The Fine Prints

It's been said a thousand times: Resort is a season of big sales and increasingly significant fashion.

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It’s been said a thousand times: Resort is a season of big sales and increasingly significant fashion. It’s also a season with a distinct element of play, one rooted in leisurely origins and often expressed via splashy prints. Of course, the requisite florals channel the tropics, but between bold abstracts and witty illustrations, the current crop is as diverse as it gets.

For example, a skirt bearing images of a sombrero, a mariachi player and folksy senoritas. “It’s either love or hate,” says Bryan Bradley of the vintage Mexican blanket he plucked from his grandmother’s stash and reprinted for his Tuleh collection. “It’s a little twisted, if you want to see it. It has slightly stereotypical overtones that crack me up, but it’s a non-ironic idea about resort, like a souvenir that you would buy on vacation. I just think it’s charming and funny and not too cynical or overintellectualized.”

Bradley is not alone in this sentiment. His turista print skirt and raincoat emblazoned with little umbrellas are just two of the many literal (and kitschy) takes on the season of travel and beachy retreats that have popped up for resort. There were lawn chairs at Carolina Herrera and surfer prints at See by Chloé, while Frida Giannini’s Pop Bamboo collection for Gucci featured starfish, sea horses, coral and a bamboo pattern play, which, says the designer, “immediately gives the idea of freshness and vacation.” At Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs added color and pattern with “resort clichés” such as airplanes, helicopters, anchors and speedboats culled from vintage travel posters.

On the other side of the spectrum, large-scale graphics and artsy abstracts abounded in Thakoon’s “sporty safari on acid” collection and at Stefano Pilati’s Yves Saint Laurent, where Cy Twombly served as inspiration. Meanwhile, Jacobs worked on two very different vivid scales with graphics at Marc Jacobs and colorblocking at Marc by Marc Jacobs. “I like the opportunity at resort to get lots of color and pattern in, and to use prints that have the playfulness and spirit,” Jacobs says. “They keep the fabric light and it seems a bit less conservative for resort. And they do always evoke the idea of not-work clothes.”

This story first appeared in the June 28, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Ralph Lauren, too, had extracurriculars in mind for his colorful paisley frocks. “They’re not serious, city clothes,” says Lauren’s Buffy Birrittella. “They’re bare, flirty and playful.”

But in a season that banks on commercial appeal, are such bold strokes too much? (Indeed, Yves Saint Laurent’s splatter-paint print dress, recently worn by Demi Moore, has already appeared in Us Weekly’s When Bad Clothes Happen to Good People pages.) According to retailers, it’s just the opposite. “It becomes a very personal idea when a customer starts to put prints into her wardrobe,” says Neiman Marcus’ Ken Downing, who favored the season’s bold geometrics.

“It’s exciting; we’re not just seeing sweet florals,” adds Kirna Zabête’s Sarah Easley, who notes that, from a retail standpoint, prints and color are vital to resort in terms of playing against the fall merchandise that’s still on the sales floor when resort hits. “A lot of people who take Christmas and New Year’s vacations are looking for color and light, something that’s a reaction against the tailoring, and the navy, the gray, the black and the heavy layers of fall.”

There was nothing saccharine about the bold florals at Versace, where Donatella Versace rendered an Irving Penn-inspired image of a calla lily with a graceful “X-ray” effect. “It’s very difficult to do flower prints because they always look ultraromantic or too busy,” Versace says. “I made it as graphic, clean and monochromatic as I could. And they make you feel lively, happy and very summery.”

Bradley couldn’t agree more. Resort’s witty prints, he says, “make you smile.”

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