The opening spread of our W*168 March issue 'Heavy Petal' shoot, inspired by how designers have interpreted floral motifs in their collections this season, as well as by Japanese art during the Edo period
Clockwise from top: Scroll painted with flowers by Tawaraya Sotatsu and inscribed with poems by Hon'ami Koetsu, courtesy: stlukesguild.com; set by AMO / OMA for the Miu Miu S/S 2013 show; 'Flowers' by Nobuyoshi Araki, courtesy: wilderquarterly.com; set in different-coloured wood designed by design studio Diplomates for Damir Doma's S/S 2013 womenswear show, courtesy: Diplomates; one of Marton Perlaki's images for The Room magazine, courtesy: Marton Perlaki, The Room; Tokonoma of 'Tanin' in Kyoto; a rustic tatami floor hut was designed by revered tea master Sen no Rikyu in the 16th Century that was used for chanoyu (tea ceremonies), courtesy: columbia.edu
Clockwise from top: Handscroll with flowers and poems (circa 1600-1630) by Tawaraya Sotatsu and Hon'ami Koetsu, courtesy: Corbis Images; jacket with embroidered flowers by Christian Dior, courtesy: Style.com; black and white photography of an Iris by Edward Steichen; Incense paper decorated with plum blossoms on gold background by Ogata Korin, courtesy: Modern Tokyo Times; outfit with laser-cut Japanese flowers by Sharon Wauchob, courtesy: Style.com
Clockwise from top: Jacket embroidered with flowers by Christian Dior; dress with printed flowers by Prada; dress with flower appliqué by Rue du Mail, all courtesy: Style.com; scroll with chrysanthemums and poems by Hon'ami Koetsu, courtesy: Tokyo National Museum; embroidered jacket by Dries van Noten, courtesy: Style.com; Scroll with flowers and poems (circa 1600-1630) by Tawaraya Sotatsu and Hon'ami Koetsu, courtesy: Corbis Images
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My inspiration for this story came after seeing how designers had interpreted florals this season. I noticed that, as well as the usual shapes and colours, there were more graphic and minimalist florals, which reminded me of Japanese art during the Edo period and the influence of the samurai elite and its culture.
During the Edo period (1615-1868), Japan was ruled by the military classes. Their ideals were virtue and loyalty, as well as the canons of Zen Buddhism. These ideals gave rise to a new aesthetic, rooted in the beliefs of fastidiousness, simplicity and the beauty of the evanescence of time.
The term wabi-sabi best describes the art of the period. Originally meaning 'lonely', 'sad' and 'withered', it came to define the complex set of aesthetic values that saw beauty in the rustic, imperfect and worn down by time. This gave rise highly ritualised pursuits such as tea and incense ceremonies, poetry and Noh theatre and all the arts that surrounded these.
Rinpa, an artistic style created in Kyoto around the 17th century by Hon'ami Koetsu and Tawaraya Sotatsu, and consolidated by brothers Korin and Kenzan Ogata later on, was rooted in the same aesthetic principles, centred around the melancholy and ephemeral beauty of nature and the seasons.
Rinpa artists used these in exciting new ways by extracting elements such as flowers and other motifs and arranging them in groups and placing them on empty backgrounds (gold and silver were used widely) to give a sense of dynamism and vitality. It is this use of motifs as graphic, decorative elements that I wanted to look at. Contemporary designers have used these types of floral patterns on prints, cut-out shapes, embroidery or appliqués.
To see the full Heavy Petal shoot, pick up the Style Special issue W*168 (March 2013) or download the iPad edition