It’s art, fashion and horticulture weaved into one.
It’s what designer Theron Nelson calls “botanicouture.”
“They’re amazing pieces of artwork,” Nelson said. “It takes an extraordinary combination of jewelry, plants and dance [and fashion] knowledge.”
Nelson creates head wreaths, bikinis, one-piece outfits, costumes and other floral attire out of found, bought and clippings or leftover flowers, leaves and plants. He also occasionally incorporates fruit or vegetables.
His Corona del Mar based business, Haute Botanicouture, started over 10 years ago with basic lavender wreaths and has blossomed into more detailed and elaborate wearable floral designs.
“I’m progressively getting more and more creative,” with time, Nelson said. “I’ve come to learn what to expect from flowers (and other plants). It’s still in the research and development stage.”
The Newport native first became interested in floral fashion during a family trip to Tahiti as a child. His father worked with gold jewelry and gems and Nelson picked up a love for jewelry through him.
“I grew up around jewelry and fascinating gems,” Nelson said.
While living in the Bay Area, Nelson started designing belly chains for dancers. He got into weaved flower designs after meeting a raw food chef while exploring the mountains in Big Sur area. The chef told him about braiding flowers by hand and Nelson became intrigued.
He designed wreaths, crowns and garlands at first, it soon developed into bikini tops and skirts.
“I got acquainted with the whole idea of how to structure outfits,” and get the measurements just right so the outfit fits appropriately, he said.
Now he offers a wide variety of pieces and outfits, including dance costumes. He is also looking into lingerie-like outfits for brides.
Simple crowns can take just 15 to 20 minutes, while more detailed hats or other pieces can take one to two hours. A full outfit can take six to eight hours to create.
The details in his designs can be quite intense, he said. It’s intricate work that Nelson has mastered over the years.
“It’s a ballet of the fingers,” he said.
Clients get their customized outfits specially fitted for them, he said. He takes measurements so that everything fits just right.
He’s has gotten great reactions to his work, he said.
“Most people are amazed,” he said.
While flower and grass headdresses and outfits are by no means a new art, he said, this is an area of fashion and art that hasn’t really been explored to its full extent, according to Nelson.
“To some degree, yes [it’s been done before], but not at this caliber,” he said.
Botanicouture pieces include both freshly picked flowers and discarded clippings.
“It’s fun and different,” Nelson said. “It brings the plants (back) to life, in a way.”
He picks and chooses flowers and materials from cuttings from flower shops or leftovers from flower arrangements from friends. He also does “wild crafting,” or gathering fresh wildflowers. It’s too expensive not to gather wildflowers, he said. It’s about 50-50 between wild crafting and bought blossoms, he added.
“It all depends on the nature of the job,” he explained.
Nelson also visits the senior living center Crown Cove in Corona del Mar and creates wreaths for the Alzheimer’s patients in the center‘s Memory Care Program. He has friends and friends’ mothers who live there, he said, so it’s a special project for him. More recently, he has been visiting the rest of the Crown Cove residents with wreaths.
“It’s been really beautiful to go and offer wreaths to them,” he said. “To see how they react, it’s a really special thing.”
He enjoys cheering them up and doing his part of helping others.
“There are really dedicated people (working there) providing for [other’s] loved ones,” he said, so he’s just doing his own part to give back.
Nelson can also be spotted down at the beaches, like Big Corona or Crystal Cove, making flower hats for kids.
Nelson has a passion for jewelry, art, flowers and fashion, and his floral outfits combine all four industries.
“It’s meditative (for me),” Nelson said.
The artistic outlet that has proved therapeutic for Nelson can also have the same effect on the people who wear his creations. Many of his wreaths, headdresses and outfits utilize the benefits of aromatherapy, as he uses rosemary, lavender and other fragrant flowers.
He is looking toward the future for more creative expansion as well.
“I try to make my work cutting edge,” said Nelson, adding that it’s very different from anything else out there. “It’s a unique, fabulous art.”
Visit botanicoutoure.com for more information.