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Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning the Rose exhibition

  • Written byJ Igiri
  • Published date14 April 2022
Ashish Spring Summer 2017 © IMAXtree

Amy de la Haye, Director of the research Centre for Fashion Curation at London College of Fashion, has co-curated the Garden Museum’s Spring/Summer 2022 exhibition alongside renowned set designer and UAL alumnus Simon Costin. Running until 19 June, ‘Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning the Rose’ explores the use of roses in fashion from the Victorian era to today, with designs from Alexander McQueen, Ashish and Comme des Garçons amongst other historic and modern collections.

We spoke with Amy to get an insider perspective on the display, and find out the inspiration for this collaborative exhibition.

Phoebe Cummings, Study - Roses (clay) 2022
What was your inspiration for this exhibition? What motivated you to co-curate it?

Most of my written and curated projects are inspired by an item, group of clothing or documents. This exhibition was motivated by three very different sources:

I regularly contribute to SHOWstudio panels and events, and am author of their ‘Fashion in a Time of Crisis’ platform. I have always loved Nick Knight’s images of roses taken on his iPhone on Sundays; when he showed me his portfolio of printed images, I was swept away by its sublime beauty.

Another source of inspiration is my mother – the real rose lover and gardener.

And, thirdly, two lines from a T S Eliot poem Burnt Norton (1936), had moved me and I knew I would do something with them one day.

…for the roses, had the look of flowers that are looked at

— T.S. Eliot | Burnt Norton (1936)

Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning the Rose is a distinctive iteration of a show I co-curated at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) last year called Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion. This was delayed because of Covid – I was lucky it wasn’t cancelled as so many projects were. It became the Spring show, post lockdown, which worked wonderfully well on so many levels. MFIT have a major fashion collection of international significance and so this was the main focus. Sadly, my loans were cancelled due to Covid.

Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning the Rose

Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning the Rose came about following my helping, in a small way, the incredible, sustainable floral designer Shane Connolly with the Constance Spry exhibition he curated at the Garden Museum. Following this I made an approach and they managed to fit my show in. It is very different from the MFIT show. I was delighted when set designer, curator and museum director Simon Costin said he would like to work with me. It has been a wonderful, inspiring and fun collaboration! This is a much smaller exhibition, staged in an independent museum, addressed to a very different audience.

What do you hope visitors will take from the experience?

We describe our show as an anthology – which is a word taken from the Greek anthologia for flower gathering; it is personal, eclectic and explores multiple narratives.

Running throughout are narratives that explore the tensions between wild and cultivated, natural and unnatural and perceptions thereof. It raises many issues and themes – including suffragette hunger strikes in 1916, the imperative to support local roses grown in season, the exquisitely beautiful, fragile, raw clay roses crafted especially for the show by Phoebe Cummings, roses and identity to flower sellers, artificial flower makers as ‘invisible’ labour, and the most beautiful hat designed by Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen’s ‘Sarabande’ collection.

We hope visitors will find it engaging, poignant, amusing, inspiring and thought provoking, and are delighted that feedback so far has proved this to be the case.

I hope they might also consider the project as an example of a wonderful collaboration.

sepia portrait of a woman seated on a chair
Studio photographic portrait of a seated woman wearing evening dress and a profusion of roses in her lap, American, 1920s.
Can you tell us about your favourite pieces from the exhibition and what they represent?

I bought this item on eBay as it was so shocking.

Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) lapel pin, enamel engraved on bone, 1916. 

The rose has long been used as a symbol of political protest. Here the pink rose design contrasts sharply with the stark declaration that marked the hunger strike by suffragettes held in Holloway women’s prison (London). Their crime: protesting for the right for women to vote.

Also, Tim Walker’s amazing photograph which forms our lead image:

Primrose Archer Dressed In Flowers From My Garden, Hackney, 2020 © Tim Walker Studio | Image used with permission from Tim Walker.

Tim Walker, Primrose Archer Dressed in Flowers from my Garden, Hackney, archival pigment print (limited edition of 10), 2020.

Acclaimed photographer Tim Walker’s modern rose femme fleur exemplifies the theme of this exhibition – the fashioned rose, wild and cultivated. Roses radiate throughout Walker’s work.

Other fantastical compositions encompass sexual, romantic, culinary, domestic, fairy-tale, beauty, queer and surreal roses.

What resources can you recommend for those who want to explore the topic further?
off white waistcoat with rose pattern embroidery
Waistcoat, 1840s, embroidered silk with cotton back, private collection

Amy de la Haye and Simon Costin’s exhibition Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning the Rose runs at the Garden Museum from 16 March – 19 June 2022. Keep a look out on LCF's Instagram for details of upcoming giveaways for current students.

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