Flamingo fash­ions are back in the pink

De­sign­ers and re­tail­ers join in fun to boost ’50s fad

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

FASH­ION is fickle. What’s in is soon out and, then, mirac­u­lously, back in again. There’s no bet­ter proof of that than the flamingo – once a tacky lawn or­na­ment, it’s been res­ur­rected as the de­sign el­e­ment of the mo­ment.

In just over two years, flamin­gos have soared from the cat­walks of Mi­lan to the wardrobes and walls of ur­ban hip­sters to the aisles of in­ter­na­tional depart­ment stores. Flamin­gos adorn ev­ery­thing from $1 495 (R20 000) Givenchy dresses to $40 shower cur­tains. Google searchs for “flamingo” hit an all-time high in May.

“Flamin­gos are the kale of style right now,” says Vicki Psarias, founder of the Bri­tish life­style blog Hon­est Mum.

The flamingo’s jour­ney from kitsch to cool il­lus­trates how con­sumer trends emerge. Flamin­gos nes­tled in the happy mid­dle of a Venn di­a­gram of three hot trends: they’re pink, they’re trop­i­cal and they hap­pen to be birds. Once there, they quickly grew, with help from a steady diet of celebrity In­sta­gram posts, Pinterest pages and style blogs.

“The abil­ity of so­cial net­works to launch, broad­cast and in­stantly re­in­force the cred­i­bil­ity of a trend has ac­cel­er­ated the old process of trend de­vel­op­ment by an al­most in­cal­cu­la­ble fac­tor,” says fu­tur­ist Ryan Mathews. “The path is the same but the ride is a whole lot faster and bumpier.”

The flamingo’s ride be­gan in 1957, when a young graphic artist with the fit­ting name of Don­ald Feather­stone cre­ated a plas­tic pink flamingo for Union Prod­ucts, which Sears of­fered in a cat­a­logue. Subur­ban­ites snatched them up as lawn or­na­ments from Stockholm to Cape Town and they soon be­came “widely re­viled as the dregs of bad taste”, as a New York Times story put it when Union Prod­ucts closed in 2006.

The no­to­ri­ety caught the at­ten­tion of avant-garde di­rec­tor John Waters, whose 1972 break­out film Pink Flamin­gos boasted the tag line, “An ex­er­cise in poor taste”.

Flamin­gos were briefly a mas­cot of gay cul­ture but largely pe­tered out.

Then, in June 2014, a re­birth, thanks to Amer­i­can fash­ion de­signer Marc Ja­cobs, who put flamin­gos all over a Spring 2015 col­lec­tion that in­cluded a black satin em­broi­dered flamingo bomber jacket. Other la­bels, such as Bot­tega Veneta and Gucci, fol­lowed suit and when Prada un­veiled a flamingo-themed fra­grance in 2015, a spark was ig­nited.

Celebri­ties then ap­plied rocket fuel. At Tay­lor Swift’s 2015 Fourth of July party, the pop star and her In­sta­gram-friendly pals frol­icked on in­flat­able flamin­gos.

Re­tail­ers jumped on the trend and flamin­gos fea­tured on sheets, tow­els and kids’ bed­room ac­ces­sories. Next came flamingo servi­ettes, string-up lights and wa­ter carafes.

In Bri­tain, John Lewis depart­ment store stocked flamingo pool in­flat­a­bles in April last year, which sold out in eight weeks. In­spired, John Lewis went full flamingo this year: gift wrap, beach tow­els, lights, wall­pa­per, glasses, note­books, pen­cil cases, aprons and ties. And, of course, plas­tic gar­den or­na­ments.

Flamingo prod­uct sales have more than dou­bled and in­flat­able sales are up 700%. The only prod­uct launch that’s done as well in re­cent mem­ory is Star Wars mer­chan­dise.

And it’s not just cheap trin­kets – flamingo silk scarves cost $170 and a de­signer large tote bag is $379.

But, as Mathews says, “Trends can be dis­man­tled at the same speed they are cre­ated.” Some say flamin­goes have peaked and are al­ready be­ing re­placed by the hum­ble cac­tus, now trend­ing on the web. Cac­tus box­ers, any­one? – Washington Post


Don Feather­stone, cre­ator of the orig­i­nal plas­tic pink flamingo, sur­rounded by the plas­tic crea­tures at Union Prod­ucts in the US.

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