London. Britain's fame for spring flowers extends to fashion scene this season
The flowers that bloom this particular spring will be facing a fair amount of competition. The streets of London will be filled with flowers. The print is back in fashion and wardrobes will be blossoming, whether you shop in the designer boutiques or High Street chain stores. It all started with Betty Jackson, a designer who has been around for some years working with Quorum and Monsoon before launching her own label. Ms. Jackson got together with Brian Bolger (of The Cloth textile design group), a young designer she knew from her work as a consultant at the Royal College of Art fashion school. The result was an instant success, especially with the American store buyers. Her unlined calf-length coats for spring are in splashy florals of clear red, yellow, and green, with cotton T-shirts printed with a giant section of the flower. The knitwear designers who use the name Artwork have taken the same idea, with giant roses spread across their white cotton knit sweaters. Roger Saul of Mulberry goes one stage further and provides knitted cardigans to coordinate with his shirtwaisters in white covered with sprays of flowers.
Everywhere you look there are flowers: on the garden-party dresses at Janice Wainwright; on the afternoon dresses at Emanuel, with flower sprays on dark backgrounds, the scoop necks trimmed with a deep white collar. Caroline Charles chooses an allover flower print in blues or pinks for her silk cardigan suits with little camisole tops. There are even flowers at the ankle of Pretty Polly's rose print tights. Flowers can go to your head in the prettiest way in the Graham Smith collection of hats for Kangol. Mr. Smith is another talent who emerged from the Royal College of Art in its heyday in the '60s, when he left to join Lanvin in Paris. He came back to London to produce his own collection. Then, a few years ago, he joined forces with Kangol, where he is now design director.
In his collection for spring he adds a discreet touch of apple blossom to a veiled straw cloche, or covers the brim of a wide leghorn with an abundance of silk roses. For fun he clips a sprig of violets to the side of a classic Kangol beret.
You can hardly talk of prints of any kind without mention of Liberty, that Aladdin's cave of a shop in Regent Street that has had some of the most exciting prints in town ever since the first Mr. Liberty opened well over 100 years ago. A glorious floral in blue and green in the Liberty spring collection has been chosen by Paul Costelloe for his high-summer separates, with cropped pants, halter tops, and sundresses.
Mr. Costelloe made his name with his use of Irish linens, so it's no surprise that he has just been awarded the Fil D'Or prize by the International Linen Council. His easy blazers and ankle-length skirts are irresistible, and prettier still with a wide-sleeved T-shirt in crunchy cotton lace. Paul Costelloe received part of his training in New York, and it shows in his ability to design separates that really work together in the American sportswear tradition. One of the best outfits around town is his creamy canvas short-sleeved jacket over a lace and satin tank top and slim cream leather skirt.
The Anne Tyrrell name dates from the days when she was designing for the John Marks label. She now designs a collection of late-day clothes for the Ronald Joyce company. Her pajamas in pastel jacquard crepe de Chine, with a toning print shirt jacket, are ideal for holiday evenings.
As senior tutor at the Royal College of Art fashion school, Ms. Tyrrell is keenly aware of the huge, untapped source of design talent in London. To make better use of this talent, she has formed the Anne Tyrrell Design Consultancy, which, she hopes, will bring together designers and manufacturers in every sphere, from household linens and knitting yarns to ready-to-wear.
In the meantime, Marks & Spencer has taken quite a step forward in its fashion department. A highlight this spring will be its printed cotton T-shirt, from, once again, The Cloth. The T-shirt, with its stylized flower motif, is a move into high fashion. So are the colors for Marks & Spencer this spring, with their clear, strong blues, turquoise, jade, and yellow. It is all part of the extraordinary change taking place in Britain's High Streets. Led by the vigorous Next chain, which introduced the concept of well-designed coordinated clothes for the over-25s, and given more impetus by the success of the Italian Benetton group, most of Britain's traditional retailers have changed their approach to fashion. The latest is Principals, part of the giant Burton group. Suitably for a company where menswear has always been important, the emphasis is on good tailoring at affordable prices, like the Madras blazer, sold at just under 40 (about $44).
All this activity in the store groups has led to what has become almost an obsession with clothes for the woman who has been neglected for years, the over-25-year-old who wants interesting designs that are not too extreme, yet give her the confidence that she is in touch with fashion.
The High Street revolution has not been restricted to the chain stores. Even the more established British names have adopted a fresh attitude toward fashion. Aquascutum wouldn't be the same without its travel coats and rainwear, but its suit department looks better for the addition of some great trouser suits. You get the combination of traditional British tailoring with up-to-the-minute-styling. No wonder the new Aquascutum shops in Paris and New York are having such a success.