What? The square: chequerboard, gridded, or otherwise stacked into a sartorial Rubik’s cube, it’s this season’s sartorial sensation.
Why? Just ask Euclid. Or Kraftwerk, the 1970s electro-pop pioneers who recently experienced a renaissance of sorts and played sold-out gigs at Tate Modern complete with signature grid bodysuits, suddenly elevated to the realm of high art. After all, no matter what the size, the square’s purity signifies a clean-cut chic and makes ruffles and frippery look extraneous and fussy. Who has the time? For once, it all adds up.
Where? For maximum impact, go head to toe. Pick your chequerboard piece from Louis Vuitton’s slinky yellow-and-white silk floor-length dresses, black-and-white jumpsuits or daring sheer cotton mesh minis. Try Dries van Noten’s plaid combos such as the Bordeaux cotton, linen and silk waistcoat, blue shirt and Bordeaux trousers. Or mash up colours and patterns with Marni’s selection of geometric knits and skirts.
Alternatively go for the accent piece. Take Proenza Schouler’s orange crocheted leather skirt with black trimmed square pockets, 3.1 Phillip Lim’s silk plaid trousers or Hermès’ multicoloured silk top with staccato grid design. For edgier looks, try Rag & Bone’s windowpane shorts or a Versus nylon tee with its bright daisy print in the grid formation. Slip on Chanel’s blue-and-red check cardigan, stand out in Acne’s lambs’ leather jacket with its oversized red-and-white checks – or Oscar de la Renta’s black-and-white wool crepe plaid coat with discreet grid design cuffs.
And this isn’t limited to daywear. For evening, there’s Dior’s strapless black silk-and-tulle bustier dress with a metallic embroidered grid design; Giorgio Armani’s floor-skimming black satin dress with its shimmering chequerboard top, embroidered with black sequins and silver crystals, and Vivienne Westwood’s taffeta cherry-check print party dress with typically subversive graffiti design for Anglomania.
There’s even something suitable for the office; see the silk Sportmax dress with multicoloured squares, or Derek Lam’s madras plaid trouser suit. For a more dressed-down look, opt for a Marc by Marc Jacobs neo-plaid cerise cotton shirt dress.
Should you invest? As Judd Crane, director of womenswear at Selfridges, says: “Squares, checks and plaids are a safer investment than a recognisable print from a particular season – the print loses currency when the designer moves on to something else.” He’s not the only one who thinks so: Burberry Brit’s scooped-neck white tee with grey check print sold out in three weeks at retailer mytheresa.com, says buying director Justin O’Shea. Unsurprisingly, the trend is seeping on to the high street: Topshop Unique has a grey herringbone cube coat for £200, and white-all-over square print jeans by JW Anderson for Topshop (£30); H&M has a black fine-knit jumper with an oversized satin square pattern; and River Island has a black grid print tube dress for a fraction of the price. Check mate.
Well plaid: Checklist
Prince of Wales The distinctive shadowy check-on-check design was created for Edward VII’s shooting garb but popularised by his son, the Duke of Windsor. As in: elegant tailoring with a regal twist.
Tattersall A sparse, two-colour check, usually on a pale background, that takes its name from the race auctioneers Tattersalls. As in: flannel shirts for the horsey set.
Dogtooth (or houndstooth or puppytooth, depending on size): a broken check made up of jagged graphic shapes, usually in stark black and white. As in: Christian Dior New Look suits.
Madras The bright plaid cotton fabric that takes its name from the English name for Chennai, India, is as loud as checks get. Think: ultra-preppy classics and look-at-me beach shorts.
Gingham A single-colour, overlapping check design that gets its name from the French word guingan. As in: Doris Day’s curtains.