How Cottagecore became this season’s most idyllic trend.

By Balthazar Malevolent


Sometime last Spring — maybe May, Instagram Explore page started to crop up with rolling green meadows, blossoming with wildflowers and buzzing with herds and herds of baby farm animals: loll-tongued kids, shaggy calves and curly-eared ewes. Just over a month later, during the men's fashion week, Parisian designer Jacquemus fled the French capital — followed by crowds of editors and influencers — to a Valensole lavender farm where he would hold his SS20 runway show.

Cottagecore - this season’s most idyllic trend.

The esthetic is cottagecore, a trend that shows the transition to a simpler, more sustainable way of living in the romance of pastoral life. Since 2018 its respective digital culture has flourished on social media sites such as Twitter, and more recently on TikTok. But what began as a small, niche movement has evolved, like wildflowers, mainly among suburban teenagers, queer youth, to permeate the collective consciousness — and the fashion industry at large. It wasn't long before some of the most-followed fashion mood boards in Instagram went full country, switching from images of farmers' markets to, well, the farms. Vogue asked us earlier this year: "Is agriculture the most fascinating work in America?" The lush look is everywhere this Spring from storied houses like Louis Vuitton and Dior to Collina Strada.

Only Simon Porte Jacquemus could persuade the fashion elite to abandon the glitz and glitter of Paris for Middle-of-Nowhere, Provence, in the midst of the men's shows. And on July 24, thousands of the biggest fans of Jacquemus, including Emily Ratajkowski, Chloe Wise and Pernille Teisbaek, all gathered in a vast lavender field in Valensole, an hour drive north of Marseille, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary collection of the designer. And the clothes were as bucolic as the environment itself: straw hats signature of the company, peplum dresses (perfect for putting your shears and growers), matching picnic-linen ginghams and baskets and a number of garden-vegetable designs. The whimsical, rural landscape — and the clothes too — is no surprise to anyone who has heard of the French home. They are not part of a seasonal trend, nor do they send a great eco-conscious fashion message. We are personalized to Jacquemus. After all, the designer had been born on a Provencal estate. "I wanted to present the show in a place I love, a place that reflects me," Jacquemus told Vogue Paris, on the venue, the show day, "I grew up close by. I wanted to mark a milestone here and present my show."

Days earlier, Virgil Abloh with his third Louis Vuitton menswear show, brought Provence to Paris. Models strolled along Place Dauphine's cobblestone streets wearing sun hats and handbags, both overgrown with wildflowers. From the hems of trench coats, anoraks, floral embroideries sprouted and climbed, as if up a trellis. The usual springtime patterns — pansies, anemones, daisies — were followed by the equipment needed to keep them fresh: gardening gloves, watering cans and rubber boots. Yet another homage to the bucolic, the invitation to the show included a DIY kite-making kit, an invitation to skip the town, go out to the woods, enjoy the fresh air.

Maria Grazia Chiuri has put the outdoors in at Dior. The designer collaborated with Parisian environmental design group Coloco on turning the Dior runway into a veritable forest for the spring/summer 2020 show. The ubiquitous straw hat of the season, adorned with milkmaid braids, work boots, country plaids and, of course, a haystack shirt, wandered beneath the man-made canopy.

However, given the current state of the fashion industry, it seems rather disingenuous to co-opt the homespun trend for those big houses. Cottagecore — and all of its fantasies of returning to the farm, of working with one's hands, of fleeing — derives from a deep disenfranchisement with the world as it is today. More precisely, the state of industrial capitalism, hyper-consumerism and the destruction of the world.

Nevertheless, the presence of these brands in the esthetics does represent an optimistic potential for improvement. In the show notes for the SS20 collection of Louis Vuitton, Abloh noted that as a sign of diversity he had chosen wildflowers — which grow heterogeneously in nature. It is a cause close to the heart of Abloh and one that has characterized his tenure at the French house, from his varied casting to his appointment as creative director. Remember the emotional bow (and subsequent Kanye West hug) that Abloh took after his LV debut? This was not only a landmark for the designer himself, but also a groundbreaking moment for black creatives throughout the industry. The 164 trees used to set the scene of the SS20 display at Dior will be planted in and around Paris to protect and enhance the biodiversity of the area. Days later, LVMH held its annual "Future Life" conference, where the group revealed its upcoming environmental initiatives: how to allocate the € 10 million pledged to protect the Amazon rainforest, how the group will use 30% of renewable energy by the end of this year, and how it plans to reduce its CO2 emissions by 25 % compared to 2013.

Rick Owens's last year's London "Glade" exhibition also represents a close connection to the natural world, featuring sculptural head parts from his Spring / Summer 2020 collection, shown at the Paris Fashion Week in 2019. "All of this is connected by a sense of living isolation I likened to gladdening in a forest," he says. "A clearing that was only womb-like and grand at once."

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