Japanese flower artist Makoto Azuma travelled to London for British Vogue’s September cover shoot with just a pair of scissors in his kit. He ordered the botanicals (many of them rare) that would adorn Rihanna’s head in advance from London’s New Covent Garden Market and, with his two top tier assistants, Azuma integrated himself with the teams of Isamaya Ffrench and Yusef Williams.
“We became one,” he says, of teaching the hair stylists and make-up artists how to attach the flowers safely onto Rihanna’s head. Once the skinny brows and vinyl lips were complete, Azuma swooped into make the final arragements.
“It was like a show,” he recalls of his time on set with Edward Enninful, Nick Knight and the Vogue team. “Rihanna wore lots of different dresses, and each time I felt an unexpected part of her come to life. Each flower headpiece – and there were many – was the perfect fit for her. It was magical.”
There’s no typical day for the co-founder of Jardins des Fleurs, a flower atelier in Ginza, Tokyo. In the past, Azuma has frozen vines into huge blocks of ice to line Dries Van Noten’s catwalk, launched a bonsai into space and stabbed florets into hunks of meat in the name of performance art (see the YouTube video to believe it). “Each work of mine focuses specifically on the flower itself,” he explains, of his creative process. “Instead of seeking for artistic expression, I spend some time face-to-face with the flower and try to listen to its voice. Then I proceed with thinking about which specific aspect of the flower I would like to show, and how to show it.”
It wasn’t initially the garden path that came calling for him, but music. He took a part-time job in a shop to support his band, and had an epiphany about the similarities between the two fields. “Both music and flowers are momentary – only in the world for a short amount of time.” He was hooked, and “became completely absorbed in this world.”
The moment Alina Zamanova saw Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful post the cover of his September issue starring Rihanna, she put a call out to her network of illustrators. The Ukraine-based co-founder of The Unique Illustration – a fashion illustration flashmob based solely on Instagram – rallied fellow creatives to interpret the Nick Knight photograph in their own style. “The colour combinations, styling and make-up were an instant hook to jump on,” she shares. “We wanted to be a part of this historic moment!” Artists from around the globe responded. Each posted their iteration of Rihanna the night before the magazine sale date on August 3.