Inspiring editorial from MIX Magazine
The ebb and flow of trends is central to the forecaster’s remit. Looking to the past, and at social and cultural factors is an important element in predicting the path of consumer tastes. Here we turn our attention to the somewhat prickly appeal of the cactus.
While cacti were thought to have been cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico (the Mexican flag famously features an eagle perched on a cactus), Europeans had to wait until the 18th century to see the introduction of ornamental specimens making their way into private collections and fine porcelain models.
However, the showier allure of orchids saw cacti playing second fiddle in 19th century glasshouses. Later, the proliferation of American Western films in the 50s and 60s led to a vogue for cactus motifs on glassware and cactus shaped ceramics; inexpensive, mass produced and utterly kitsch.
It was this association with kitsch that may well have appealed to Italian design label Gufram. Highly influenced by the Pop Art movement, Cactus, designed by Guido Drooco and Franco Mello in 1972, has become one of the brand’s most enduring icons; a version even appeared at Frieze Art Fair in 2017. Gufram continues to reinvent the cactus in different colours, from scarlet to white.
Italian designers have often been seduced by the cactus motif; look at Alessi’s Cactus! Collection, designed by Marta Sansoni, in 2000 and more recently with Marcantonio’s Desert Surprise design for Seletti, handmade blown glass cactus lamps complete with cement flowerpot.
In 2016 Cartier proved that cacti don’t have to be kitsch. The French jewellery house elected the cactus as its new ‘house flower,’ building an entire collection round the succulent. This included bulbous earrings in aventurine and even a limited edition bag complete with cactus flower clip in emeralds and carnelians.
Also, a million miles away from cheap and cheerful, Danish based architectural practice BIG has plans for a pair of high-rise residential flats highly evocative of a cactus shape. In a similar vein, cacti-inspired Spanish architect Jacobo García-Germán of Garciagerman Arquitectos. Desert City research and development centre in San Sebastián de los Reyes also specialises in cactus breeding.
However, all these forays into cactus chic were merely overtures to the influx of prickly motifs in 2019; searches for cactus arrangements were up 235 per cent on Pinterest.
2020 also saw music and arts festival Coachella channel the cactus spirit with an enormous installation by Los Angeles studio Office Kovacs. Colossal Cacti, seven brightly coloured structures up to 52 feet high, used road reflectors to illuminate the sculptures at night.
The gifting market has exploded with cacti, both real and, rather oddly as this is a plant that is practically impossible to kill, artificial. Everywhere you look there are cactus cups, ceramics, Christmas decorations, baby rattles, neon lights, even wallpaper.
While it is tempting to think we have reached peak cactus; previous experience with the longevity of pineapples has taught us caution. Much like the pineapple, the cactus has an instantly recognisable silhouette. It seems likely that, like the pineapple, it may be a little early to call time on this trope and that cacti will continue cropping up well throughout the year.
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Elizabeth Praetz; myboys.me; Seletti; Woodchip & Magnolia; Abode Living; Cox & Cox