Written By Abi Buller
‘’Florals for spring? Groundbreaking.’’ This is from everyone’s favorite Devil Wears Prada villain, Miranda Priestley. Perhaps she has a point about the overuse of flowers in fashion prints, but a radical take on the idea of floral design may be just the answer to sway even the harshest critic.
Designer Stevie Famulari, a native New Yorker, challenged this traditionally popular print by creating five dresses from real, living plants. These park-inspired dresses are not only visually beautiful creations, but are also functionally impressive in their ability to grow, flower, and reseed themselves. These artistic creations each contain 5,000 living buds which bloom delicately on the outside of a waterproof lining, which make the dresses wearable—though certainly not at the height of practicality.
WHY LIVING DRESSES?
The designer’s inspiration came from an appreciation of botanical areas such as those in Central Park and Versailles. And her curiosity led her to question if the beauty from these parks could be translated into her craft of designing unusual dresses. The collection is titled ‘The Green Line Project: Garden Parties,’ and includes an opera gown, an herb gown, a lawn coat, a wedding gown, and an air-plant dress.
Famulari evidently had a desire to combine existing sartorial silhouettes with her unique choice of ‘materials’. The opera gown takes the classic bustier style and full skirt design of a dress suitably worn by an opera singer and populates the shape with cascading trestles of greenery broken up by lilac and fuchsia buds. A design appropriate for a ball or a dinner party, the herb gown is visually similar to a timeless shape of a ‘gown’, and could be referred to as ‘evergreen’ in its aesthetic style and choice of botanical life.
The lawn coat is a floor-length masterpiece of full-bodied, perfectly mown grass in a sleeveless, low-cut style similar to a fashionable dress. Inspired by the kind of statement desired from a traditional garment worn for nuptials, the wedding gown features a billowing train adorned with striking red flowers, all encased with a traditional lace trim. The most revealing of all the designs, the air-plant dress is flirtatiously short with an almost unruly curation of greenery forming a style similar to a bodycon dress, suitably worn by a fun-loving party-goer.
PIECES OF ART
Fargo’s Plains Art Museum housed the live dresses collection in 2012. It was the first living piece exhibited there. Primarily considered as pieces of art, Falumari’s living garments–a combination of science and fashion–were helped along by a team of landscape engineers who were researching the potential of growing seeds on vertical surfaces. An organic collaboration stemmed from a university lecture. Famulari obtained support and sponsorship from Dan Larsen, a geotextile and erosion control expert. Access to this knowledge, combined with fearless creativity and a spontaneous approach is what ensured the project grew into something successful.
BUT, HOW, YOU ASK?
Using a felt-like fabric which creates its own eco-system, the live dresses exist through a combination of flowers including poppies, daisies, violets, zinnias, and baby sprouts, among others. While Famulari likes to be as actively engaged in her projects as possible, she also owes credit to the knowledgeable florists at Shotwell Floral who willingly water soil-less plants two to three times a day. The floral wizards at Shotwell note that the project was a learning curve for them too, even after years of working in the industry.
It’s no wonder, really, that Famulari is full of eccentric ideas which seem to challenge the norm. With a job history including roles as varied as a pastry chef and landscape architecture professor, Famulari seems to thrive in her ability to introduce elements from a variety of industries into her fashion pieces. Prior to her ‘Garden Parties’ project, the designer also dabbled in the world of culinary delights, with creations including a chocolate dress, displayed at several New York chocolate conventions. When reflecting on her personality, Famulari describes herself as, intelligent, versatile, and flexible–all qualities which have lent themselves to her portfolio of sensory experimentations.
Often faced with questions surrounding the ‘point’ of such outlandish and impractical designs, Famulari always responds confidently with the sentiment that her creations aren’t intended to be for anything, except for the love of art.
Stevie Famulari, Gds teaches and designs public art, phytoremediation, stormwater management, landscape architecture history, and specialty green courses. Her research in design explores the relationship, extension, and application of green designs to other professional fields. Stevie’s PhD, ABD research is at RMIT. She received her Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry with a concentration in Fine Arts from Syracuse University. Her Bachelors of Fine Arts is from New York University.
Ms. Famulari’s works explores the relationship, extension, and application of green designs to other professional fields. Her work focuses on greening designs and practices to create healthy spaces for living and working. With the science of phytoremediation applied to the art of landscape design, her works have aesthetic beauty as well as healing properties for both people and the environment.