Every season, SHOWstudio invite an artist to illustrate their favourite moments from the runways. Following months of digital fashion weeks, and with London Fashion Week just around the corner, we decided to mix things up for A/W 21. Emily Davies, founder of the creative floral design studio Athlyn, will be whizzing up a series of unique installations across the five days, responding to collections from the likes of Matty Bovan and Simone Rocha. Ready, set, bloom!
Launched in 2019, Athlyn create floral pieces and set design. In recent months, they've collaborated with the legendary Tim Walker for Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY, Huishan Zhang, and created the custom 'flower suit' for M.I.A's appearance in Travis Scott's music video Franchise. Here at SHOWstudio, we've long been enamoured by flora. Alongside Nick Knight's on-going Roses series, we've hosted an exhibition on the flower as a motif in design, given a twist to the floral trend in an editorial shoot with Kate Moss and invited fashion designers to create floral-inspired garments. Now, we're flipping things on their head. Athlyn will be using fresh blooms to respond directly to the most enamouring fashion from the A/W 21 season.
SHOWstudio spoke to Davies ahead of the project to find out more about Athlyn and what we can expect.
SHOWstudio: How did you come to work in floral design and found Athlyn?
Emily Davies: About six, or maybe seven years ago. I had a trial shift at this plant shop. On the day I went in, they happened to be styling a wedding. I remember just being so drawn to the flowers in the room. I was only allowed to work with the foliage; the flowers were all sat on a workbench out of reach, and I wanted to interact with them so badly. There was this real, visceral thrill whenever I was able to get my hands on flowers. It’s rarer now, but I still feel it. Back then I would forage from around South London and practice making these arrangements full of weeds and little wildflowers until I could afford to buy them for myself. I decided it was all I wanted to do, so I decided to make a professional of it. I'm self-taught. It's definitely a vocation, not a job...
SS: What will you be looking for in the London Fashion Week collections to create your installation?
ED: The textures, patterns, fabrics and forms. I want to try to pull out small details from the collections to build upon the sensory narrative of the designer's story. Whether that's rooted in their home landscapes or the more abstract patterns and bodily senses which I think can be deconstructed and re-formed with elements of nature.
SS: What was it that drew you to the designers you have selected from the preliminary schedule? (Matty Bovan, Victoria Beckham, 16Arlington, Simone Rocha and Nensi Dojaka)
ED: With all of these brands' aesthetics, I feel like there's a 'naturalness' - a softness but also strength and a toughness. I like that friction. It's reflected in my floral works too, and has become a kind of signature.
SS: What are some of your favourite blooms to work with and why?
ED: Garden roses. They’re uniquely alluring. It’s their delicacy and their scent, the more mottled and weirdly grown the better. I love London in the summer, because everyone has roses in their front gardens. I love Gloriosa too, it looks like flames - and it’s poisonous and toxic, but is also well known to be used to heal all sorts of maladies. I never really get tired of anthuriums, I love how people react to them.
SS: How does your creative practice suit working with fashion?
ED: Even if we don’t realise it, designs, textures and patterns have usually emerged from, or are inspired by nature in one form or another. In flowers, like fashion, I'm taking something to break it down and re-imagining it as something new. Both are hands-on, maker's practices: there's so much manipulation with floral arranging, the same way you might work with fabric or other natural materials. It's about incorporating traditional techniques to deconstruct and re-build a new form, a new idea.