Once a trend filters down from the rarified world where design is born and meets the mainstream, you know it’s big. And botanicals are big. Delicious monster and palm motifs monopolise surface treatments as wide-ranging as walls and cellphone cases. But as pleasing and ubiquitous as this particular take on the trend is, there’s a lot more variety to it than just leafy greens: it’s being adopted by brands as varied as gin and jewellery.
Pantone even announced Greenery as its colour of the year, proof that inspiration from nature is more central to design than ever. Paint expert Annie Sloan is all for it. “I’ve been banging the drum for Antibes brilliant bright green for ages and ages! I love it with other botanical greens. Strong, grounded, and calming yet positive colours,” she says.
Because all trends evolve, we’re interested to see how this one is going to grow and develop different offshoots.
A new leaf
As far as plants go, the era of the highly Instagrammable fiddle-leaf fig is coming to a close. This sculptural shrub was the indoor “it” plant for a good two years, to the extent that getting one required putting your name on a waiting list at nurseries around the country. There are a few contenders for its crown in 2017, but we’re watching the cacti and succulent species with keen interest. Not just as a potted plant either — their architectural shapes lend themselves beautifully to textiles and graphics; and speak to our sense of wanderlust for colourful, culturally rich places with landscapes familiar, yet also alien to ours — Morocco, Mexico, South America.
Kurt Pio and Clinton Friedman have been painting and photographing aloes and succulents for years, but when French fabric house Pierre Frey (available at Mavromac) jumps on board too (with a whimsical cactus wall-covering called Cuilko), you know it’s global. We love the watercolour effect of this print — it tempers what can come off as quite a hard and uninviting plant.
Lemon Décor’s Idle series of artworks offers a minimal angle on a series of palms — nice if you’re not wanting to go all in.
Local design house Tuis Collections — comprising designer duo Alexis Barrell and Fiona Mackay — whose super-soft cotton robes you might have been lucky enough to wrap yourselves in at The Robertson Small Hotel reboot, is doing a range of homeware and apparel inspired by simplicity and the South African landscape. The prickly pear pattern in particular is so incredibly now; it’s never been more on point to be indigenous.
But for every step forward, there must be an equal move in the opposite direction. And retro florals are also back. They vary quite dramatically in execution — so there’s something for everyone — but are all underpinned by a wistful nostalgia. Black Edition by Romo’s romantic Herbaria range pays homage to Pierre-Joseph Redouté with soft blowsy, faded blooms, while Fendi’s Strap You floral bag straps are a sweet take on appliqué — very hip granny. It’s not just for walls and women though — Fendi’s menswear for Spring/Summer 17 features florals in abundance, albeit with
a ’70s spin.
Fruit of the loom
Designers are exploiting all parts of the plant in an effort to keep reinventing the trend, and fruit is proving a playful and irreverent avenue for them to have a little bit of fun. Cue Tutti-Frutti — a small leather goods collection by style icon Hermès — a sweet, bright range of little bags and coin purses. It’s cute, but also not totally over the top, and perhaps a sign of things to come — fruit as the new foliage?
Melons, kiwi fruit, and citrus all lend themselves especially well to fabric applications — perfectly illustrated by Lacroix for Designers Guild with its Soft Manaos fabric from the Nouveaux Mondes collection — so fresh and different. Steer clear of pineapples though —they’re on their way out.
Alcohol brands are drawing on botanicals and herbs to enhance their products too — local gin distillery Hope on Hopkins makes its Mediterranean variety by infusing it with olives, rosemary, basil, thyme, and cardamom, with overriding citrus notes and hints of juniper, while lemon-infused Malfy gin is an instant trip to the Italian coast.
The public’s appetite for tropical foliage and fauna (birds especially) seems to remain unabated, however, so if you’re still into banana leaves and the like, don’t worry, you’re not last season just yet.
Artist and photographer Clinton Friedman has been creating homeware for some years, but has recently branched into fashion and channelled his love of botanicals into edgy garments that includes menswear items — proof that flowers aren’t always feminine. Beach Cult too has translated gorgeous prints into swimwear that looks fresh and fashion-forward — the strelitzia pattern is the take-home piece of this collection.
The inclusion of fauna among the foliage and flowers takes tropical up a notch is the Halsted’s Zambezi collection included monkeys, tigers, birds in a profusion of colour, and references African folklore — not for the conservative homeowner, but a total statement. Haute jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels is also on board with animals, and Africa — its Makis high jewellery collection takes the continent as inspiration.
The flip side of the tropical trend is wintery foliage — evergreen, cool-climate plants that, while not as flamboyant, are certainly dramatic when done right. UK-based Murals Wallpaper has a range of forest settings that are as moody as a jungle scene is evocative. There’s something bracing and refreshing about a misty Alpine scene or a frosted fern — Evolution Product has some beauties in colours of bracken and bark — a nice break from all the large-scale leaves. These understated plants are also used in scents — such as Byredo’s Super Cedar and Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress — as a modern, unisex alternative to all-out florals.
TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NIC BLADEN
1. Bladen chucked in his work as a dental technician working in gold and porcelain when he visited Bronze Age Art foundry in Simon’s Town. His moment of epiphany came when he realised he had already developed all the skills to do micro casting.
2. Bladen is always researching, even when surfing. “But half the time I’m under the sea, just observing. It’s another biosphere,” he says.
3. “I’m no botanist but I’m learning. I’m aware that some of the plants I document may not survive climate change,” he says. “These pieces will exist long after many of the plants die out.”
4. Bladen’s delicate, plant-based jewellery is on many “I want” lists.
5. As a teenager, Bladen made his own clothes. “I had the hands to make my own outfits. I liked the textures of fabric,” he Fernsays.
6. Bladen’s favourite item of clothing is his man bag, which is an old Finnish army gas-mask bag.
7. When it comes to food, Bladen loves the cleanliness of sushi. “It’s neat and controlled,” he says.
8. His favourite piece of work is not one of his life-size miniature casts, instead it is the Boscia albitrunca he saw for the first time in the Tswalu Kalahari game reserve. Bladen was inspired to sculpt the whole tree.
9. On Bladen’s bedside table is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. He’s made lists of the music she writes about in the novel and listens to it as it appears on the page.
10. Bladen invested the family savings in a sophisticated mobile workshop, complete with kiln. “Now I can go into any landscape and document it,” he says.