With summer ever approaching, our gardens start to flourish with an array of flowers, from delicate daisies to vibrant hydrangeas. This floral burst is not just in the herbaceous, but also in our summer wardrobes. As the days become warmer and longer, we anticipate floral’s revival in the conventional form of effervescent hues or subtle pastels, but how are fashion's top designers reworking this classic concept in order to diminish its predictability? There are new way of wearing florals, and they're blooming gorgeous.
If we look back to last season’s collections, flowers were treated with a harsh colour palette. Giles Deacon’s AW11 collection exposed us to the historical world of 19th century fashion, and applied a monochromic floral print onto high-neck silk blouses and long sleeved maxi dresses, while maintaining a stroke of Edwardian elegance. During Paris Fashion Week, and serenaded by Wild West Music, models strutted down the catwalk to reveal Kenzo’s answer to our Autumn/Winter wardrobes. Sandy yellow and green flowers appeared on black chiffon shirts teamed with cropped tailored blazers proving to us that, for those of us not brave enough to indulge in Mary Katranzou’s eye catching lamp shade structured dresses decorated with Japanese flowers or Paul and Joe’s paisley jumpsuits, there are solutions to keep us on trend with a darker delicacy.
Amongst Diane von Furstenburg’s simplistic “garden’s worth of flora and vegetation” with bursts of vitality and Matthew Williamson’s “exuberant and colourful” Japanese botanical attire, SS12 collections show that designers continue to renovate the previously considered seasonal pattern in order to provide for those who wish to maintain a subtle appearance with an innovative option, in this case through the presence of sickly whites and baby pinks.
Although these designers appear to have the same aims, they modify the trend in a variation of ways to suit their own label. For example, as revealed during Paris Fashion Week, radiating with classic romanticism, Italian based fashion house Valentino’s couture collection encapsulates the botanic concept through the insertion of subtle florals on chiffon white high neck and strapless maxi dresses alongside a Victorian feel. The blend of floral and lace with a touch of romanticism is also present within Valentino’s Spring/Summer collection. Defined as ‘poetic but modern’, the collection features doily lace garments in innocent whites and timeless blacks. Whether your preference is a strapless summer dress, a simple straight-cut maxi or leather harems with lace detail, Valentino provides us with clothing for every occasion during the summer season.
Favouring a similar colour palette consisting of innocent whites and creams, Giambattista Valli’s SS12 collection approached the horticultural motif with the application of appliquéd flowers onto mesh blouses teamed with tulip skirts. His collection then descends into tailored dresses and 1950’s style dresses with deep v necks, detailed with monochromic florals - black flowers feature on a white chiffon canvas to reinstate the significant presence of white in this season's key collections.
One unique exploration of the trend is conveyed through Dries Van Noten’s SS12 collection. In collaboration with English photographer James Reeve, Van Noten captures and modifies photographic images from an array of landscapes, continuing to favour a basic black, grey and white colour palette as the images are converted onto the broad array of garments. Although the pattern features entirely on casual loose shorts and structured blazers, fragments of the photographic image are inserted on tiered mid length skirts and formal shirts alongside segments of illustrations revealing rain forests and mountainous scenery in order to present the ‘outdoor scenes... framing it in the world of the wearable’. The presence of achromatic tones produce a subtle approach to the motive as well as a stark contrast to the energetic femininity of Erdem and the larger than life (literally) charisma of flower hats by Alexis Mabille. Who said floral was only for those of us considered to be girly?
As the transition into AW12 approaches, we expect designers to abandon the horticultural motive. Wrong. As revealed at Paris Fashion Week, designers continue their quest to renovate the trend, this time through the modification of materials and use of layering. Taking a formal approach to the season, Louis Vuitton reveals a range of tailored suits, continuing to incorporate the botanical focus through floral patterns inspired by the Edwardian era. The bursts of striking florals in mustard yellows and electric blues against black cotton suits are completed by minute detail, as Vuitton’s head designer Marc Jacobs inserts diamante flower shaped buttons and broaches to layer their horticultural exploration. Frida Giannini’s show for Gucci introduced the botanical theme surrounded by a romantic but dark ambience. Featuring cropped tailored blazers and lucid chiffon blouses, velvet was the key material used for Kane’s floral pieces. The show opens with a discreet appearance of sandy yellow and green florals on black tulip skirts, halter neck maxi dresses and loose smoking jackets, later featuring appliquéd velvet flowers onto purple and black chiffon blouses teamed with matching chiffon trousers. As the show concludes with chiffon evening gowns featuring jewelled florals which descend down the garments, Giannini reminds us that “femininity has landed”. With a striking colour palette oozing with feminine charm, John Galliano’s protégée Elisa Palomino’s AW12 collection embraces the lively roaring twenties in an attempt to provide vibrancy during these dreary months. Whether featuring as a motif on fluorescent pink floor skimming evening gowns, multi-coloured headdresses, or startling velvet coats with bunches of appliquéd roses along the neckline, flowers and botanical motifs featured on every item of clothing. The capability of femininity to catch the eye is clear and strong.
With the consecutive presence of florals throughout the collections of fashion's top contemporary designers, it is clear that flora is the pattern to invest in not only for this season, but to carry you through the changing weather. As fabricators from Giambattista Valli to Giles Deacon have proved, the ways to reinvent the botanical motif, and the ways for us to wear them, are limitless. With the trend being constantly reinvented with new palettes, new techniques and new materials, florals truly can be… ground breaking.