SLINGSHOT SPOTLIGHT – FLORA MCLEAN

By Ellie Richards

Avant Garde artist, RCA Fashion and Footwear Tutor, fashion milliner,  DJ and creative visionary behind the iconic House of Flora brand, Flora McLean speaks to Slingshot about her backstory, inspirations and innovative upcoming projects. As one to watch in both fashion and technological innovation, here is an insider’s look.

“I feel like I belong to London.”

Born in Shepherd’s Bush, Flora often finds herself creatively inspired by the tropical forests, sea and culture of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – something often projected through her work. One common thread between the two is the music and night life, “I love all live music, the mix of cultures and people, giving me a positive image on the human race”. Ranging from footwear to hats, Flora is one of the biggest influencers in London’s accessory design scene. One key aspect of her work is to create surprise innovation while maintaining balance – always keeping it chic.

In 1996, she set up the House of Flora, a design studio and brand. Beginning with self-made pieces in her father/artist, Bruce McLean’s film Urban Turban, Flora now specialises in avant-garde haute couture headwear. She has used blow up plastics and PVC along with metals and fabrics to create highly unique and eclectic designs. Flora also went on to tell us many of the men in her family went down the architecture route, something which as an accessory designer has been extremely influential.

House of Flora designs have been exhibited in the Victoria & Albert Museum, as part of the 2009 Anthology of Hats exhibition. Iconic designs have been modelled by Beyoncé, on the cover of The Face Magazine and by Kate Moss for French Vogue, wearing haute couture Givenchy headwear. Rihanna wore the Kitty hat on the cover of ElleUK, and Helena Bonham Carter, Agyness Deyn and Róisín Murphy.

McLean’s work has also been photographed by top fashion photographers Mario Testino, Paolo Roversi, Nick Knight, and Arthur Elgort.

High-profile fashion ad campaigns and shows featuring House Of Flora’s designs include MAC make-up 2008, Victoria’s Secret shocking pink corset showpiece 2006, Victoria’s Secret trench coat 2008 modelled by Lara Stone in Vogue, Katherine Hamnett ad campaign 2005, Blumarine campaign 1999, Luisa Beccaria, and the ‘Millinery In Motion’ show with Stephen Jones.

One key feature of many artists/designers are their social and political standpoint. Flora integrates her moral standpoint through incorporating “very diverse and inclusive images of strong women and men of colour” in her headwear and accessory collections. “I promote a positive and fearless approach to the adornment of beauty through mediums of new technology that keeps the House of Flora brand at the fringe of our current climate.” 

But what does a designer, innovator and world traveller get up to on her days off? Apparently, the last show that impressed her was the Labrum menswear show. This was because the models came out individually with instruments and finally joined together as a band. “it was pleasing to watch and listen to, they made a great sound and looked so cool”. Fashion innovation and creative use of music – this has Flora’s style all over it.

We wanted to get Flora’s personal insights with some quick fire questions. Here we go:

Prada VS Chanel?    PRADA

Samba VS Reggae?    SAMBA

Tate Modern VS Tate Britain?    TATE BRITAIN

Martini VS Cocktail?    MARTINI IS A COCKTAIL? I LOVE CAIPIRINHAS WITH CACHACA!

Favourite Decade?    1930S OR 1960S

Favourite Film at the moment?    THE BLACK KLANSMEN

Favourite Band?    TEETH OF THE SEA

Favourite Book?    THE GOLDFINCH BY DONNA TART

When asked which aspiring collaboration is lined up for the future, it was obviously – Grace Jones.

Keeping her cards close to her chest to insight surprise and indefinitely – desire, she hasn’t let on too much about up coming projects. We’ve been told, exclusively, Flora’s currently working on a menswear hat collection that involves some new and exciting technology. We can’t wait, can you?

Did you know Flora is also available for collaborations, events, exhibitions and creative projects, so email us if interested.

Instagram @ houseoffloraofficial/

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