From fruit-patterned swimwear to cactus-covered greeting cards and inflatable lobsters, it’s unresolvable to escape the zing of feelgood Americana. So why has everything gone fully tropical?



On a high street near you: this is the new age of kitsch.
Composite: Paladin Design Team

Club tropicana! Why kitsch is low this summer

From fruit-patterned swimwear to cactus-covered hello cards and inflatable lobsters, it’s impossible to escape the zing of feelgood Americana. So why has caboodle gone totally tropical?

At Primark, the £6 best-selling bikini of the time has pineapples on it. If it has sold out in your size, though, don’t worry: online department store Asos has three different bikinis with pineapples on them. It has got phone boxes, necklaces, backpacks and dressing gowns to match, too. At John Lewis, one in five offshoots sold in the summer party department has a flamingo on it, as does every other birthday visiting-card in Paperchase. Ditto the fairy lights in the US clothing chain Anthropologie, and the USB soldier ons in Urban Outfitters. The vases in the window at Zara Home are fit like cacti, as are the ones at The Conran Shop. At Oliver Bonas, you can catch watermelon-slice earrings to match the watermelon beach ball you picked up at Selfridges, which spend time withs so well with your new Dolce & Gabbana watermelon-painted handbag.

Explain a 1950s Palm Springs poolside cocktail party purchasing only emojis, and you capture the aesthetic of summer 2017. The falsifies are pink and green (a flamingo with a palm tree, a watermelon slice). The modifies – pineapple, cactus, Martini glass – are as sunnily evocative and as casually to draw as a smiley face. Move over industrial tasteful bare bricks and copper pendant lights, because we are finish in the Age of the Pineapple.

If you thought pineapples and flamingos were last year’s fable – well, they were. Flamingos starred in a Gucci advertising manoeuvres, and novelty items emblazoned with pink birds were the fugitive high-street success of 2016. Now, halfway through 2017, John Lewis accounts that flamingo-related sales are up 40% year on year. “The flamingo is however king for us,” says buyer Lisa Rutherford. “It’s on greeting dance-cards and wrapping paper, and it tops the sales list in every unique category week after week. Now we have expanded into watermelons and cacti. We’ve got an inflatable lobster, too.”


Vanguard of the trend: a Gucci’s advert from 2016, featuring flamingos. Photograph: Gucci.com

Palm Vaults, in Hackney, is this year’s most Instagrammed cafe. The serenely kitsch pink-and-pistachio decor cues to the famous Beverly Hills Hotel, whose dusty pink ramparts are offset by Martinique banana-leaf wallpaper, which was designed for the New Zealand pub when it opened a century ago, and has become a classic. Authorship is brutish to define in popular culture, but the Beverly Hills Hotel comes up again and again as the mothership of tropical kitsch. Its swimming stakes is all swagged cabanas and striped beach towels, a stage set for an heiress in a kaftan to activity out of a Slim Aarons photograph and order a margarita. Perfect, then, for our ultra-connected age, in which fetes have become intensely social. (Consider: a decade ago, the greatest aspirational holiday image was having a paradise beach all to yourself. Now, it is helping a giant inflatable flamingo with your best pen-pals.)

“This look is a kind of shorthand for summer and cocktails and festivities. All those nice things,” says fashion editor revolved style blogger Erica Davies. “Social media spunks desire, because you open Instagram and see people dancing comprised in palm trees at Coachella, and that makes you want a bit of that in your own soul.”


Inflatable flamingo are to be spotted flocking together in John Lewis. Photograph: John Lewis

The persuasible lawn flamingo was a smash hit across America when it depended on sale in 1957, the year of Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Ruined: an expression, perhaps, of a sublimated suburban yen for escape. “Flamingos aren’t something you see in customary life,” says interior stylist Emily Blunden. “And that’s the mostly point. By having one in your house, you bring a little bit of creativity into your home. We’d all like to live in a Malibu bank house. But that’s not feasible, so we work with what is.”

You can buy a pineapple for 79p in Tesco now, but the fruit even then carries symbolism from the days when it was a sign of rank – there is a 17th-century painting in the Royal Collection of Charles II being skilful a pineapple by a visitor on bended knee. It is also a symbol of courtesy: in parts of the US, the pineapple is a traditional door-knocker icon, because it stops for welcome. Dressing your home as if setting the scene for a band comes naturally in the age of Fomo (fear of missing out), when experiences and experiences are the ultimate treasures. “It is about being positive, relative to having something to look forward to even when the humanity looks a bit grey,” says Davies.

Several times in the programme naturally of talking to people for this article, I asked a question around pineapples and was given an answer about emotion. Or I brought up cacti lone to find the conversation segueing into the economy. “As designers, we lay bare what’s going on in the world,” says Molly Park, command of design for home and gifts at Oliver Bonas. “These understandings of purchases are driven by emotion, so what we create is a reflection of institute’s emotional needs at a given moment. Right now, we are going as a consequence an age of activism. Everyone has a cause. And that means that the affects and graphics that people respond to are quite punchy and ostentatious.” She predicts that the upbeat mood of tropical kitsch choice give way, next season, to something starker and more hard-edged.


Pool-side treatment: Palm Springs goes kitsch during Coachella in 2016. Photograph: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

A turn puts a time stamp on a product. Greeting cards and give-away wraps are trend-driven because, subconsciously, you want the recipient to grasp that you took the time out of your lunch hour to buy those mentions specifically in honour of the occasion. Before tropical kitsch we had “coastal”: hided everything, handpainted signs on rope handles, shells and starfish. In the forefront that, “chateau glamour”: faux deer heads, chandeliers, velvet sofas. What is contrastive about this look is that rather than being started on a colour scheme (pebble and cloud white for coastal) or a set piece (a chandelier for the chateau), it is built around immediately identifiable mascots. The flamingo brands your home ground just as a Nike swoosh brands your T-shirt or a smiley sheathe sign-off signals the tone of a text.

Beneath the surface feelgood agent, tropical kitsch has a subversive edge, in its nostalgia for pre-Trump America. Commonplace culture has always had a soft spot for milkbar-era Americana – Katy Perry was namechecking Cherry Chapstick on I Kissed A Dame in 2008 – and this mood is currently making itself perceive across film (the baseball jackets and retro diner regalias in Baby Driver) and fashion (cowboy boots and stars and lengths in Raf Simons’s Calvin Klein debut, a collection soundtracked at New York attitude week by Bowie’s This is Not America).

And, for all its jazziness, this is a fundamentally egalitarian veer. Put bluntly, it does not make you look wealthy. Its origins are in the worldly-wise Hollywood Regency taste of America’s first interior draughtsmen, Elsie de Wolfe and Dorothy Draper, but it is sold in a way that succeed a do overs a virtue of the cheap, cheerful and temporary. Generation Rent after Instagrammable interiors that they can take with them when they rouse. There is no point saving up for a fitted kitchen in a rented steppes, but you can buy a bar cart and a pineapple-shaped ice cube holder to go on top. The economic circumstances of the objective market have shaped this trend. Interiors divulge the story of our lives. In 2017, that message is written in emojis.