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“Flowers always sell,” declared designer Christopher Kane after his show in February. However, what makes today’s fashionable florals different from yesterday’s blooms has to do with a certain hybridisation; many current prints are digitalised and altered to create a pattern that mixes the qualities of different flowers.
Charlotte Brooks, art librarian with the Royal Horticultural Society, says: “People have long been fascinated with the idea that flowers can be used to symbolise certain feelings and convey messages.” Forget-me-not – this season supersized in Perspex necklaces by Tatty Devine – speaks for itself, while daisies represent innocence; roses, love and desire; lily of the valley, sweetness; and violets, loyalty. Two years ago, Kate Middleton’s wedding bouquet included Sweet William and myrtle, the emblem of marriage. This season, there’s a bouquet for every taste.
Kane, for example, used lenticular printing – which gives an illusion of depth – in floral hologram panels on the front of dresses that appeared to bloom as the models walked.
In footwear, there are Givenchy’s nappa slide sandals, which come in a kaleidoscopic techno-tribal-camo-print (£545); Birkenstock’s Arizona floral-print canvas slides (£160, only from Net-a-Porter); and the Sophia Webster for J Crew collection, which features pointy-toe heels in funky tropicals and spring prints (£240-£540).
Other accessories include a floral-jacquard clutch bag by Stella McCartney (£690) and Matthew Williamson’s embellished brocade and metallic leather clutch (£925). Prada had fluorescent leaf-print bags at its recent menswear show; and Burberry showed floral scarves worn foppishly à la Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited.
Sam Kershaw, buyer at Mr Porter, says: “We have bought a broad selection of floral and botanical prints across all categories, including accessories.” He notes that Givenchy floral prints are very popular – though a baseball cap by Saturday Surf NYC (£40) is perhaps an easier way into the trend.
Not that florals have entirely lost their more traditional connection with romance. “There is a new digital boho era coming through,” says Angela Basten, buying manager for jewellery, hats and scarves at Fenwick of Bond Street in London. For example, Eugenia Kim’s flower garland headdresses (from £125) were popular at the Coachella music festival, and the shiny perspex hair slide (£320) created by hairstylist Sam McKnight in collaboration with Vicki Sarge, will be perfect for the Glastonbury festival.
Aisling McKeefry, head of design for accessories at Asos, is a fan of the site’s colour-drenched garlands (from £4), turbans (from £12) and floral-printed chunky flatform plimsolls from Demo (£25). Still, she suggests wearing digital floral prints alongside more traditional florals in a “print clash” to cut the sweetness.
Johnnie Boden, founder of the retailer Boden, has been reinterpreting floral prints since 1991. He says: “Florals are uplifting. More recently the younger generation discovered them through vintage clothes. We still source all our prints from vintage florals, then we modernise, changing colour or supersizing in our studio.”
Sales of floral-printed products, including accessories in Boden womenswear, are up more than 20 per cent on last year. Boden doesn’t think you have to over-analyse to understand why. “People love them,” he says. There’s a reason they call it flower power.
More of this week’s Style stockists