From art to architecture and from metaphors to motifs, florals have been around for long, yet have unmatched importance throughout every culture. The beauty of these ingenious creations have been open to a copious amount of variations and interpretations through time – especially in fashion
By: Nikita Vivek Pawar
Posted on: June 15, 2021
There are only a few who can resist the charm of flowers. Flowers have never been restricted to a particular sector or society; these nature's creations have had an indivisible role to play at auspicious occasions, celebrations, architecture, art, culture, and fashion. Floral motifs have been a symbol of purity, femininity, fertility and prosperity. The element has also seen an evident evolution in fashion; however, are florals a trend that recur? Or did they never leave?
Kshitij Jalori Malagasy Teal Saree
...today's fashion has been able to incorporate technology with art. Various techniques like embroideries, 3-D embellishments, sequins and other uncommon materials create exquisite floral interpretations.
The evolution and significance of floral fashion
Believed to be originated in the East, the floral print travelled to the West with traders that brought exquisite silk dresses with floral embroideries. The pattern was also paired with other elements of nature like leaves, birds, and animals. From prints to embroideries to jewellery, with a wide range of diversity, flowers come as naturally as breathing. Every period in history has had one floral motif as a highlight. While it began with peonies during the Tang dynasty period of 618-907 AD in China, floral laces took over only in the 16th century.
As the floral print came over to Europe, the 16th and 17th century saw the uprise of tulips, pomegranates and Indian Chintz, which further were replaced by the lovely carnations in the 18th century. However, today's fashion has been able to incorporate technology with art. Various techniques like embroideries, 3-D embellishments, sequins and other uncommon materials create exquisite floral interpretations.
As with colours, cultures worldwide have used flowers to symbolise their feelings, emotions and beliefs. Talking about the symbolic significance of the motif, fashion designer Kshitij Jalori said, "I believe florals were used on clothing for their symbolic values. Many such examples are present across cultures of particular florals being associated with the sun, chivalry, free spiritedness. The introduction of florals on clothing is bit sketchy, however, it does point towards a symbolic connection."
Kshitij Jalori Mozambique Black Puffer Jacket
"The introduction of florals on clothing is bit sketchy, however, it does point towards a symbolic connection."
An unwavering source of inspiration
"There is nothing easy or difficult about design. It's how you perceive a particular element and define the same through your design language. Artworks deriving from florals could range right from the actual simplest shapes with the most minimal of applications to something as detailed as understanding the origination structure and designing an abstract artwork around the same," explained Mr. Jalori.
There are about 400,000 different species of flowers on our planet with unimaginable hues and shades. The designer particularly relates a lot more with leaves and fauna than florals, a consequence of his preference towards perennials over seasonals. In 2020, the label presented three collections - Cinnamon Hill, The Garden Room and Saigon Central - where motifs like Traveller Palm/Ravenala, China Palm, Fan Palm, Banana Palm, Areca palm, Monstera, Chinese Money Plant, Rhapis Palm, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Dracaena, and Frangipani were blended exceptionally with fauna elements like elephants, tigers, leopards, deer, monkeys, and birds like the Moluccan and Banksian Cockatoo, Eclectus parrot, toucan and hornbills. The designer further mentioned his upcoming plans with the motif for his latest collection: "We have used various floral elements across various design collections like the heavily ornate and detailed florals from Chintz for a collection called The Coromandel Colony or interpretations of Persian roses and flora in Gul Bulbul. Our upcoming collection focuses on florals in Mexican tropics like hibiscus, hydrangeas, anthuriums, etc."
Devina Juneja, an Indian designer who uses sustainable leather, said, “Florals have a universal appeal. The variety and colours are endless and so are its applications in terms of pattern, embroidery, appliques and prints.” Ms. Juneja’s Flowers in Bloom cape sees florals represented by painstaking leather work, to create an overlay that can add charm, whether worn over a tank or a dress.
