All things bright and beautiful

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From animal stripes to kaleidoscopic swirls, prints are everywhere this season, says Harriet Walker. Graphics may seem daunting, but don't be shy

The spring/summer catwalks are always a riot of colour, high hemlines and tropical fun that we dour northern Europeans, with our coats and boots, just can't get away with in winter. But this season, there was an extra dimension to the usual summer whimsy, which came in the form of every imaginable type of print.

Big, small, loud, chic, animal, mineral and digital. Everything from chintzy vintage curlicues to stark modernist geometry adorned sundresses, jackets, playsuits, shorts and trousers.

If you feel daunted by this, you're in good company. There are few brave enough to don a garment that has more of a presence than we ourselves do, but now's your moment to try it. For the fearless, there are acidic brights and swirling kaleidoscope prints that veer from recognisable animal stripes into digitally manipulated morphs and back again. For those who like their opticals less eye-wateringly bold, try one of the many monochrome pieces available on the high street. The main exponent of these Op Art-esque stripes and swirls was Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, so channel his modern gothic look and pair your prints with harem pants and bunched, pin-tucked skirts.

Inspiration also comes from the unique digital prints seen at Alexander McQueen, whose collection narrated the evolution of an other-worldly humanoid, aquatic creature. Deep-sea gold tones and watery sapphire were key colours and have been picked up on the high street, as have the shimmering, fluttering pseudo-Grecian drapery and folds

Over at Miu Miu, however, things were a little more, well, cute. There's no other word for the playful cats, swallows and kitsch naked ladies that scampered across pencil skirts, blouses, cut-away tops and collars, and this is one of the easiest ways to integrate a print into a wardrobe that is otherwise free of graphics. Plus, they're a great talking point.

Prada too have released a prints collection as a capsule range, which has been spotted on everyone from Carey Mulligan to Kate Bosworth, and rifles through their extensive archive to bring ballet pumps, tea-dresses and blouses new life. If you can't stretch to those prices, there's a slightly more affordable tote bag which will add verve to any ensemble too.

A few words of warning: don't mix your prints, and don't mix your genres. Keep things slick and streamlined with modern, angular prints; you can add ruffles and flounces to tropical and vintage prints. Pay attention to detail, and choose printed accessories if you don't want to go the whole hog. Basso & Brooke have even decorated a Turning Leaf wine bottle with a digital print label – just make sure it doesn't clash with your outfit.

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