Reflections of the Floraissance: Futures of Fashion and Art

By: Mackenzie King

The term Floraissance, coined by artist Andre Feliciano in 1984, rings of eclectic undertones: the renaissance, flowers, and electricity. 

Floraissance is defined as the shift from an art culture rooted in post-modern pop culture to a domain in which art reflects our battle with climate change in the age of the Anthropocene, the rapid globalization shaping our culture, and the trends of activism acting as turning points for Millennials and Gen X’ers. Under Feliciano’s definition, we no longer consider contemporary art an adjective, and instead may remember it as an era of the past, now entering into what is the Floraissance.

The Floraissance era considers art to be its own culture, rather than an isolated concept. This transformation occurs due to the fact that artists growing up in the Anthropocene have an inherently different relationship to the world than those before them. While the Holocene is used to describe our current geological time period, the Anthropocene is used to define the transition into human existence having an immense influence on our world and environments. The transition from the Holocene to the Anthropocene perhaps mirrors the transition from contemporary to florissance. Both detrimental and progressive impacts on the environment are being embedded in the work we create. When nature has nurtured us, artists growing up in the Anthropocene have become overtly exposed to the ways in which we both destroy and save our environment. 

The Floraissance argues that the transition from the Holocene to the Anthropocene not only makes itself integral in our artwork, but also allows us to transform art into collective cultures that transcend a piece or exhibit. This concept is especially visible in the role of art in activism – something now more familiar in our global world than ever before. The Center for Artistic Activism out of New York defines artistic activism as “a practice aimed at generating Æffect: emotionally resonant experiences that lead to measurable shifts in power.”

In recognizing the ways in which emotional experiences progress physical or societal changes we can look at the 1.4 million young individuals who took part in the school strikes for climate action in March of 2019. These activists represent a new generation stepping forward with protest, voices, creativity, and collectivity. The Center for Artistic Activism also promotes the use of artistic inclination to create a culture of creativity, accessibility, and new innovative solutions to long lived problems. On their website they state, “Art gives us the vision. Activism helps us make the road to get there.” 

It is known that the fashion world is the world’s second largest polluter globally; therefore, the next generation of artists and designers must overcome the imminent problem of mass waste by producing a frontier of sustainable mass practices. The market is now abundant with products like designer shoes made from recycled plastics, sustainability grown organic cotton tees, and ethically produced luxury handbags. However, there remains continued work to be done on the global commitment to exclusively sustainable, ethical, and accessible consumer products. 

These endeavors do not reverse the fact that millions of tons of waste are produced by the fashion industry every year, or the added fact that most mass retailers still do not practice fair labor. The fashion world and its consumers are beginning to realize their  impact on local ecosystem quality, freshwater consumption, and carbon emissions, igniting  a sustainable revolution. The 1990s marked the first of such sustainable revolutions. In an essay published by the New York Times in 1990, the author noted that saving the planet was “very much in Vogue”. It is true that in the nineties, designers constantly weaved ‘ecological themes’ like natural materials, the outdoors, and earth tones into magazine covers and runways.  Ready to wear brands began promoting ''clothes with a conscience,'' slogan tees with environmental messaging, along with other commitments to greening their production process along with a higher price tag. These visual discussion about responsible consumption and sustainable garments in the nineties launched an outcry of consumer-based activism and awareness in the years following that continues into today.

 In photographic exploration, I set out with a team of creative to explore the consumer fashion industry in intersection with the Floraissance. The resulting series is entitled “Reflections of the Floraissance.” This series seeks to mention the ways in which the natural world grows throughout our seemingly structured and ritualistic art experiences like photography and fashion. 

Our photographic piece (see slideshow above) seeks to draw attention to these details and demands the acknowledgement of the natural world as part of our skin, our clothes, our bodies, and our culture.  We are stating that we are a generation of new growth, renaissance, and change. The photographic artifact is but a reflection of the collectivity and acceptance of a new art culture that curated the final result. 

The effect was not only the imagery, but the experience of young artists, wardrobe curators, makeup illustrators, hair stylists, and photographers, all brought together by a passion for making. When sitting together in a sunlight studio sweating through an adventure of colorful visuals, it was clear--we feel most alive when we are creating in collectivity. While delicately weaving florals into a model’s hair, hair stylist Nyree Murray said mid-discussion “Anything can be church. This is like church, a gathering to create something we love together.” Murray’s statement reflects what a changing art era gives us the opportunity to do: acknowledge our presence in the spaces we inhabit, connect through collaboration, unravel tribulations with vulnerability, and to grow ourselves and each other.  

PHOTOGRAPHY & DIRECTION // Mackenzie King

COLOR & RETOUCHING // Mackenzie King

MODELS // Fan Banks & Eli

HAIR // Nyree Murray

MAKEUP // Jenna van der Merwe

STYLIST & EDITOR // Alana Valko

FEATURE EDITOR // Sophie Cloherty