Why floral prints – with an unsettling twist – are blossoming

What: Everything’s coming up roses – and peonies and orchids and tulips and primroses. Yes, there’s a veritable seed catalogue’s worth of floral prints from designers this season. Still, things are not all quite so lovely in the garden this time around. Even the prettiest horticulture-inspired looks come with a touch of deadly nightshade – often planted on storm-dark backgrounds, with a whiff of sartorial subversion clinging to the hem.

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Where: Raf Simons set the mood of the season by staging his latest outing for Christian Dior in a “toxic” Alice in Wonderland garden festooned with a mix of both real and fake blooms. The collection mixed floral prints with text slogans, such as “Primrose Path”, and panels of black and clusters of jewels that looked like trails of brightly coloured lichen, to a pretty, albeit slightly unsettling, effect. Dries Van Noten took a more painterly approach – exquisite black dresses and satin kimono coats came decorated with wilting bunches of rare tulips worthy of a Flemish Old Master, and chiffon layers and loose-cut pyjama pants were scattered with delicate petal prints – while other prizewinning florals came from MiuMiu, where delicate sprigs were printed on retro summer coats, and Marc Jacobs, with foliage shapes on floor-length dresses.

But it was the Brits that took many of the gold awards for gardening expertise. Mary Katrantzou offered a hothouse of blooms, from simple print Ts to beaded satin puffball dresses; Eudon Choi sent out matching coats and dresses in English garden prints that nodded to the Orient; Erdem added embroidered flowers to black organza; and Preen took pretty kimono-inspired prints and ran them in stark black and white.

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Why: You have to ask? May means a host of dressy summer occasions including the Chelsea Flower Show. This year’s show not only has the requisite number of new plants – including a hosta named after tennis player Andy Murray no less – but a fashionable garden sponsored by Gucci. Based on the Italian label’s signature “Flora” print, the Fresh Garden show space has been created by garden designer Sarah Eberle. “Flora was the very first iconic design motif from Gucci’s past that I decided to revive and reinterpret,” says creative director Frida Giannini of the print’s importance. Gucci is offering a limited-edition “Lady Lock” handbag in the traditional print that will only be available during the show.

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Should you invest? Yes, even if you are the sort of woman who would normally be allergic to such posies of prettiness. “I am absolutely not a floral girl,” says Paula Reed, head of creative at online boutique Mytheresa.com “But what has intrigued me this summer is the way the designers are spinning a much darker look out of the floral trend. And, precisely because they have a slightly darker edge, I am more inclined to recommend this summer’s florals for cocktails or evening wear. They come alive after 6pm.”











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