Nice and nautical - trend or staple?

With Henley Regatta this weekend, Annie Deakin is loving the nautical look. But can we call it a ‘trend’?
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The Independent Online

Certain things in life are just guaranteed. Not only taxes and death; I’m thinking rain at Glastonbury, strawberries at Wimbledon and July interior magazines singing about the nautical "trend". Every year it's the same. The moment the sun comes out, fabric designers, fashion followers and the mass market go wild for blue and white stripes, maritime prints and sailor suits.

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"The nautical trend is back with a vengeance," said interior designer Joanna Wood recently, "and we are loving the look." But how can it be called a "trend" when it’s more timeless than Kelly Hoppen’s taupe?

Summer on summer, inspiration from the French Riviera and the catwalk infiltrates the interior and fashion worlds. The Spring/Summer 09 catwalk for D&G was awash with anchor print scarves and flag-printed sunglasses while Bobbi Brown just released a limited edition make-up range called Nautical inspired by a bike trip in Brittany and Normandy.

But while editors and "trend’" forecasters gush about the "hot fad" of stripes and anchors, many argue that they’re dated. And that they are. The nautical "trend" was kicked off by Queen Victoria when she gave her four-year-old son Albert Edward a sailor suit to wear aboard the Royal Yacht in 1846. Ever since, designers have capitalised on the look.

"Nautical style is the total opposite of a design trend," insists interior stylist Victoria Harrison. "A universally popular style that returns year on year, coastal chic draws on whitewashed furniture, breezy stripes and natural textures which are classically timeless and never date - unlike many other high street 'trends'."

Numerous incarnations of the blue and white stripes flood the market every summer and this year is like none other. Nautical-inspired striped prints, featured in OKA’s summer collection, are reminiscent of coastal holidays. The current boom of all things maritime prompted lifestyle brand Runaway Coast to open this year; inspired by the Suffolk coast, the bedding has names like "Lighthouse stripe", "New England Star" and "Ahoy! Stripy Jack". Stripes in the home and in fashion will always be popular; in part for their deceptive illusions. Famous designer Ian Mankin sells affordable hard-wearing striped cottons and linens (available by the metre) based on the striped ticking that traditionally covers mattresses.

The nautical of 2009 is more vintage shabby beach chic than last year’s preppy yacht style. Colour-wise, natural chalky paints give that soft, slightly sun bleached look while a rough hewn oar acts as an attractive alternative to stair railing. Mixing materials and colours bring nautical up to date; the matt of sails and shininess of boat hulls gives designers curious textures with which to work. Think rope knots, lanterns and framed antique sailing maps which trace the routes of explorers rather than blinding blue and white stripes.

"Don't go over the top with your nautical theme or it can end up being contrived," warns Pia Munden, design manager for "Avoid rows of badly drawn pictures of boats. Instead think of beautiful prints of fish framed in natural wood frames with red or navy blue mounts to take nautical to a glamorous level."

Trends don't have to mean flashy and cutting edge. Forward thinking designers are going back to basics with muted tones and nautical emblems. There’s more to those blue stripes than meets the eye. They imply "the good life", sunshine, boating, the beach and the romantic yesteryear of ‘Great Gatsby’ days and for that, they will be perpetually popular.

As sure as next year’s Glastonbury rain and Wimbledon’s strawberries, you can bet your mortgage that the magazines of 2010 will talk about the hot nautical "trend". Perhaps not the most creative of looks, nautical is, at least, groundbreaking in its status. It has weathered the storm of time and is still as coveted as ever. Distinct from virtually all interior styles, nautical chic is a timeless trend. It's a shore thing.

Annie Deakin is Editor of