GIIN will be part of the Styleforum Maker Space this January at Pitti Uomo. The Styleforum Maker Space is a combination pop-up shop and wholesale space, geared towards exhibiting fantastic small brands and makers to Pitti’s influential and knowledgable visitors for both wholesale and retail.The Maker Space runs from January 9-11, 2018.
When I was told that I would be writing a review of a boutonniere, several questions formed in my head, but instead of inquiring about the product, I just said “okay.”
Why bother with a series of questions when all they want me to do is write a review? Because boutonnieres are usually associated with weddings and are live flowers, I wondered to myself what it could be that I would be reviewing. And I figured, if I didn’t know anything about the product, I would be less judgmental when I received the item.
I put this to the back of my mind because I’ve been traveling often, only to come home and find the postman with that small nondescript package for me. Perhaps this is the way all reviews should work: the reviewer should be given something in order to look at it without any a priori knowledge, assumptions or requests.
You can imagine my surprise when an unexpected little bubble wrapped envelop was given to me by the postman. The package looked like it came from one of the Alibaba solicitors shipping their wares into the United States at a discounted penny-rate; I opened this international parcel to find a lovely box from GIIN, a Styleforum affiliate whose motto is “Elevated Essentials.” Inside the box was a flower, poignant and pristine, with a few of the leaves showing the small delicate imperfections that one can find on flowers in the wild. Yet the flower itself, however ephemeral originally, looked somewhat at home in the box, radiating a sort of delicate beauty as it was now shaped and formed into a more permanent form able to survive being shipment from across the world.
Peter wrote an excellent article on the boutonniere that discusses how and when to wear one, as well as the value of real flowers. However, there is something positive to be said about these new alternative boutonnieres-flowers that will neither wilt nor decay, preserving their very nature and beauty indefinitely. GIIN markets these boutonnieres as a form of “Enduring Elegance,” and I could not agree more. These artisanal flowers retain a sense of two of the most important concepts in nature – imperfection and beauty.
Many of you have probably heard of the Zen-Buddhist concept of wabi-sabi, an aesthetic ideal that places value on the impermanence of objects shown by their use over time. While wabi-sabi is all the rage in a lot of menswear concepts, illustrated by a love for foxed shirt collars or natural patinas on leather, this flower does not work in that aesthetic framework as it is frozen in time. However, the Japanese have another framework that is quite apropos for GIIN’s artisan boutonniere: kire.
In Japanese aesthetics, kire, or “cut,” is a concept in the Rinzai School of Zen-Buddhism rooted in the teachings of Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768). Zen master Hakuin believed that the nature of oneself is only understood once one has cut the root of their life; in other words, you let go of something completely, only to have it die and return again to life. These flowers, which have been taken from nature at the height of their glory, have been disassembled and recreated outside of their ephemeral nature, only to be positioned reborn as an object that exists in perpetuity. Rather than being beautiful for the sake of its impermanence (another aesthetic concept known as mono no aware, or the “pathos of things”), GIIN’s flowers are ascribed elegance as it lives after death.
GIIN crafts these flowers by hand, taking miniature rose petals that have been treated carefully, by arranging them into the shape of a small rose on the end of a pin. The pin has a small safety cap, so after running it through your lapel (or through the buttonhole), you can pin the flower to your lapel as you would a normal boutonniere. The flower looks – and in many ways probably is – delicate (I wouldn’t go in for a giant hug only to crush your lapel), yet it is simultaneously resilient seeing as it stands outside of the flow of time.
There is a lot of merit to having a flower that withstands decay, i.e. serving as a memento. I personally think my spouse would have appreciated it if I had given her one of these for our wedding; something that could be used later when we have an anniversary dinner, serving as a continuous symbol of our love.
It is appropriate then to understand GIIN’s boutonniere in the framework of kire seeing as how that concept is tied closed to the floral arrangement art of ikebana, literally “making flowers live.” GIIN has created a wearable version of an ikebana arrangement by ascribing life to the flower after its death through the processes used. It serves as a living flower, bringing a little flair and life to an outfit, despite being dead. It serves as a reminder of the various life events during which you wore it. Their miniature rose flower, lacking any sort of roots to ground it in nature or to keep it fresh, still looks at home regardless of wherever it is, their ethos becoming a symbol of enduring elegance in a world of impermanence.
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