Devina Juneja Flowers in Bloom cape
The beauty of fashion is its nature of being subjective, relatable and abstract, all at the same time. Similarly, flowers have played and inspired different designers in a different light. While some made florals immortal due to their elegant beauty and femininity, others found the short life span of florals more endearing. The late British fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, used fresh flowers to make dresses for his Spring/Summer 2007 Sarabande collection. "I used flowers because they die," Mr. McQueen said to a magazine at that time. As his iconic dresses came down the runway one after the other, the collection became a representation of the fragility of life. It signified that nothing is permanent, and beauty disappears. Dichotomies such as beauty and decay, life and death, have been an underlying emotion in most of Mr. McQueen's work. The designer further created several designs using roses most eccentrically. The designer used burlap sacs, leather, and techniques like hand-painting, pin-tucking and gathering to create floral designs.
Similarly, the Creative Director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, used flowers to represent the purity and innocence of womanhood in his uterus dress for his Cruise 2020 collection that stirred a dialogue about women empowerment, their freedom to choose and their right to be respected.
"I used flowers because they die." - Alexander McQueen
The Widows of Culloden dress by Alexander McQueen - a part of Sarabande Collection 2007 - as showcased at Savage Beauty exhibition by MET Museum. Image© Vogue
How many florals are too many florals?
The inclusion of flowers is as perennial as the flowers themselves. Florals can be worn at date nights to formal events and even weddings today. However, despite the motif being much loved, looking like a bouquet is not advisable unless inspired by the Spring 2018 Moschino collection. A general rule of thumb for styling floral print is wearing one print with a complimenting solid. For example, a floral print short dress can be a very chic and playful choice for casual getaways. For a formal workplace, opt for a floral shirt with a solid skirt or a pastel floral sheath dress with a belt, a longline jacket and block heels - recommends Ruchi Marodia of India-based luxury kidswear brand Little Luxury.
Moving away from fabric, florals can also be flaunted via different accessories like clutches, earrings, rings and even shoes. "Layering and matching with non-floral prints is a really fresh way to style florals. For example, pair a floral printed skirt with a checkered top. You can also mix and match floral prints, as long as they don't compete with one another," adds fashion designer Harleen Kaur. "I think going simple in terms of accessories is always a good idea if you're wearing a full floral outfit. The florals already make a statement on their own, so you don't need the big statement jewellery or handbag to go with it. Keeping the accessories somewhat simple will let the florals shine," she continued. The US-based fashion designer is known for her contemporary take on Indian clothing and often uses floral prints on both men and women collections.
"Layering and matching with non-floral prints is a really fresh way to style florals."
A floral creation by Harleen Kaur
The big question - trendy or classic?
Flowers are the most mesmerising element of nature. With an astonishing diversity to be inspired from, florals became the go-to source for artisans from all walks of life. From poems to pottery, florals are omnipresent. So, where does it stand in fashion?
“Florals will never go out of fashion, they are definitely a classic. Designers will always look at nature for inspiration and flowers have a way of lifting our mood and giving a softness to our look,” explains Ms. Juneja.
Florals are a perfect way to make a statement without the glitz and shine of sequins. They add beauty and presence to any outfit so that you don't miss the sparkle from sequins or embroidery.
Ms. Marodia aptly defines florals as a safety net: "It's no surprise that the floral trend still continues from previous years with printed pants, ruffle dresses, skirts and just about anything else designers can put a flower on. The floral trend is one that just won't go away."
“Florals will never go out of fashion, they are definitely a classic. Designers will always look at nature for inspiration and flowers have a way of lifting our mood and giving a softness to our look.”
Floral designs by Little Luxury for festive kidswear
Florals have been a part of fashion for several centuries, and we are sure it's here to stay. Even with evolving mindsets, emerging philosophies, thought-provoking dichotomies, the floral motif is too enormous to diminish and too strong to ignore. Just like nature and humans, the floral motif too has adaptability in its DNA.