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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The ‘Biophilia’ genre: Nature, consolation as self-expression

From tattoos to clothing to furnishings, more people are decorating their bodies and homes with nature themes. Designers and artists who spot this “biophilia” trend think it is a response to both the pandemic and concern about environmental destruction.

“Our collective yearning for nature and the consolation it brings, especially during the pandemic, has put a fixation on all things. “It’s popping up in all kinds of design spaces,” says Veronique Hyland, fashion features director for Elle magazine and author of the upcoming essay collection, “Dress Code” (HarperCollins, March 2022).

The trend “goes hand in hand with our growing awareness of sustainability,” she says.

“Biophilia” is a term coined in the 1980s by biologist Edward O. Wilson to describe the relationship of humans to the rest of the natural world.

Hyland suggests that as experiencing the outdoors has become a luxury, fewer people have access to green spaces or free time to enjoy them. That’s why people are taking nature with them, whether it’s a bracelet made of beach glass, a leather jacket made of mushroom fiber, or a tattoo of Dad’s favorite flower.

A Glance:

body art

“I’ve definitely seen a rise in people seeking nature-themed tattoos,” says Stephanie Cecchini, owner of Lady Luck Studio in Goshen, New York. “I think it is because people are putting more thought into their tattoos, and using representations of nature to reflect their own lives. A lot of clients are opting to have custom tattoos, While choosing flash art from the walls.”

Along with thistles, sunflowers and orchids, Cecchini has inked a lion, giraffe, bear, pet dog and a small lizard that looks 3-D.

Jillian Slavin of New Paltz, New York, loves trees, especially a white oak near her childhood home. When she recently decided to get her first tattoo, she sent a watercolor painting of a tree to Patricia Mazata, the artist at Hudson River Tattoos. Mazata created a flowing, artistic image that Slavin liked so much that he had large ink on his back.

“I can’t imagine any smaller place than this, or any other,” she says.

Stacy Billman of Savoy, Illinois, worked as a floral designer in college. During the nine months during the pandemic, she got a sleeve of flowers tattooed on her arm, as if she were making a flower arrangement. She started with her favorite flower, the ranunculus, then added the wax flower, peonies, orchids, proteas, tulips, anemone freesia, dahlias, lisianthus.

She finished with a sunflower on her wrist and the text: “No rain, no flowers.” She says the phrase reflects her personal growth during the pandemic.

“I can’t control the rain, but I can choose how I respond to it,” she says. “What is the world without flowers?”


“While nature’s intrusion into fashion used to be less literal—think botanical prints—we’re now seeing designers incorporate the natural world more into their work,” Elle’s Hyland says. This involves using more materials from nature.

For their Fall 2022 collection, personal policy designers Siung Q and Horan Lee were inspired by the Netflix documentary “Fantastic Fungi,” Hyland says, which showcased fungi’s deep and mysterious connection to the forest. Their new line pays homage to mycelium—a mushroom-based alternative to leather. They included keychains made from experimental foam made from dehydrated mushrooms.

“Mushrooms have been a big through-line in recent seasons, and have even found their way into luxury fashion,” Hyland says. “Last season in Paris, Stella McCartney presented a fungus-inspired show that included a bag covered in mylo mushroom leather. And last year, Herms teamed up with MycoWorks to create sustainable mushroom leather.

This spring in New York, Sarah Burton staged her Alexander McQueen show among piles of wood chips and celebrated the mycelium. Although she didn’t use the material — she said she’s still experimenting with it — she did create fungus in some of her looks in touches she sewed or woven.

Vogue magazine has reported on T-shirts, dresses, phone cases and necklaces with mushroom motifs worn by celebrities.

Hyland says Hood By Air designer Shayne Oliver worked with makeup artist Pat McGrath to transform the models into “human bouquets” for this season’s runway show, which are combined with 3-D floral makeup and pollen-covered looks. Completed with eyelashes made for.

Olivia Cheng of the New York-based label Dauphinette employed gold ginko leaves, dried rose buds, and even ethically sourced beetle feathers as adornments in her shows.

Jewelry & Accessories

Designer Katherine Weitzman launched her studio, based first in San Francisco and now in Hawaii, after being inspired by nature while traveling.

“Found objects and recycled metals play a big role,” she says, “and allow nature to make a connection between me and the person wearing my jewelry.”

She has necklaces made of tiny alpine flowers imprisoned in glass; Fan coral earrings cast in gold vermilion or recycled silver; And fern pendants from the forest floor are also cast in metal.

Weitzman thinks that biophilia is on trend because the idea of ​​being surrounded by nature and connecting with others enhances “mood, productivity, and creativity.”

Redbubble.com, which offers works by independent artists, has scarves with lapping waves, geese in flight, pheasant feathers and imagery of sun drenched in the woods, among other offerings. Yves DeLorme, purveyor of French luxury linens, says its new collection is inspired by nature’s dreams; Tapestry cosmetics and jewelry bags depict tropical plants, lemons and autumn forests.


The market for decorations with floral motifs abounds; Tiles printed to look like mineral or wood slabs; furniture that claims its origin as a piece of rock or tree; and rendering of sunbeams, storm clouds and celestial bodies on wallpaper and soft objects.

Rachel Magana, senior visual designer at Furnish, a West Coast-based furnishing subscription service, says that whenever she posts photos of rooms filled with greenery, such as “plant walls” in home offices, engagement goes up on her website.

“Biophilia definitely got more engaged during COVID, when more of us started becoming ‘plant parents’ and a newfound appreciation for making our homes a comfortable haven,” she says. “As a designer, and working at a company focused on creating a hot home space, biophilia is a part of every photoshoot, every ad, everything we do.”

Eileen Jimenez of Miami-based firm Sawyer Design says clients are seeking homes that offer a sense of serenity. “With everything that is happening in the world, one must escape the house. Being at home has also increased the trend of connecting with nature through design,” she says.

Jimenez employs “green tones such as emerald, olive, sea foam, and hunter” for wall paint or large furniture pieces. I also love adding aged wood. It not only adds character, but creates warmth as well. is.”

Sarah Jeffery, who has a design firm in New York, uses glass sliding doors and large windows to open up the exterior. “Nature, light, smell and fresh air seamlessly become part of the interior space,” she says.

“Biophilia improves quality of life,” she says. Especially after the pandemic lockdown, “we need to embrace the connection between nature and the environment in our interiors.”


New York-based Kim Cook writes regularly about homes and design for the Associated Press. She can be reached on Instagram @kimcookhome.

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