• Avant Gardener Profile: Rollo Skinner

    Jack Lewis

    Meet Rollo Skinner, a visionary in floral and botanical design based in London, whose creations grace the likes of Gucci, Acqua Di Parma, and Brioni. With a profound connection to nature and a journey sparked by a quest for expressive freedom, Rollo's highly technical yet whimsical designs reflect his exploration of mental health through the lens of nature. Inspired by the ancient forests of his childhood, Rollo's work emphasises sustainability and celebrates the living beauty of plants, offering joyful manifestations of complex inner thoughts.

    To start off with, I just wondered if you could tell me a little bit about yourself, what you do, and where you call home?

    So I do a few things. I’m a writer, illustrator and botanical set designer. Really I’m an artist and nature is at the core of all my work. As a botanical set designer, I design naturescapes for brands, shoots and events.

    I split my time between my flat in London and Dorset. There you will either find me in the woods or in Dad’s greenhouse. Woods and forests are without a doubt my happy place and inspire a lot of my work. Whether my drawings, writing or making a forest in a warehouse for Sony Music.
    Be it indoors or outdoors, have you ever had a particularly meaningful experience with plants or green spaces?

    Pre-pandemic I was at an all-time low. I was lost and stuck. Stuck in the city, stuck in an advertising job and stuck in a relationship that had robbed me of my confidence. The noise in my head had become too loud. Searching for anything to help, on a whim I went into Tesco and bought some flowers. Back at home, as I sat down with the flowers, suddenly the noise in my head stopped. A wave of peace and calm washed over me as the city fell away and my fingertips started to play.

    A few months later as the world headed into lockdown, I found myself back in Dorset with my family, in the home I grew up in, trying to make sense of things. Each day I would head into the woods behind my mum and dad’s to forage things: twigs, blossom, moss, making small creations to bring some light and beauty to those dark times. It was an incredible salve.

    This newly found self-expression inspired me to start drawing again, trying to understand my own nature on the page. The images took me by surprise. I hadn’t drawn since childhood. Something about being back in that woodland was calling me back to myself.

    In the meantime, the flowers I’d been creating started to grow from beyond my kitchen table to opportunities for work. As the world slowly started to open after the pandemic, I found myself with requests to make a forest in a house for Sony Music and sunflowers for Arlo Parks. From there, the last few years have been amazing, and amongst a very varied list, I have created intergalactic tables for Gucci’s Cruise campaign, taught creative nature workshops at the Soho Farmhouse festival and grown Sissinghurst Castle Gardens for S.S.Daley’s London Fashion Week show at St. Pancras.
    How would you describe your relationship with the plant world?

    For me, plants are a fundamental part of my existence. They make me feel sane. I have to get into nature every day in some sort of way. Which is why my flat is increasingly looking like nature is taking over.

    Most of my family are growers in some sort of way. My granny was a fruit farmer for many years. So I guess plants are in my blood although I hadn’t really realised it.

    In what ways do plants play a role in your daily life?

    I cannot walk down a street without clocking all the green things I pass. They’re definitely my guide for how things should be. Aesthetically and otherwise.

    Does your love of plants and nature extend into your home?

    YES. I’ve got a growing collection. A big fiddle fig tree I got about 5 years ago and a bird of paradise from Colombia Road. As well as lots of plants that are left over from various jobs. If you go at the end of the day to Colombia Road you can get some pretty good deals.
    Do you have a routine to take care of your plants?

    I have my Sunday night watering. I love cleaning the dust and dirt off the leaves of my bigger plants with the Sowvital lead cleanser! I know they love it too. The fiddle fig is like scrubbing down some great elephant. You can practically feel it nuzzling in to thank you.

    What have you learned from your plants?

    How important green things are for our mental wellbeing. They are a life raft in this strange concrete world we’ve built. It’s so important that we democratise access to green spaces for everyone.

    Connecting with a plant, tending to it, and getting dirt under our fingernails is a vital part of connecting ourselves to the earth and what it means to be human. It’s amazing how we’ve lost sight of that.

    There’s an incredible wisdom in plants – above all they’ve taught me to be myself!
    To celebrate my idiosyncrasies – and of course, grow towards the light.

    It was wonderful to spend time with Rollo in his home and talk about his creative process, and how the natural world influenced his life. We extend a heartfelt thank you to Rollo, and hope you enjoyed coming along with us on this journey of discovery.