Why The Anthurium Is Fashion’s Favourite Flower
The anthurium lily is no shy and retiring flower. The red of its leaves is bold, bright and glossy. The shape is sculptural and curved; a phallic yellow stem at its centre. Part alien, part tropical fantasy, part elegant sculpture, it’s a bloom for those whose taste goes beyond roses or wildflowers.
It makes sense, then, that fashion has fallen for the anthurium, sometimes also called the flamingo flower. A replica was pride of place on the Loewe catwalk for SS23, and red and white versions sprouted from the brand’s tops and bags. They were tucked into waistbands at Ludovic de Saint Sernin. A shade of anthurium red was used for the set at Louis Vuitton.
And now it has bloomed off the catwalk. Zendaya and Emily Ratajkowski have since worn the Loewe designs, and Kendall Jenner sported an anthurium around her neck. It’s also been spotted at the new flagship Glossier store in New York. If the monstera plant has long provided a selfie background, the anthurium could well be its 2023 replacement.
These new fans join a rich history of its admirers. Natural modernist Georgia O’Keeffe painted the anthurium in 1923, bringing her lyrical vision to this attention-seeking (and getting) flower. American artist Jim Dine (known for his painterly take on Pop Art) painted them in black and white, bringing a haunting feel. Robert Mapplethorpe did the same – his images of the plant’s leaves look like specimen photography. Guy Bourdin, the iconic French fashion photographer, went for the fecund. His 1986 image, foregrounding an enormous anthurium in an image of a topless swimmer is pure sexy, summer joy.
With endorsement from these early adopters, it’s no surprise the anthurium became part of a highly curated florist look in the 1970s and ’80s – seen at spots including Mr Chows and Studio 54.
But no creative is using the anthurium purely because it looks great. Its symbolism is a big factor, too. The red leaves and that yellow stem often stand in for love and lust; they are sometimes said to represent Cupid’s arrows in Greek myth. To complicate the meanings behind these images, anthuriums are contradictory. They stand for love but are toxic if eaten by humans or animals. They are famously tricky to look after but – if you are successful – they will purify your air for you. Whether it’s the look or the symbolism that appeals, now is the time to try to grow one. Just be sure to mist regularly – and keep them away from the cat.
Lauren Cochrane is a senior fashion writer at The Guardian and author of The Ten