Depending on where you sit, green may be the colour of money, of envy, of summer grass or of a Rousseau painting. But it has rarely been the colour of fashion – largely because it has rarely been a colour anyone wants anywhere near their face. This season, though, green isn’t just for grass: it’s for garments too.
From Burberry’s apple green pleated tea dress to Issa’s palm print top and trousers, to Jonathan Saunders’ malachite-coloured psychedelic paisleys, the summer collections are an ode to the eco-rainbow.
“Green goes with everything – it’s nature’s black!” says Charlotte Dellal of the London-based luxury shoe label Charlotte Olympia. Dellal has not only previously designed whole collections in green, her Leaf Me Alone platform sandals (£815, reduced to £408 in the summer sale) are made from suede leaves in subtle gradations of the colour.
Blame it on the publicity surrounding last month’s Rio+20 conference – where speakers included representatives of Gucci, Vivienne Westwood and H&M – or simply growing awareness of the need to protect (and promote) our environment, but fashion has woken up to the aesthetic, as well as ethical, power of green.
“I think people are becoming much more open to green not just being a preppy colour,” says Tom Mora, head of women’s design at J Crew, which offers everything from cashmere sweaters to maxi skirts in Kelly green this season. Indeed, Mora points out, instead of the country club, he was “inspired by the intense, vibrant colours of the ocean”.
Joseph Altuzarra’s collection featured every green from emerald to Kelly to forest, inspired, he says “by tropical plants, birds and nature”. His hooded sheer parka (now £560 on Net-a-Porter) is as bright as a leaf, and the spring tropical-print silk crêpe de Chine dress (now £364) has a wonderful lush green background. “We took all of these photographs, collaged them together and oversaturated the colour to create something new”, he says. “The base of both of our tropical prints were palm leaves. We wanted to do something Hawaiian-inspired, but kitschy. We took the green of the palm leaves and made it neon in colour so it looked hyper-realistic.”
Of course, not every green suits everybody. Redheads can look stunning in emerald or Kelly, but people with olive skin should avoid lime or darker greens. Those with pale skin should opt for a pastel.
“I love green, but I would only wear it with a deep dark tan,” says accountant Eva Meisels – “as far as my very Ashkenazi complexion allows, that is. You wear green on pale skin and you look like a heroin-addicted ghost.” She does admit there were some striking green pieces in the summer collections. “Bottega Veneta have a wonderful green bustier dress. I would definitely wear that – but not to the office.”
Alex Radford, a junior buyer at Anthropologie Europe, suggests wearing green as a “pop” – an accent – rather than a head-to-toe statement. “Green is one of our bestselling colours,” she says. “We find that our customer likes bright shots of colour to integrate into her wardrobe and lift her classics.” According to Tom Mora, Kelly green works best with navy, pink and orange or, if you really want to be fashion-forward, as a counterpoint to nude tones or beiges to add piquancy.
“I think keeping it simple is key,” says Marigay McKee, Harrods’ chief merchant. “For spring/summer 2012 Chloé paired fabulous green trousers with a crisp white blouse. It looked incredibly divine and Parisian.”
When is a colour like a smell? Either when you have synaesthesia or when you sniff Comme des Garçons’ new perfume, Amazingreen.
In some ways Amazingreen is a departure for CdG, which is known for opaque, spicy odeurs such as its eponymous debut (the one still worn by designer Rei Kawakubo), and its incense series, or difficult/abstruse scents, such as 888 and Odeur 53, with its notes of dust, glass, metal and acetone. Amazingreen, by contrast, is eminently wearable, and while there are some typically unexpected notes, such as gunpowder and silex, the predominant fragrance recalls jungle vegetation and tropical scents.
“There wasn’t a specific brief,” says Adrian Joffe, Comme des Garçons’ chief executive. “We met the perfumer [Jean-Christophe Herault] and talked about the previous fragrances made by Comme des Garçons Parfums. We had the 888, which had a very strong mineral aspect, and Wonderwood, which had a very strong natural aspect. Jean-Christophe thought that it would be interesting to work on a very new aspect of how mineral and natural work together, and I asked him to explore further. And, of course, we wanted something ‘green’. ”
The result is easy to like and, surprisingly for this brand, rather commercial and mainstream. “Those are not words we recognise here at Comme,” laughs Joffe. “But, seriously, the whole company is built around the pillar of creation. We look for things that didn’t exist before, we ignore rules and preconceived ideas, we search for new forms of beauty and exceptionalness.”
Indeed, this perfume, unlike most, foregrounds the scent of the leaf itself, traditionally ignored or considered a backdrop to the flower in the world of perfumery. Perhaps it’s time that we took a second look, or sniff, at what is underneath the bloom.
Amazingreen, 50ml for £57; comme-des-garcons-parfum.com