Bold splashes of colour - women's fashion for fall/winter 2011 Featured

Bright prints and colourful patterns will make you stand out this season

Play it safe or make a statement? The dilemma we face standing before the wardrobe surveying garments that hang neatly, awaiting their chance to see the light of day. Our eyes wander from one hanger to the next; the dark blazer and the white blouse picked up for versatility and the polo shirts for the weekend are all exhausted thoroughly.

We spot the sporadic appearance of colour and pattern peeking through, like an old lover who once enticed us to try something different, but the inability to work them into our daily lives left them behind. You pluck a printed jacket and slip it on, it still looks great, but uncertainty strikes as you ask yourself, “where can I wear it?”

For centuries, fashion has been used as a means of expression. Solid and dignified cuts were reserved for a sophisticate, modest upper class, while vibrant hues and intricate decorations became associated with eclectic circles. Trend-setting crowned heads shrugged off stiff conforms to indulge in richer textiles and embellishments. Indian Rajas have their clothes custom-made in pricy interlaced fabrics and printed silks, the Florentine court favoured intense violet and Marie Antoinette refused to tone her wardrobe down and let her father-in-law’s mistress have all the fun with extravagant, ultra-chic garments.

A myriad of patterns are mixing things up in a big way this season from Versace’s bright geometric shapes to Emilio Pucci’s perceptually provocative figures. To ensure these trends don’t end up at the back of your closet, let’s take a look at the best ways to pull off the dominant prints for fall/winter.

Bohemian Chic
Swirling prints bouncing along flowing skirts, scarves, gypsy dresses and loose fitting shirts make up the ‘boho chic’ DNA – a trend that calls to mind a playful and free-spirited lifestyle. We’ve spotted the style everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the beach boardwalks of Saint-Tropez. The trick to making ‘boho chic’ everyday appropriate is to use it sparingly (a scarf, a skirt, an accessory). At Etro’s women’s show in Milan, we spotted ways to wear their collage and textile-inspired designs. A simple solution is to go for colour blocking, if you’re wearing a patterned outfit, single outout one of the colours from the pattern like an orange or brown and layer a vest, jacket and belt in the same solid colour. This works for men as well.

When it comes to mixing several different patterns, tread carefully. At Kenzo we saw dresses for women that mixed stripes with motif, the look worked because the colours used were the same and echoed off each other. For men, Kenzo coupled a checkered shirt with an argyle pattern cardigan with similar colours. Back at Etro we loved women’s wrap dresses that envelops the female figure with interchanging prints such as paisley (a droplet-shaped motif).

British Blend
Designers are digging through fashion’s archives to revive prints for a modern clientele. British style circa early 1900 was a huge factor on the runway. The three patterns we saw the most of were windowpane, tweed and houndstooth. Versace is famous for its iconic geometric shapes and this season we saw a trend-bending interpretation of windowpane on sweaters as well as blazers whose lines start on one sleeves and carry over through the chest to other sleeve, forming an arch. Versace is definitely a stand out brand, but you can still get a good wear out of their collection, by using one of their stand out sweaters or jackets and pairing them with a dark pair of trousers and shoes. For a more classic windowpane pattern for men, we liked Brioni’s soft-to-touch natural cashmere jackets.

Tweed is a hallmark of vintage fashion, this rough, unfinished wool fabric was once regarded as a status symbol worn by wealthy British men on their hunting excursions. Weaved in either check or herringbone, the tweed trend is brought back every few years in new and inventive ways. Chanel is renowned for its signature tweed jackets, are a wardrobe staple for the fashion elite. Each season we see Chanel do something original with the pattern and this season Karl Lagerfeld impressed with full-length tweed dresses and coats in classic black and white as well as other colour variations like emerald and rose. Salvatore Ferragamo opts for black and white among its patterns doing houndstooth variations on wrap dresses and halter tops.

Into the Wild
There’s no denying that exotic materials are making a major comeback on the catwalk. The dominant animal prints (both real and faux) for fall/winter range from serpent, crocodile and peacock to Dalmatian, leopard and tiger. Valentino and Prada uses snakeskin visibly in their women’s accessories like boots and handbags. Vibrant and neutral colours are mixed together to create a visual harmony that works with your daily ensemble. Prada had a reptilian Amelia Earhart theme to its collection with snakeskin pilot bonnets and coats. We fancied Valentino’s use of feathers, sometimes dyed in different colour tones, while in other cases they incorporate a trompe l’oeil art technique to add a three dimensional effect.

If you still aren’t ready to introduce pattern into your clothing, at least trust us on the accessories. Nothing is more chic or classic than an exotic handbag in python or crocodile seen at brands like Jimmy Choo and Brioni. Even the addition of a patterned belt to break up a simple ensemble will add a much-needed flair, something you will definitely look to pull out each day for a finishing touch.