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Petal power: This spring, the world's greatest designers are saying it with flowers

Susannah Frankel
Saturday 26 January 2008 01:00 GMT

Flowers have never been so fashionable. But, of course, that means very different things to the very different sensibilities involved at the various fashion houses. For Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga, flowers are never something to be seen as overly pretty or, indeed, superfluous. These are flowers with attitude, if you will.

They are also determinedly vintage, cultivated from the Balenciaga archive where, back in the mid-20th century, the mighty Cristobal's rigorous taste dictated a very strange and abstracted bloom. Failing that, antique floral prints were found by today's Balenciaga design team and then re-coloured. Suffice to say, then, that nothing very simple is going on here.

For Miuccia Prada, appliquéd flowers climbing across feather-light dresses whisper of women's innermost imaginings. In a softer collection than might be expected from this particular designer, fantasy is key and so too is an image of womanhood that is anything but sugar-sweet. Instead, a strange colour palette and Art Deco influences bring a complex and slightly other-worldly heroine to mind.

So far, so bold, and Marni's painterly prints gracing signature smocks are equally exuberant in flavour. For the Japanese designer Junya Watanabe, however, a more traditional floral print is the order of the day. This is not the first time that this highly innovative name has chosen to work with Liberty print, but it almost goes without saying that he handles it in anything but a conventional manner. Instead, a single piece of fabric is draped, pleated and wrapped around the body and then fastened to it by ropes of gold chain, bringing both the French haute-couture tradition and the rainbow decorative cloth favoured in African dress to mind.

It should, perhaps, come as no surprise that Stella McCartney's treatment of this particular theme has its roots firmly in the Seventies and in Chloé, then designed by Karl Lagerfeld and as worn by her mother, Linda. The light, unashamedly romantic but never saccharine-sweet collection this designer has come up with for spring/summer is her strongest to date, and diaphanous floor-length dresses, jumpsuits and ultra-short skirts, all printed with meadow flowers, are the high point.

Should madam wish to finish her look in an equally herbaceous manner, McCartney's wooden wedges and Prada's spike heels are decorated with still more small, but perfectly formed, flowers.

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