INFLUENCE: THE URBAN JUNGLE
Bountiful psychological studies over time have come to the same conclusion: houseplants heighten your mental wellbeing. From the soil-based, mood-boosting Mycobacterium vaccae microbe (nicknamed ‘outdoorphins’) to the physical benefits of purifying our air of toxins and the release of additional oxygen, cognitive performance, healing, and a sense of connectedness can be increased by keeping plants. Improve sleep, alleviate stress and anxiety, and most importantly: increase Instagram likes.
You heard me right. As nostalgia continues to make a major impact upon style and fashion, the big, billowing leaves of ‘70s and ‘80s living rooms have made a serious comeback – and influencers are using botanical beauty to stage images that are perpetuating a trend for all things lush. Independent design magazine, The Plant, has pioneered a hip houseplant aesthetic that has filtered through key influencers like Nuria Val (208k) and shaped the style of a new breed of ‘florist’, while Barcelona’s café-cum-exhibition space-cum-plant store, Espai Joliu, is the city’s first port of call for many a like-hungry Instagrammer.
Reintroducing retro houseplants like the Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) to contemporary interiors since 2010, The Plant’s quintessence has bled onto the mood-boards of cutting-edge designers and in turn into hotspots like Paris’s Hotel C.O.Q; places like those becoming backdrops for the Instagram elite, as the trend turns the full cycle. It’s a fascinating sequence of influence caught on a loop, and an example of how trends exist and evolve in the digital age.
“I think part of it just goes back to what makes you really happy. I think the only way that I’ve been able to exist in the city for so long is by bringing nature indoors,” explains ‘eco-model’ Summer Rayne Oakes (36.5k) of her decision to live with over 670 plants (and a chicken) in her Williamsburg apartment. Having trained as an environmental scientist, Pennsylvania-born Rayne Oakes arrived in New York with the fashion industry in her sights. “It was the idea of, wow, I think fashion could be a really cool way to disseminate environmental awareness,” she has admitted.
An eclectic addition to the world of hyphenated models, Rayne Oakes embodies the new notion that greenery and style go hand-in-hand, and spearheads a wave of influencers for whom plants are an indispensable part of their identity. Hilton Carter (55.3k); Jeannie Phan (32.3k); Jamie Song (51.1k); Kate Chilver and Craig Williams of Tribe and Us (37.7k) …Plant-first Instagram accounts who inspire a world of personality bloggers with their sumptuous botanical vistas.
“We think that plants help us reconnect to nature; this is a very urban desire”, explains Igor Josifovic, co-founder of online community Urban Jungle Bloggers (which boasts over half a million followers on Instagram), adding some context to this spiralling trend. “With the fast-paced and digitalised lifestyle in cities, this desire has grown. We do not have the time to go out and about into nature whenever we want, but we still want to feel and be surrounded by nature. The easiest way to incorporate this feeling in our daily lives is by adding houseplants and creating our own little urban jungle, a green refuge from the concrete and our buzzing smartphones.”
Josifovic also notes the correlation between plant-loving and other millennial trends like clean-living and digital-detoxing: “Plants help us pursue a healthier and better lifestyle. With plants we learn to be patient again. Growth is not achieved within minutes like our social media updates, but it is a fruit of ongoing care and love. The urban population has become more aware of a healthier lifestyle in general – think of outdoor activities, sports, healthier food. Plants come as a natural addition to this lifestyle.”
As healthier minds and bodies have changed the landscape of places like east London and Brooklyn with new wave gyms, juice bars, and hip general stores stocked with outdoor gear, so too has the craze for all things green. Like Barcelona’s Espai Joliu, stylish purveyors of flora are beautifying cities the world over. Spots like Satoshi Kawamoto’s Green Fingers Market in Manhattan; Chicago’s Sprout Home (“a lot of people come into the store asking which plants give off the best oxygen,” reveals founder Tara Heibel, confirming the relationship between health and horticulture); south London’s Instagram-inspired terrarium store, London Terrariums; and Los Angeles’s cult Cactus Store.
The latter, founded by designers-turned-succulent obsessives Max Martin, Carlos Morera, and Jeff Kaplon, made waves in New York this summer, transporting 1,500 or so of their coolest cacti to Manhattan for a pop-up in the shape of a 250-square-foot greenhouse. Self-confessed cactus geeks, the trio took their obsession to new heights this year, releasing a compendium that archives over 500 photographs, drawn from extensive research of 22 explorers and spanning 80 years. Entitled Xerophile: Cactus Photographs from Expeditions of the Obsessed, it is the first book of its kind, and an indicator that this is a trend extending way beyond like-hungry millennials.
The floral kingdom is big news,from art to fashion – “I love challenging the relationship between humans and nature”, says artist Rebecca Louise Law, who lets flowers decay in melancholic installations. “They grow, they bloom, they fade. You can’t hold on to them forever. Fashion is like that too, in a way”, observes Antwerp florist and Raf Simons collaborator, Mark Colle – but the lush tropical greenery and cacti here represent something more than the ephemerality of flowers. In reflecting a shift toward healthier living, this is a trend that also depicts our need to focus on a sustainable future.
Designed to demonstrate the way plants migrate in nature by allowing its vegetation to organically grow, a living wall created by landscape designers Harrison Green at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge serves as a kind of living interior; an opportunity to bring the shifting landscapes of the tropics to an urban locale. Eco-conscious, the living world is a common theme for 1 Hotels, and this sort of intervention shows how natural aesthetics will continue to creep into city life. Hotspots like Väkst in Copenhagen, and Amsterdam’s Bar Botanique are indicative of this style, and influencers are queuing up to be snapped in front of these sumptuous spectacles.
So go ahead, get your fingers green and watch the social love flood in, but remember to be responsible. Plants are for life, not just for Instagram. “Social media is packed with green images on Instagram and Pinterest”, says Igor Josifovic’s Urban Jungle Bloggers collaborator, Judith de Graaff. “However, we believe that plants should not be bought and added as trendy fashion items and discarded once you don’t like them anymore, or even worse, killing them. Plants should be an integral part of the home, making it not only nicer but also a better and healthier place to live. So we are absolutely supporting considerate and reflective plant shopping!”