The Genteel
April 17, 2021


Floral print leather sandals. Photograph Courtesy of Armando Malafronte.

In Ravello, a little cliff-top town along the Amalfi Coast, Armando Malafronte opened a small flower shop with his brother at the age of twenty; almost thirty years ago. The initial aim was to simply sell flowers, but his love and respect for their beauty - he describes them "as precious as jewels" - drove him into supplying flower arrangements for weddings and working behind the scenes to help couples make their dreams come true on their special day. For this reason, he is no longer just a florist, but also a flower-supplier-cum-wedding-planner, organising wedding decorations with his impeccable eye for detail. Studying the couples' tastes, style and characters, he sets about creating customised floral compositions that appeal to the flower symbolism of the Italian culture.

In Italy, the underlying meaning behind each flower is often perceived to be the complete opposite in significance when compared to other countries across the globe. As Malafronte explains when speaking with The Genteel, "I could never use chrysanthemums at Italian weddings as it is the flower to celebrate dead people in November, when it blooms. [But] it is given as a gift to Chinese and Japanese brides because it is considered the throne flower and so it means power, happiness and vitality. In Anglo-Saxon countries it is used to celebrate births."

 In successfully stamping his floral mark upon the photography, arts and fashion realms, [Malafronte] has managed to capture a certain sense of immortality for many beautiful but short-lived natural creations.

Not all flowers contain different meanings, as he goes on to explain: "it's common knowledge in any culture that white roses indicate grace and chastity and the red ones stand for passionate love, this is why they're generally used as wedding floral decorations". However, there is certainly a floral trend that remains unique to Italy.

As Malafronte notes, "the most requested flowers by the Italian brides are the 'calla lily' and the peony". Within Flower Lore: The Teachings of Flowers Historical, Legendary, Poetical and Symbolical(1879), Miss Carruthers chose the 'calla lily' as an English symbol of refinement and nobility; yet in Italy, this same single stem flower with its pure white petal-like curled spathe and long yellow spadix symbolises femininity and eroticism. In Eastern countries a white peony brings good luck; yet, according to longstanding Italian tradition, it is defined as 'the rose without thorns', evoking the beauty of a young woman and representing the symbol of affection, prosperity and peace.

With flowers having various meanings across the globe, Malafronte accords his floral compositions to the appropriate symbolism for each couple when setting up an event in Ravello, a wedding destination commonly used for many foreign marriages as well. "Organising a wedding ceremony is a real art. I match my creative flair and my knowledge of flowers with the personality of brides and grooms to produce the final masterpiece. Each flower composition is chosen for a reason and it finds its own spot in respect of the couples' own culture and in harmony with the location," he comments.

Related: Milan's Two Faces of Christmas

Two years ago, Malafronte decided to publish a photo-book featuring all of the customised floral compositions made for his brides over the years. Seeing the appreciation that readers of his book had for his decorations, he took this as an inspiration to then create a "branded" fashion collection using a distinctive floral pattern made up of multicoloured flowers printed on a white background.

Flower print dress. Source:

Upon closer inspection of each garment, it is possible to see that the flowers are clippings of floral wedding compositions from real photographs. While a team of experts design the items and print the pattern, Malafronte is the one who chooses the garments' styles and the fabrics to use. At the moment, they are only made of natural textiles such as silk and cotton.

According to Malafronte, he is the first Italian flower supplier to establish a fashion collection using such distinctive floral prints. Since their launch in 2011, the brand 'Malafronte' has released handbags and sarongs made with the unique and colourful fabric. In 2012, thanks to the popularity of his first season, Malafronte expanded his collection to include a selection of printed leather sandals. In 2013, canvas slippers and swimwear were added to the repertoire.

The 'Malafronte' brand, which joins together his knowledge of flowers and his interest in fashion, is now focused on meeting the increasing consumer need; the 2014 collection will include a range of silk and cotton evening dresses available with blue and black backgrounds and a wide range of menswear accessories. Despite beginning life working as a florist, Malafronte's evident passion for his flowers has extended beyond simply dressing beautiful wedding ceremonies and kitting out the humble flower shop. Yet, in successfully stamping his floral mark upon the photography, arts and fashion realms, he has managed to capture a certain sense of immortality for many beautiful but short-lived natural creations.

Related: An Homage to the Rose

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