March 18, 2011 10:00 pm

Rainbow warriors

 
Models in looks from MaxMara, Christopher Kane, Lanvin and Gucci

From left: MaxMara, Christopher Kane, Lanvin and Gucci

What?

The ultimate sartorial strategy to rebel against the winter blues. Colour-blocking, aka bold splashes of tangerine, scarlet, turquoise and, in some instances, even Day-Glo, is back for spring, worn as single shades or layered with abandon.

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Why?

Maybe it’s a reaction against all the camel and beige from autumn, not to mention the associated minimalism. Or maybe it goes further: to all the nudes from last spring. Or perhaps it just signals a general sense of optimism about summer (brights = heatwave, after all). Then again, maybe we should just blame the 1970s, the progenitor of most trends this season. Indeed, every designer from A-to-Z has embraced the iconic decade and nothing says disco better than a purple silk one-piece – a hooded version of which, it just so happens, appeared at Diane von Furstenberg.

Where?

 
Models in looks from Diane von Furstenberg, Jil Sander and Louis Vuitton

From left: Diane von Furstenberg, Jil Sander and Louis Vuitton

You name it: Etro, Tory Burch, Aquilano Rimondi, Peter Som, Viktor & Rolf – and that’s just the beginning. Marc Jacobs’ collection is a disco riot with blocks of pink, orange, and purple all worn together (even the hair, bright russet and crimped, was colour-blocked at his spring show.) Then there’s Sportmax, with its trousers and boxy tops in shocking pink with a flash of red; Christopher Kane (Day-Glo green skirt suits in perforated leather worn with canary yellow vests); Gucci (green harem pants, purple camisoles, tangerine jackets); and Jil Sander (dresses and palazzo pants in pink, white and purple). Even Missoni, a house traditionally known for mixing a million-and-one flecks of colour into one knit, has opted for pieces in single bright colour panels.

And where designers haven’t layered up contrasting shades, they’ve embraced bold singular colours, from Lanvin’s scarlet one-shoulder top and matching maxi skirt to Miu Miu’s silk Day-Glo cocktail dresses. And we haven’t even mentioned the several-panels-in-one-piece: see Louis Vuitton’s Studio 54-inspired graphic evening dresses, and Sonia Rykiel’s horizontally striped playsuits. Celebrities have already been weighing in. Tilda Swinton set the tone at the Golden Globe awards in January, sporting a Jil Sander yellow maxi skirt and white shirt, followed by Drew Barrymore in an orange Jil Sander column dress at CoverGirl’s 50th anniversary party. Actress Olivia Wilde also worked one of Gucci’s colour-blocked jumpsuits for the brand’s Gucci Rue Royale re-opening party opening in Paris last month.

Should you invest?

The beauty of this trend is that pieces are predominantly separates, so even beyond the season of neon, canary yellow, vermilion and aqua, it is possible to imagine a time when you can deconstruct and tone down all purchases, thus endowing them with continued relevance. Worn together, though, the look takes gumption.

“It’s definitely a trend for the young,” says Ed Burstell, buying director at Liberty of London. “It takes a lot of confidence to pull off. I think it’s got a limited shelf life. You could take an easier route by pairing a muted colour with a one block of colour, or colour-blocked accessories. It’s all in how you wear it: vertical columns of colour work best, and always go darker on the bottom.”

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