In June last year, in the gardens of Milan’s Villa Reale, Silvia Venturini Fendi, of the fabled Roman fashion house, made gardening cool. Wholesome types might argue that it has always been cool. But Ms Fendi made an audience beyond that for want to spend big on duck boots and pruning gloves.
Her Spring/Summer 2020 collection, on sale now, took men “out of the virtual space and of the overwhelming immateriality that is so pervasive in the life of today”, according to the press release, and locked them instead in the potting shed. Alongside the gloves and boots there were boxy seed bags, dungarees, raffia sacks, floppy sun hats with beekeeper netting and even a watering can bag, which is especially voluminous and handy when the borders are parched.
A graphic motif that runs through the collection has been created by director and friend of the brand, Luca Guadagnino, who at the time was — and still is — basking in the critical afterglow of his own bucolic dreamscape, Call Me By Your Name (2017). That film brought verdant abundance, flora, fauna and the sexual potential of ripe fruit to the front of stylish minds, and Ms Fendi has shrewdly capitalised on it. Though she may have pushed the seed packet further than the rest, countless other designers have dabbled, too.
French designer Simon Porte Jacquemus set his show in a rolling lavender field in Provence, and even gave one or two models visible “farmer” tans (although they may have been actual farmers). There were flowers in abundance at the men’s shows of Louis Vuitton, Versace and Givenchy, while Dries van Noten, Dolce & Gabbana and Alexander McQueen all sprayed petals across their respective collections. As a fashion foil to the age of toxic masculinity, florals, it has transpired, are ground breaking.
Late last year, green fingers were further green-lit by Adidas, when it unveiled its “Gardening Pack”. Inspired by “lawn-based activities”, the capsule collection featured pocket-heavy technical tabards, zip-off work trousers and chunky gardening sandals. In a stroke of genius, homely TV pinup Alan Titchmarsh fronted the campaign, which somehow both mocked and validated the project all at once. Presumably Monty Don was unavailable.
Finally, Bruton, the town in Somerset which recently emerged as the epicentre of wholesome luxury, recently welcomed an outpost of Shoreditch institution, Labour And Wait, the one-stop-shop for all things tactile and Dickensian: Bronze Age pails, enamel overcoats, hobnail cutlery etc. Dalston in north-east London became home to Prick, the city’s first cacti and succulent plant-only shop. And that’s all the key demographics covered — fashionistas, hypebeasts, hipsters and bohemian gentry — so best just give in and put your name down now for an allotment.
This article first appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Esquire Magazine
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