The collection was inspired by New York’s new climate change-impacted designation as a subtropical zone.
Have you spent so much time at home in 2020 that you’re starting to feel closer to your houseplants than your human friends? If so, you’re in good company. For Dion Lee‘s Spring 2021 collection, the Australian designer presented a variety of looks that so literally reference houseplants that they could practically serve as costumes (if the costume party in question was a sexy warehouse rave thrown by a cool Brooklyn-dwelling plant lover, that is).
The most striking pieces in the collection are embossed leather tops and dresses that look as if oversized black or white Monstera deliciosa leaves wrapped themselves around the models’ bodies. The distinctive leaves of this species have become so popular in the age of TikTok and Instagram plant influencers that rare varieties have actually been stolen from botanic gardens — think of them as a plant grail for enthusiastic indoor gardeners, the way a designer bag might be for fashion enthusiasts. Their overwhelming popularity makes Lee’s move to include them in his collection feel timely, but opting for an embossed leather cutout rather than a simple print on fabric elevates the pieces to something truly original.
Beyond the Monstera-inspired dresses and tops, the collection features plenty of skin-baring knits, chunky sandals and subtle camouflage. Lee says the whole collection, not just the leaf-shaped items, were inspired by this summer’s news that New York is now officially considered subtropical — a sign of climate change that’s making areas like New York warmer than ever before. (This year was the second warmest in NYC’s history.)
It’s a compelling collection narrative, and it produced exceptional designs in the form of Lee’s plant-inspired garments. But it’s worth remembering that a warming planet shouldn’t just inspire aesthetic choices for designers. It should also inspire action on things like sustainable material sourcing, which can help reduce fashion’s contributions to climate change. (So far, representatives from the brand have not responded to Fashionista’s questions about the sustainability of the garments presented.) Without that integration of medium and message when it comes to climate concerns, collections risk coming off as pretty, but out of touch with the urgency of the increasingly-dire climate crisis.
See every look from the Dion Lee Spring 2021 collection below.