Game of thorns: How to wear flower crowns with style

07/18/2014 11:38 AM

07/18/2014 4:56 PM

In 2011, when Jasmin Larian was 21 and a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she started making silk floral crowns in her spare time for herself and her friends to wear out on the town.

Her designs were modest — white and pink roses on a simple wire frame — but they sparked immediate reactions from strangers.

“I was in the Jane Hotel one night wearing a crown,” Larian recalled. “This man walked up to me and offered to buy it off my head for $50 to give to his girlfriend. I didn’t want to sell it to him, but he persuaded me. Four months later, I moved back to Los Angeles and went to the Coachella festival, and saw a girl there wearing that same piece. She said she had bought it off someone else’s head for $100! That’s when I knew I had a business to start.”

She called her line of crowns Cult Gaia because, she said, “so many people coveted them that they felt like cult items, and Gaia is the goddess of the earth,” and started selling them in earnest via a website. Now she sources vintage silk blooms from all over the world and employs a staff of 10 at a studio in downtown Los Angeles to keep up with the demand for her handmade work.

Floral crowns, although they conjure visions of Renaissance maidens with hollyhocks and laurel in their hair or 1960s flower children weaving daisy chains, are having a decidedly new moment. Inspired by the bohemian, petal-adorned style of celebrities like Lana Del Rey, who is photographed more often than not with Technicolor roses atop her long locks, chic urbanites are increasingly drawn to flower headpieces as both a fashion statement and a novel way to reconnect with the natural world.

Fresh crowns have become a must-have whimsical element at fashion-world parties, with bright young florists enlisted to help guests construct their own botanic creations. Last month, at an H&M event in Brooklyn, Taylor Tomasi Hill of TTHBlooms made floral crowns for guests. At a tiki party at Reformation, the buzzy Manhattan vintage boutique, girls wore fresh orchid leis as headpieces. At Midsummer Night parties, young women wore pretty floral creations atop their heads to celebrate the bounty of the season.

“The craze really began with fashion bloggers,” said Bess Wyrick of Celadon and Celery, whose crown business took off after she crafted an avant-garde floral piece for Jeff Koons to wear for a cover of New York magazine. “They started requesting floral pieces for concerts or parties or going to the beach for the weekend. Now I am getting a lot of requests from women who just want to wear something special and unique.”

Part of the appeal of a fresh flower crown, Wyrick asserts, is that it cannot last.

“There’s something so exhilarating about that,” she said, “so connected to the earth.” Celadon and Celery charges $300 to $500 for a single piece.

Kelly Cobb, an owner of 2h flowers in New York, loves to wear fresh crowns and has her delivery girls don blooms in their hair, but she decided to make perennial silk crowns to give women pieces that look herbaceous but that don’t droop in the summer sun.

“We started getting a lot of requests for Coachella and other festival weekends,” Cobb said, “and I didn’t want to ship anything fresh, so I started working with silk, and people were surprised to see how beautiful the permanent crowns turned out.”

Cobb’s faux floral headpieces start at $38 for a small cluster of blossoms and can cost up to $150 for a large bouquet that mimics puffy peonies.

“Either way, the look is aggressively natural,” she said. “I find that it’s less a ’70s hippie throwback than a new look that combines edgy city wear with the shock of something really girlie and pretty.”

Rawan Rihani, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design who now focuses on floral art for Stone Fox Bride in Manhattan, makes both fresh and silk crowns. She believes the trend has grown out of a desire to reconnect with the environment in a digital age.

“You cannot help but feel like a goddess in a flower crown,” she said. “It’s just a small thing, but it changes your entire mentality when you wear it.”

It’s not all peace and love. Outside of special events, floral adornments can border on twee (or worse, juvenile) if not deployed correctly.

“I don’t recommend wearing them with a vintage farm dress,” Larian said. “What I want is for women to contrast the pieces with more sophisticated outfits so they don’t look like flower girls at a wedding.”

Dora Marra, who sells artificial floral headpieces inside Chelsea Market in New York, cautions restraint.

“I tell women to buy the small crowns if they want to wear them every day,” she said. “I also advise women over 40 to wear the crowns high, where the hairline meets the scalp. Any lower and you start to look like you’re trying to recapture your swinging youth.”

Although everyday garland wear is catching on, it is still niche and attracts the kind of woman who really wants to be seen.

“Wearing a flower crown is the biggest peacock!” Larian said. “It might be a virginal thing, but it attracts men like a magnet. Women, too. You have to be comfortable being the person in the room who everyone will stare at.”

One person who won’t be staring at the new crop of flower children is rocker Courtney Love, who said in a recent interview with style.com that she invented — and rejected — the trend years ago.

“I’m going to say something,” she said, “and I’m going to stand by it, which is this: Flower crowns are over.”

MAINTAINING YOUR CROWN

Even the heartiest fresh floral crowns will eventually droop, but here are some tips to keep them looking lively.

“Put them in the refrigerator!” said Bess Wyrick of Celadon and Celery. But not for longer than a few hours, or the flowers may go into shock.

Kelly Cobb of 2h flowers recommends misting the flowers with water on the hour, then hanging the crown to dry when you’re done wearing it. Dried crowns may be too fragile to wear, but they make pretty small wreaths for home decoration. If you want a fresh crown that you can wear when dried, skip flowers completely and ask for a crown of herbs, twigs and greens, all stronger stock that can last beyond its freshness date.

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