Take a Walk on the Wild Side
By Mieke ten Have
If there is anything the visual zeitgeist is reflecting back at us today, it is that we yearn for escape.
Cropping up on both the runway and in the home is a vivid, emerald green embrace of lush palm fronds, impossibly exotic florals and large scale jungle motifs that plant us firmly in a world away from the urban and familiar. Perhaps that’s the same notion that inspired one of the most recognizable interiors—the banana leaf-adorned Beverly Hills Hotel.
Martinique—the ebulliently scaled panoramic wallpaper of banana leaves that CW Stockwell has been producing in California since 1942—has become nothing short of a cultural touchstone. Designed and hand painted by Albert Stockdale, it was commissioned by CW Stockwell owners Remy and Lucile Chatain, who had returned from a trip to the Bahamas “besotted” with the escapist enormity of the banana leaves that were a quotidien part of the landscape there. “They were so transported by it, they had to create it—and immediately knew they had something special on their hands,” says current CW Stockwell owner Katy Polsby, who took over the business directly from the family and is breathing new life into the rich archive of patterns and colors. “Remy and Lucile installed the pattern in their Wilshire Boulevard office,” says Katy. Soon after the wallpaper was released, multihyphenate decorator Don Loper discovered it, and installed it at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where it has gone on to become the ubiquitous celebrity and smart-set backdrop for decades.
“What amazes me is how much it goes with. Yes, it’s so bold and graphic, but it can span such a breadth of decor styles,” says Polsby, “It is comfortable in so many settings. I am constantly surprised by how much you can throw at it.”
There is an undeniable endurance for as-large-as-life tropical flora, and it’s no surprise with the global upheaval of late that we return to it with vigor across visual mediums. Polsby succinctly sums it up, “It’s a romantic way to place yourself in another landscape.”
The tropical seems to transcend to fashion, too. A 50-year-old Jennifer Lopez thrilled the Versace runway for their Spring 2020 collection wearing a 2000 reprisal of the diaphanous plunging palm frond frock; but no flash in the pan, lush jungle motifs appear in the recent collections of both niche brands and iconic houses.
Aquazzura’s latest harnesses emerald greens and punchy banana leaves, and black silk makes the ideal backdrop for a bird of paradise perching in vivid jungle flora rendered in a distinctively Gucci hand. Zimmermann takes tropical and puts a crimson spin on their Ladybeetle Twist dress, while their Juliette pattern has a retro Hawaiian palm tree motif that figures on a range of clothing throughout the collection.
Click here to view the full feature in Bal Harbour Magazine.