Oliver Spencer and Wolfgang Buttress champion sustainability with an immersive floral installation
Step into Oliver Spencer’s Berwick Street boutique in London, and you’ll be greeted with the fragrant aromas and the verdant landscape of a flowering meadow. This blooming scene is the result of the menswear designer’s collaboration with the English artist Wolfgang Buttress, on a contemplative and immersive floral installation titled Reverie, which uses sight, sound and smell to draw our attention to the beauty of the natural world.
‘I first came across Buttress’ work back in 2015, when his artwork Hive was installed at the World EXPO in Milan,’ Spencer says of the artist’s large-scale aluminium installation at the UK Pavillion, made up of 32 horizontal stacked layers evoking the structure of a huge honeycomb. The natural world is an integral inspiration behind Buttress’ designs – like 2015’s Luscent, based on the constellations of the stars – and for Reverie, he has created a wooden sculpture, which accommodates two people, and surrounds them with wildflowers.
Buttress also has a multisensory sensibility. Hive’s lattice sculpture glowed according to signals streamed live from a real bee hive, while 2017’s fibre optic Corona in Nottingham, built onto the facade of a building, changes according to the solar flare activity of two Nasa satellites, which monitor the surface activity of the sun. For Reverie, Spencer and Buttress teamed up with previous collaborators Haeckels and Hoare Lea to create immersive scents and sounds which evoke a rolling meadow. ‘The physical sculpture can almost be experienced as a lens or portal,’ Buttress explains. ‘One can internalise sound and scent in a way that can directly engage with emotions and memory. The idea can become transportive.’
For Reverie, Spencer and Buttress collaborated with Hoare Lea on a soundtrack evoking the British countryside. Photography: Kevin Luckhurst
Encouraging the contemplation of the world’s natural beauty, Reverie also aims to raise awareness around the textile industry’s need to practice sustainable manufacturing methods, that are less polluting to the environment.
‘We thought Buttress would be the perfect person to help us express this in an engaging way,’ Spencer says. His label has always paid close attention to sustainable practices. It uses organic cotton and high quality wool and the brand’s locations are powered by renewable sources of energy, such as wind turbines and tidal energy. The brand also favour linen, and flax features in Buttress’ installation. ‘It’s a fantastic fabric because of the lack of processing it needs,’ Spencer says. He is also planning to reassess the brand’s packaging, and to cut out single use plastic in the near future.
Amidst the chaos of Soho’s bustling retail scene, Reverie also provides a quiet moment for contemplation. ‘If you close your eyes’, Spencer says, ‘you really are taken elsewhere… something we’ll need to implement in more retail environments of the future.’