In this era of air-conditioned comfort a handheld fan is a rather quaint artefact, albeit one that taps into the individualism, nostalgia and quirkiness that characterise fashion’s current mood. But now a contemporary take on the accessory has us all a-flutter. Fern Fans is a new venture from London-based fashion PR Daisy Hoppen and Amanda Borberg, a Danish textile designer.
The pair had been looking for a reason to collaborate for some time, having met two years ago through mutual friend Sophie Bille Brahe, the jewellery designer. Hoppen’s personal collection of vintage and antique fans provided the necessary inspiration. An essential item for Hoppen whether on one of her family’s frequent trips to Majorca, in a sticky London summer, or out at a party, she was perplexed as to why nobody was making modern versions of something at once practical and evocative.
The wood in each design is expertly hand carved
On researching the project they discovered a ‘language’ of fans, a type of semaphore that allowed for silent and subtle communication. ‘It has been embellished over the years and is in no way historically perfect,’ says Hoppen. ‘But it’s a fun way to look at communicating – in theory you can flirt, repel and signal with your accessory.
Hoppen visited the Fan Museum in Greenwich and looked at historical illustrations of women with fans. She also turned to the photography archive of her father, the London gallerist Michael Hoppen, where Karl Blossfeldt’s striking botanical images in particular influenced the sophisticated aesthetic that Borberg has so eloquently realised. Think subtle design details like gradient shading and a Farrow & Ball-inspired colour palette.
Fern Fans are made in a traditional Valencia factory where Borberg’s floral designs are hand-painted and the wood for the patterns is hand-carved. The fourth-generation factory owners have ‘been very supportive and positive from the beginning,’ says Borberg. ‘I think they like that we’re young but just as excited about fans as they have always been. ‘That sense of tradition is important to the finished product, which is practical – sturdy, foldable and easy to carry – yet precious. A contemporary take on something charmingly antiquated.’ How refreshing.