Who’s Bugging You?

Season of Bugs

From left: Kenzo’s current campaign image, Alexander McQueen + Damien Hirst scarf, Lanvin silk top

Welcome to a season of bugs. Have designers abandoned their horticulturist for their favourite entomologist, given the swarm of insect-inspired clothing and communication designs? It’s not an unreasonable assumption when pest is preferred to petal.

Fashion’s appropriation of insects is not necessarily a reflection of consumers’ changing attitudes towards creepy-crawlies. For the longest time, flowers, rather than bugs, were used for print on fabrics or appliqué on garment. In fact, bugs have traditionally appeared as jewellery rather than as clothing. From ancient Egyptian scarab rings to 18th Century Swiss beetle timepieces to present-time Cartier bee pendants and Gucci ladybug purses, insects have been used as accent pieces rather than motifs to flock the body. Considered irksome in nature, but admired in fashion, especially when rendered in precious metals and stones, even unsightly bugs such as the cockroach and the wasp have found favour among those who like their accessories off-beat. However popular they may become, it is doubtful that women will embrace beetle-covered skirts with the same zeal as those festooned with flowers.

The beetle print of a Lanvin silk blouse

Unlike floral print, bug motifs do not convey a sense of economic supremacy even when both blooms and vermin are products of nature. A woman emblazoned with roses, for example, may suggest wealth or person in possession of private grounds in which rose bushes thrive or the possibility of adventure in exotic (and expensive) locales, usually of cooler clime where the flora can flourish. Insects, on the other hand, point to places of questionable hygiene—usually dark and dank—or, like in Harry Porter, a predilection for the dark arts. Flowers are associated with aromatherapy, while insects with potions and spells!

Insectival styles are here to stay for a while. Squeamish or not, let not some trends be the season’s bugbear.

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