Every season has a bit of a trademark, Winter means chunky knits, Spring means floral and pastels, therefore Summer definitely means prints! Whilst researching this, I naively underestimated the range of prints out there, it was like opening a fashion Pandora’s box, (Pandora’s wardrobe maybe?). More on the reverse.
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The process of dyeing fabric has been going on since prehistoric times using natural dyes from plants and printing via screens, wooden blocks and stencils for many thousands of years. You can find printed fabrics in every corner of the globe from China and Japan, through India, Africa and South America.
A particularly famous example of this is the paisley print which originates from south Asia where it can be seen on temple carvings, sari designs and henna patterns. Paisley found its place in Britain draped on shoulders of those who could afford luxuries such as silk. This was due to import during the reign of the British Raj. Fast forward a couple of hundred years and you can find paisley quite comfortably being strut down the catwalk of Stella McCartney and Jonathan Saunders’ spring/summer 2012 collections.
Personally, fashion buzzwords such as ‘afrocentric prints’ make me cringe a little, but if you insist on that word, then African influenced prints are definitely coming back in. Aside from the very stereotypical ‘fashion on safari’ leopard/zebra/giraffe print, there is a massive variety of tribal style geometric prints coming back in, it’s nice to see these being refreshed into brighter hues using neon and pick ‘n’ mix type colours. There are retailers embracing these styles in a clever, non-patronising way, such as H&M and their Fashion Against AIDS collection bursting with colourful dip dyes and geometric patterns.
Another is the ASOS Africa collection which is produced in collaboration with SOKO Kenya showcases acid bright prints in shapes that follow recent trends such as crop tops with high waisted pencil skirts. I recently came across the my African closet blog by Croydon based AJ Taylor who lived in Ghana till she was 14, she now uses influence from her heritage to design and sells clothes, mixing African prints into prom style dresses and peplums.
Scarf prints represent the epitome of European luxury and are often purse-achingly expensive and very ostentatious. Many of the designs look as though they have been lifted from the many grand European palaces such as the Palais de Louvre in Paris. Often associated with big European designers, Versace, Moschino, Hermés and more recently Dolce and Gabbana entered the foray with their signature leopard print and newer vegetable prints. Vintage Versace designs by the late Gianni Versace were known to clad backs of 90’s hip hop artists as part of the ‘Ghetto fabulous’ era where they were a representation of wealth and unashamed luxury (See the video for Notorious B.I.G – Hypnotize below). This was popularized again with Donatella reopening the archives for her collaboration with H&M which has been seen on the likes of Kanye West and Jessie J.
The newer generation of prints are being made by the likes of Mary Katrantzou with her innovative abstract graphic images of florals and feathers in glorious explosions of colours, that manage to clash yet compliment in perfect fashion harmony, making the wearer look like a beautiful objet d’art. So prints, they might be new or old, cost you £1 from a far flung corner of the world or £500 from Versace, whether they represent your heritage or somebody else’s, as cheesy as it might sound think of them as a piece of art on exhibition, even if it’s just down the street.