In The Air: Pastoral Report - WSJ

In both fashion and design, themes drawn from the French countryside are abloom this spring. Here’s our pastoral report

April 6, 2017 in WSJ

By: Rebecca Malinsky

EVERY MAY 1, French teenagers line the Paris streets selling freshly picked blooms of Lily of the Valley. The flower, France’s national symbol of spring and Labor Day (both celebrated that day) is shared among friends and relations as a token of luck. “My mother has been planting lily of the valley for 40 years,” said Parisian jewelry designer Aurélie Bidermann of the garden at her family’s country house. “I grew up with this tradition.” Her recent lily of the valley-themed collection was created while she was pregnant with her daughter, as a way to connect the three generations of women in her family.

From Left: Jaquemus, Emilia Wickstead, Derek Lam

From Left: Jaquemus, Emilia Wickstead, Derek Lam

Many of the French-country-inspired looks that walked the spring runways similarly romanticized the simple life, if not as sentimentally. Up-and-coming Paris designer Simon Porte Jacquemus’s collection took its cues from santons, tiny clay figurines popularized in 18th-century Provence. His models wore lace-trimmed cotton blouses accessorized with huge straw sunhats.

London-based designer Jonathan Andersondisplayed a fondness for old-fashioned fabrics in both collections he works on. At Loewe, he showed burlap-like linens woven to appear worn-in and a plethora of faded French blue stripes, while at J.W. Anderson, his namesake line, he favored flowing, linen peasant dresses, some with pastoral tablecloth prints.

Top Row: The Row, Loewe, John Derian/Astier de Villatte
Middle Row: Doen, Svenskt Tenn, Robert Clergerie
Bottom Row: Rebecca Taylor, Tabitha Simmons, Marc Jacobs


Nine time zones away, San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum is celebrating spring with an exhibition of early paintings by Claude Monet, the impressionist who created his canvases en plein-air and shaped many Americans’ ideas of what French landscapes look like. “One of the hallmarks of [the impressionists’] approach to painting was this idea that you would go to nature and you would stay there and paint,” said Melissa Buron, associate curator of European Painting at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Of course, if you have the cash and a sufficiently humane work schedule, you can hop a plane and go to those fields yourself.

Home-goods designer John Derian may have said it best when it comes to our current cultural yearning for a piece of trés chic country life: “People retire and fantasize about being in the country,” he said. “Why wait? Why not have it around you now?”

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