In physicist David Deutsch’s book The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World, you will find a chapter entitled: “Why are flowers beautiful?” It might seem a random query at first, but Deutsch’s question is a valid one: while evolution is the explanation for why flowers are attractive to insects, why are they attractive to humans? Deutsch adeptly makes an argument that there are two different kinds of beauty: “One is a parochial kind of attractiveness, local to a species, to a culture, or to an individual. The other is unrelated to any of those: it is universal and as objective as the laws of physics.” Flowers, he argues, are proof of the existence of an aesthetic truth, the embodiment of an objective kind of beauty.
In India, flowers are not only prized as a thing of unparalleled beauty, but also as something inherently sacred and fortuitous. Flowers are often presented as offerings to the Hindu gods—marigolds for Lord Ganesa or lotus (the national flower of India) for Goddess Laxmi—and are essential ceremonial elements. Like the brides in Tamil Nadu who adorn their hair with fragrant, white jasmine flowers for good luck. One need only stroll through any Indian flower market, a fragrant cornucopia of marigolds and mums, roses and jasmine, to appreciate their place of prominence.
Anaak’s “Chrysanthemum” collection takes its cues from those very markets, with colors and shapes that mirror some of the myriad blooms found there. The same handwoven cotton and silk organdy fabric traditionally used in saris is embroidered with tiny flowers in flowing, white dresses, both short and long. A flower’s myriad rows of petals is reflected in tiered sleeveless silk habutai and voluminous cotton silk organdy layered dresses; its many shapes reflected in dramatically outsized silhouettes of flat gauze and ruffled little sets in a cotton double cloth; its vibrant colors reflected in a palette that volleys from pale peach to shocking pink, from rose dip-dye to bright citron.
For O’Keeffe the flower was inspiration and subject, but it was also, as she said, a way for her to convey her own experience of each flower. And for Anaak this season, the flower takes on a similar role: it is a channel for telling a story in color and cloth. An objectively beautiful one, at that.