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Rites of spring: Your guide to the defining looks of the new season

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Celine's scrambled florals Celine’s scrambled florals
Floral, for spring? “Groundbreaking” is the acidic dismissal familiar to many who saw The Devil Wears Prada, and the fictional Miranda Priestly is correct, to a degree. But for this spring, in the hands of talented designers, florals have finally managed to break new ground. That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of lacklustre designers chucking out predictable chintzy stuff, but the pieces worth noting felt fresh. Simone Rocha chopped hers into individual petals, layered over shifts, neat suits and even brogues; Phoebe Philo scrambled florals together at Céline, sending blooms scribbling around the body into asymmetric ruffles. Rei Kawakubo’s explosive, scarlet-soaked show, with roses embedded deep in shredded red coats, was the season’s most visceral statement. There’s nothing sweet about these flowers – and the resolutely raw and savage edge to designers’ foliate designs is what keeps them feeling utterly contemporary.

That Seventies Show

Gucci's nod to 70s hippies Gucci’s nod to 70s hippies
What is it about the Seventies that designers find so different, so appealing? Well, for Milan, it was a period when the dominance of its designers – Armani and Versace, mainly – threatened to topple Paris as the world’s style capital. Hence, the Italian collections were the prime stomping ground for spring’s key trend, the rhyming couplet of Gucci and Pucci sending out odes to drippy hippies and Studio 54 party girls. In terms of everyday wardrobe decisions, the Seventies this season are punching decidedly below the belt. Meaning that the major impact consists of trousers kicking out from the thigh into a generous flare, rather than cleaving tight. We saw those at labels too numerous to list – some, such as Tom Ford, even reviving the skinny-thigh, trumpet-hemmed bell-bottom from the annals of fashion history. Oh, and did I mention the return of the platform clog at Prada?

Country Life

Valentino's style in firmly routed in their past Valentino’s style in firmly routed in their past
Sprigged cottons, smocking, ruffles and even the dreaded dirndl. Today’s fashionable women – or, at least, some of them – seem to be scanning far-off hilltops for lonely goat herds. Which is to say that a mood of countrified pastoralism is tingeing many of the collections. In the past, it’s been dubbed “Boho” – but this incarnation is a bit slicker. No souvenir coin-belts allowed. Valentino and Chloé both have the style rooted firmly in their past, and mined it with gay abandon. By contrast, Raf Simons at Dior harked back to Marie Antoinette – not only her grand court gowns, but the simplicity of the white muslin dresses she sported while playing milkmaid in her ferme ornée. Of course, the people who will actually wear these clothes are making believe. Some designers were making believe, too: does Phoebe Philo really think well-dressed women will knot up their £3k Céline coats with a piece of string?

Coats of Many Colours

Nicolas Ghesquiere's Louis Vuitton Nicolas Ghesquiere’s Louis Vuitton
Why yank patchwork out from the general peasanty, pastoral melee (see Country Life) for particular consideration? Because the mashing together of scraps of fabric doesn’t always feel homespun this season. Thom Browne created refined tailoring of patchwork so intricate and dense it frequently resembled print; Nicolas Ghesquiere’s Louis Vuitton artfully danced between linear patches, using textile texture and contrasting colours of eel skin to create slick graphic effects. A few went organic, with Phillip Lim and Mary Katrantzou using whirly, rounded segments. And there was plenty of crafty patchy stuff too – Prada turned its  patchwork inside-out, flaunting the scruffiness of all those seams, and although Valentino’s was refined to couture quality, there was still a feel of the hand (the important part in all this patching) and folk – albeit four-figured.

The Colour Purple

Mary Katrantzou utilising purple (Guillaume Roujas) Mary Katrantzou utilising purple (Guillaume Roujas)
For 2014, Pantone – the US-based colour-definer and diviner for the industry, decreed that its tone of the year was something called “Radiant Orchid”. You or I would probably just call it purple, and it was evidently the shade embedded in designers’ frontal lobes when creating their spring collections. Prada trucked in a few tonnes of parma-violet-hued pastel sand to create dunes as the centrepiece to its spring catwalk, while Mary Katrantzou and Christopher Kane stuck to colouring their clothes. The latter was inspired by his school uniform’s colour, an icy lilac, although shades oscillate between imperial and the vaguest violet. Few colours have as storied a past: purple is the colour of priests and emperors, of royalty, of princes and Prince. This season, purple reigns, and that’s not just purple prose. Hopefully, it will be out next season, as I’ve just used all my purple puns in a single paragraph.

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