In Garden Design, News

The Relationship between Fashion & Horticulture


When I changed career from creative director in the fashion industry to garden design, many people asked me “Why on earth have you chosen garden design when it is so far removed from fashion?” Are fashion and horticulture like chalk and cheese? I believe not. Although there were many things, I had to learn like drawing plans to scale, plant names in Latin (the most frightening thought as I had not done Latin since secondary education), various construction materials and foundations, I was easily able to transfer the creative skills of design. For instance, creating mood boards, putting colour palettes together, working with texture, form and proportions and of course sketching.

Fashion and horticulture have had a natural relationship with each other in many ways through history. The connection between fashion and horticulture was made from the time that mankind started spinning, weaving, and dying using the resources that nature provided. Through history an unspoken language evolved. A betrothed may embroider a message of love and devotion on a waistcoat for her husband to be. Springs of myrtle to signify love, honeysuckle for devoted affection, pansies to show he occupies her thoughts and forget-me-nots to show true love and respect. Whilst this floral language might be lost in modern day fashion, flora and fauna continues to inspire fashion designers the world over, through colours, shapes, textures and scent.

Creative hairdressers also take inspiration from nature to weave their magic for catwalk shows and magazine editorials. This style reminds me of the fluffy clematis seed heads.

Three Christian Dior Gowns exhibited at the Museum of Decorative Arts. Notice how the one on the left has had fabric manipulated into large flower shape to create a bustle at the back of the dress whilst the gown on the left has been shaped almost to resemble an upside-down tulip.


Cotton, flax, and linen all come from plants. Viscose that is now artificially produced, was originally derived from the wood pulp (cellulose) of trees such as beech, pine, eucalyptus and bamboo, soy, and sugar cane. Sisal comes from Agave sisalana, a native of Mexico. Its fibres are spun into yarns then woven into fashionable bags. In Kenya the tribes’ women weave palm fronds onto stunning kikapu. As plastic has now become a dirty word the kikapu have become very popular. They are now being produced in beautiful colours and weaves, finished with leather trim and handles.

Maria G. Chiuri’s creation for Christian Dior SS2017 exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The headbands feel Asian inspired by the cherry blossom season in Japan.


Nothing can improve on the powers of mother nature and that includes her incredible artistry to create the most alluring colour palette. The couture houses of the world have taken inspiration from this, trying to emulate the tones and subtle shades but also the ombré effects where colours merge from one to another. Looking at the Christian Dior and Chanel haute couture collections one notices some of the garments embellished in flowers created from silk tulle and other materials, applied to look as if they are almost blooming and growing on the clothes.

Some of the flowers are brought to life with colour delicately applied, bleeding through the petals whilst others capture their fragility as if they would wither with a gentle blow of a breath. At Alexander McQueen fabrics are manipulated on the mannequins to resemble a rose hence the aptly named rose dress. Flora and fauna have never gone out of fashion in the printed textile industry. Dries Van Noten menswear spring summer 2020 collection incorporated a range of floral prints. Some florals are silhouetted and layered to create a new style of camo whilst others are blown up large to the point that they do not resemble flowers immediately. However, stare at them long enough and recognisable floral shapes emerge. In Paris artisans are engaged by Maison Legeron who create these incredible flowers that adorn the creations of the couture houses, like the camellia that has become synonymous with Chanel. Lesage is an embroidery house that creates the embroideries and beadwork for the leading fashion houses.

Colours from flora and fauna play an inspirational role in fashion but they also provide joy and fantasy when applied in different ways, be it through make-up, hair colour, prints, shapes, and textures.

An off the shoulder sheath dress on the left where the fabric has been manipulated into a rose to sit at the hip. Notice the shading of the reddish pink tones that have been inspired by the natural shades one can observe in real roses.

The gown on the right is printed in pink cabbage roses in a painterly effect.

From the exhibition ‘Christian Dior Designer of Dreams’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2019.


Let’s have a look at the concept of ready-to-wear. It allows people to wear the looks, prints and colours shown on catwalks by the favourite designers. These looks are then often diluted to affordable fashion on our high streets. How does this translate into the horticultural industry? Fashion designers will start with a mood, a colour palette and then fabrics. The collection then builds up from there. Garden designers work in a similar manner. Researching the site, the look or period of the property, interiors and then choosing the mood for the garden, the materials, colours, and plants.

Sarah Raven has turned her name into a fashionable brand for the horti-couturists. Flick through her bulb catalogues and you will see how she has curated her bulbs into stunning combinations of colours, shapes and textures even giving the collections names like Blackberry Smoke, Renoir, Dutch Masters, The Rembrandt, William Morris, Venetian, and Cinnamon Spice. Even the collection names are fashionable giving you an immediate feel for their colours and beauty. Much has changed at the brand Kenzo. However, when I started in fashion Kenzo was known for his colourful floral intarsia and jacquard knits and his loyal following went to his boutique specifically to purchase these. I sometimes feel that clients would love to have an instant garden. However, gardens evolve through time and to achieve the best results they cannot be rushed.

Naeem Khan’s SS2016 catwalk collection. Red floral embroidery on a tea coloured broderie lace. This dress has somewhat of an Asian inspired feel through the colours and the choice of flowers that look like peonies and cherry blossoms.


The ultimate form of flattery comes from having a plant named after you. Who would not want a ravishing rose named after them? Fashion designers and fashionistas often do get roses named after them. Look out for Rosa Christian Dior or Rosa Alexander’s Issie which was named after Isabella Blow, magazine editor, muse to milliner Philip Treacy and responsible for discovering models Stella Tenant and Sophie Dahl. The rose was chosen by her friend the late Alexander McQueen as a tribute to Isabella who loved roses. Dries Van Noten’s instagram page shows his passion for plants and flowers.

He is inspired by the colours and shapes of plants that grow in his garden. He often brings cut flowers from his garden to his atelier. Yves Saint Laurent bought Le Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh. It was his place of solitude. Yves restored the garden setting a trend for colour washed backdrops with Mediterranean planting. Gucci engaged Sarah Eberle to create a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2014. The garden was inspired by the Flora print, commissioned by Rodolfo Gucci in 1966 from Illustrator Vittorio Accornero. The garden caused a stir amongst the fashion set and a limited edition run of the Flora bag was reissued which completely sold out. John Galliano held a couture show for the House of Dior where the runway was a recreation of a garden. Let’s not forget the scents that fashion houses launch. These are created using the oils and resins of plants like roses, frangipani, frankincense, myrrh, jasmine, violets, and lavender.

A stunning dress designed by Sarah Burton for the Alexander McQueen SS2017 catwalk collection. The dress is covered in hundreds of tiny flowers that are applied onto a net tulle.

Where would fashion be without gardens?

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