On the back-and-forth of tropical taste


On a fleeting visit to my company’s renovated office, I was enthralled by the art prints on the statement wall which is neither typography nor paintings but the large banana tree leaves, stark contrast to the light grey background.

The depiction of banana leaf was nothing new in interior design. Dating back to the 1940s, it might first appear in Don Loper’s Martinique Banana Leaf designed exclusively for Beverly Hills hotel. This wallpaper is widely recognized as one of the most iconic wallpapers of all time, used in hotels worldwide, and by interior designers still to this day.

In a broader sense, the depiction of banana leaf is just one of many ways to create the tropical theme, together with the pink flamingos, the birds of paradise and the tropical fruits. They were too all-encompassing in interiors of late, upholstered on many items from the window dressings to the chair pillows. 

Then our love for all things vintage has yielded the resurgence of these prints, made it the key trend from 2012 onward. And now, my CEO, with her boldness, insists on adding a tropical wallpaper to the interiors without any second thought. That’s why now I’m looking at it (on the 9th floor of ila tower).

Indeed, what fascinated me was not the prints itself but the radical implication behind. I’ve heard that the tropical prints was so blended in the notion of escapism because they evoke the exotic feeling in western culture back then in the midst of 19th century. However, in the countries of tropical climate like Vietnam, such image is so ubiquitous. Now it is really intriguing when tracing this banana leaf back to its origin:

The banana leaves in tropical forests of Asian countries 


The artists depicted this image in their patterns to create “exotic” feeling in Western culture in the 40s.

In 2012, when “vintage” and “retro” became trendy, these images once again became popular in design

This trend was spreaded all over the world due to Americanisation and globalisation.

Now it appears in my company – a foreign-owned one right in the city of a tropical area.

See? But in this country, the leaves are not exotic, they are local. So I can see escapism has become a trend in the mindset of my country fellows.


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