“Biophilic” style: nature as self-expression | Life
From tattoos to clothing to furniture, more and more people are adorning their bodies and homes with themes drawn from nature. Designers and artists who see this “biophilia” trend believe it’s a response to both the pandemic and anxiety over environmental destruction.
“Our collective longing for nature and the comfort it brings, especially during the pandemic, has led to a fixation on all things earthly. It pops up in all kinds of design spaces,” says Veronique Hyland, Director fashion articles for Elle magazine and author of an upcoming collection of essays, “Dress Code” (Harper Collins, March 2022).
The trend “goes hand in hand with our growing awareness of sustainability,” she says.
“Biophilia” is a term made popular in the 1980s by biologist Edward O. Wilson to describe the connection humans have with the rest of the natural world.
Living in the outdoors has become something of a luxury, suggests Hyland, with fewer people having access to green spaces or free time to enjoy them. So people take nature with them, whether it’s a beach glass bracelet, a mushroom fiber leather jacket, or a tattoo of dad’s favorite flower.
“I’ve definitely seen an increase in people wanting nature-themed tattoos,” says Stephanie Cecchini, owner of Lady Luck Studio in Goshen, NY. “I think it’s because people put more thought into their tattoos and use the depiction of nature to reflect their own lives. There are a lot more customers who choose to have custom tattoos done rather than just choose some flash art on the walls.
In addition to thistles, sunflowers and orchids, Cecchini has inked lions, giraffes, bears, pet dogs and a small 3D-looking lizard.
Jillian Slavin of New Paltz, NY loves trees, especially a white oak near her childhood home. When she recently decided to get her first tattoo, she sent Hudson River Tattoo artist Patricia Mazzata a watercolor of the tree. Mazzata crafted a flowing, artful image that Slavin liked so much she had it inked large, on her back.
“I couldn’t imagine it smaller, or in any other place,” she says.
Stacy Billman of Savoy, Illinois worked as a floral designer in college. During the nine months of the pandemic, she got a sleeve of flowers tattooed on her arm, approaching it as she would a flower arrangement. She started with her favorite flower, ranunculus, then added waxflower, peonies, orchid, protea, tulips, anemones, freesia, dahlia, lisianthus.
She finished with a sunflower on her wrist and the text: “No rain, no flowers”. The phrase reflects her personal growth during the pandemic, she says.
“I can’t control the rain, but I can choose how I react to it,” she says. “What is a world without flowers? »
“Whereas nature’s forays into fashion used to be less literal — think botanical prints — we’re now seeing designers incorporate the natural world more into their work,” says Elle’s Hyland. This includes using more materials from nature.
For their Fall 2022 collection, Private Policy designers Siying Qu and Haoran Li were inspired by the Netflix documentary “Fantastic Fungi,” says Hyland, which highlighted mushrooms’ deep and mysterious connection to the forest. Their new line pays homage to mycelium, a mushroom-based alternative to leather. They included keychains made from the experimental foam made from dehydrated mushrooms.
“Mushrooms have been a big trendline over the past few seasons and have even found their way into luxury fashion,” Hyland says. “Last season in Paris, Stella McCartney presented a mushroom-inspired runway show that included a Mylo mushroom leather bag. And last year, Hermès partnered with Mycoworks to create sustainable mushroom leather.
This spring in New York, Sarah Burton staged her Alexander McQueen show amid piles of woodchips and celebrated the mycelium too. Although she hasn’t used the material — she said she’s still experimenting with it — she did conjure up mushrooms in stitched or woven touches in some of her looks.
Vogue magazine reported on mushroom-patterned t-shirts, dresses, phone cases and necklaces worn by celebrities.
Hyland says Hood by Air designer Shayne Oliver worked with makeup artist Pat McGrath for this season’s show to transform the models into “human bouquets,” complete with 3D floral makeup and pollen-covered lashes.
Olivia Cheng of New York-based brand Dauphinette used gold gingko leaves, dried rosebuds and even ethically-sourced beetle wings as embellishments in her show.
Designer Catherine Weitzman launched her studio, first in San Francisco and now based in Hawaii, after being inspired by nature while traveling.
“Found objects and recycled metals play a big role,” she says, “and help create a connection between nature, myself, and the person wearing my jewelry.”
She has necklaces made of tiny alpine flowers captured in glass; cast coral fan earrings in gold vermeil or recycled silver; and fern pendants from the forest floor, also cast in metal.
Weitzman thinks biophilia is trendy because the idea of being surrounded by nature and connecting with others improves “mood, productivity, and creativity.”
Redbubble.com, which features work by independent artists, offers scarves with images of lapping waves, flying geese, pheasant feathers and dappled sunlight in the woods, among other offerings. French luxury linen supplier Yves DeLorme says its new collection is inspired by nature’s dreams; there are tapestry cosmetics and jewelry bags depicting tropical plants, lemurs and autumn forests.
The decoration market is full of floral motifs; tiles printed to look like mineral or wood slabs; furniture that boasts of its origin as a piece of rock or tree; and renderings of sunbeams, storm clouds, and celestial bodies on wallpaper and textiles.
Rachel Magana, senior visual designer for Fernish, a West Coast-based home furnishings subscription service, says engagement on their website increases every time they post photos of green-filled rooms, such as “vegetable walls” in home offices.
“Biophilia certainly became more ingrained during COVID, when we started becoming ‘plant parents’ and found a new appreciation for making our homes a relaxing haven,” she says. “As a designer and working at a company focused on creating a warm domestic space, biophilia is part of every photo shoot, every ad, everything we do.”
Eilyn Jimenez of Miami-based Sire Design says customers demand homes that feel calm. “With everything going on in the world, home should be an escape. Being at home has also spurred the trend of connecting with nature through design,” she says.
Jimenez uses “green tones like emerald, olive, seafoam and hunter for wall color or large furniture. I also like to add distressed wood. It not only adds character, it evokes warmth.
Sarah Jefferys, who owns a design firm in New York, uses sliding glass doors and large windows to open up interiors to the outdoors. “Nature, light, smells and fresh air are an integral part of the interior space,” she says.
“Biophilia improves quality of life,” she says. Especially after the pandemic shutdowns, “we needed to embrace the connection to nature and the environment in our interiors.”