Spring trends: The key looks for the new season

Americana meets surrealism with touches of sublime madness on this season's catwalks and you can't move for floral motifs, says Susannah Frankel
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Indy Lifestyle Online

For spring/summer 2008, fashion has burst into bloom. From every variety of stylised floral imaginable courtesy of Nicolas Ghesquire at Balenciaga to meadow flowers at Stella McCartney, Liberty-print sprigs at Junya Watanabe and hand-painted flora at Dolce & Gabbana this is the single, unifying factor in an otherwise disparate season. Those who haven't turned to nature overtly for inspiration and it has to be said that this is, for the most part, nature as seen only in our dreams fabric is still treated with all things flowery in mind. The frills and folds at Lanvin, say, where parachute silks are plain as opposed to printed, resemble the most finely crafted petals.

At Yves Saint Laurent, the designer Stefano Pilati is continuing the ultra-sophisticated and exceptionally discreet work he was applauded for last season. An obsession with Americana can be seen here in the form of immaculately proportioned tailoring in nothing more haute than grey marle. A nod to US culture is also very much on the agenda at Betsey Johnson (signature scary-fairy prom dresses), Versace (glowing Miami colours) and Chanel (printed stars and stripes).

If this particular vein of thinking has its roots in the American dream, then dreams of the European variety are de rigueur also. Miuccia Prada has attributed her darkly magical collection to being inspired by women's collective imagination. Elsewhere, surreal touches make Wonderland (as in Alice's Adventures In ...) the holiday destination of choice. The results are pretty throughout Viktor & Rolf's rosy-hued harlequin collection. The more dark and distressed aspect of the Surrealist movement, meanwhile, is amply expressed by suitably restraining features courtesy of Gareth Pugh (a black crystal cube to wear over the entire head, anyone?) and Alexander McQueen. More gently ethereal though not, strictly speaking, the most practical way forward for fashion either is the huge array of sheer fabric on offer and in particular every incarnation of organza from acrylic to fine silk.

It is hard to fathom what exactly Marc Jacobs is dreaming of at the moment, but a back-to-front presentation of gauzy dressing for his signature collection and a colour palette inspired by Sponge Bob Square Pants for the French fashion superpower Louis Vuitton suggests that sartorially accomplished madness looms. Cartoon colours also make an appearance at Comme des Garons, Burberry Prorsum and Marni.

Is some, or indeed all, of the above beginning to appear far-fetched? Worry not, safe in the knowledge that such unbridled fashion fantasy does make for thoroughly covetable accessories. The season's bags range from the sublimely ridiculous the Pop artist Richard Prince's collaboration with Louis Vuitton to the ... sublimely ridiculous Chanel's quilted case complete with gilt-edged port-hole, so its owner can see inside. Shoes are more extreme still. At Prada every outfit was sent out with an increasingly improbable but lovely rainbow-coloured hand-sculpted and/or -painted creation. At Yves Saint Laurent, quite the highest metal spikes the catwalk has ever witnessed are the order of the day.

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