusion: The importance of flowers in nature & fashion.

With the persistence of time, evolution prevails, and while these beings are never truly fixed, they exist merely in a state of flux, a rippling fabric of life itself, dancing to the benevolent beat of rebirth.

In her poem “Flowers”, Wendy Videlock writes:

They are fleeting.
They are fragile.
They require

little water.
They’ll surprise you.
They’ll remind you

that they aren’t
and they are you.

No wonder designers constantly revisit this theme in their work. There are so many parallels that can be drawn between humans and nature and there is something particularly poetic and romantic about flowers. These magnificent products of nature will continue to stimulate the artistic senses of designers, be it spring or summer. Floral fashion might not be ground-breaking, but it is undeniably timeless, always in style and relevant to the human experience. 

Written by Errika Moniou and Stella Seimeni








Article Errika Moniou @EMONIOU, Stella Seimeni @STELLA_SEIM

Subscribe to our seasonal online ISSUE and Newsletter

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.