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Florals in fashion

By VICKY VELOSO-BARRERA, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 27, 2024 5:00 am

As winter morphs into spring, frigid weather gives way to warmer days and from New York to Washington DC to Dallas, colorful flowers pop up increasingly on sidewalks, lawns and parks.

As soon as early blossoming daffodils, magnolias, irises, pansies and tulips signal a new season, dark winter wardrobes start to give way to fresher, brighter colors on the streets and in the shops.

Are the mannequins animal or alien at NYBG?

A happy collaboration between spring, flowers and fashion was evident everywhere. Two spectacular shows, one at the New York Botanical Gardens and another at the upscale NorthPark Mall in Dallas were awesome and inspiring. 

Apart from those themed displays, people took to dressing up in pastels, flower prints and even Cinco de Mayo ballgowns to match the floral landscape in the gardens, parks and arboretums of different cities.

Are the mannequins animal or alien at NYBG?

For the first time at the annual NYBG orchid show, flowers met fashion in a collaborative way. Three young contemporary fashion designers took inspiration from orchidaceae and other flora within the Haupt Conservatory to create the highly popular “Florals in Fashion” show. Winter-weary New Yorkers and visitors have flocked in such droves that tickets should be purchased in advance and it’s a must to line up before it opens.

Spiky contrasts with feminine for Olivia Cheng at the NYBG orchid show. 

The conservatory turned into a floral catwalk as Hillary Taymour for Collina Strada, Olivia Cheng of Dauphinette and Kirsten Alpaugh of FLWR PSTL created dramatic and abstract fashion concepts out of diverse phalaenopsis and dendrobiums, dancing ladies and cattleyas. Gorgeous orchids are not exotic to us in the Philippines where they thrive, but there are color combinations, sizes and varieties I’d never seen before.

Menswear also gets a boost from flowers at NYBG’s orchid show.

The striking fashion on display at the NYBG is not meant—most of it anyway—to be wearable. Collina Strada is always on the New York runway and its designer Hillary Taymour uses both her label and the orchid show to put forth her strong ideas on sustainability. Kirsten Alpaugh’s tall floral goddess clothed in a cape and train of orchids reflects her attitude of rising up to meet the future with optimism.

Abstract fashion concepts at the NYBG

Young success story Olivia Cheng sees the sensuous orchid as a rebellious flower (it doesn’t grow in soil like other flowers) and likes to pair it with air plants, spiky tillandsia and even glittering beetles. 

A couple of the pieces—orchids over transparent boots and on the lapel of a blue men’s suit—were gorgeous and actually wearable if there was a way to keep those real flowers fresh. Trap them in resin? Translate with fabric flowers?

The Dallas Arboretum was represented by Blushington Blooms, which used bright pink roses, foxglove and carnations for their cape-like creation to reflect the flowerbeds of this botanical garden.

The NYBG orchid show runs till April 21. Note that the plants in the exhibit are alive so the display evolves organically and changes with every passing week.

As for live fashion, Washington, DC was a sea of pink as thousands of cherry trees, magnolias and other rosy-hued florals came into their peak. Men, women and children dressed in pink to pose under trees of fragrant white cherry blossoms, pink cherry blossoms and magnificent pink magnolias.

A carpet of green leaves formed a stunning kimono by the Crow Museum of Asian Art of the University of Texas at Dallas by Hawthorne’s Floral Company.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, a visit to their famed Arboretum and Botanical Garden introduced us to a lush 66 acres dotted with flowerbeds, wandering paths, bridges, fountains, pools of water that invited quiet reflection and all this beside the picturesque White Rock Lake. Women braved the nippy morning temperature to pose for pictures in flowy, floaty, floral dresses. We spied not one but two Latina 15-year-olds in poufy ball gowns taking advantage of the tulips in full bloom as their Cinco de Mayo pictorial background.

The florist Sage Fine Flowers created an exuberant headpiece over an almost-bare torso and full skirt of petals and leaves for the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Then, a trip to the upscale NorthPark Mall in Dallas yielded an unexpected surprise. We chanced upon the opening day of Fleurs de Ville’s Artiste, an exhibit of 15 flower-decked mannequins along the wide corridors between designer shops. Fleurs de Villes is the project of a Canada-based duo that celebrates all things floral in collaboration with local cultural institutions and famed florists.

A flamboyant gown made of roses, button chrysanthemums and leaves seemed to dance as it stood for Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico by Concepto.

Like the NYBG orchid show, the fashion displayed utilized real flowers and other flora. But unlike the abstract art of the New York designers, the florists that Fleurs de Villes collaborated with took flowers, leaves, bark, seeds and other green material and literally translated them into fashion designs that you could have worn if those materials were not real and perishable.

Note the rotary phone as this red rose dress was inspired by Dial M for Murder, created for the Dallas Theater Center by Twelve Thirty Four at the Fleurs de Villes exhibit.

There were 15 jaw-dropping creations that had us determined to return to the mall even before we had finished perusing them. And that’s just as well, because Fleurs de Villes Artiste could run only four days since these cut flowers and leaves couldn’t last more than a week.

How we hope these photos might inspire our local florists and cultural institutions to stage their own version of florals as fashion!