Last season people responded enthusiastically to what Mora calls the “punk floral,” an offbeat combination of orchids and pansies on a bright green ground. It was photographed on Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s chief creative officer, and it is still a smash on Pinterest boards. It is flaunted as well by actress Leslie Mann, who wears a punk floral rash guard in “The Other Woman,” a revenge comedy set to arrive in theaters this month.
“For us that pattern was the beginning of this new idea of prints,” Mora recalled. Eventually, he said, he found himself experimenting with a host of “optimistic, very clean, crisp florals,” which, in his view, are the fitting complement to a crisper, cleaner silhouette. He put stylized floral designs on shorts and dresses, even on a spongy neoprene fabric, operating from a conviction that combining structured shapes and floral patterns was, he said, “somehow the right thing to do.”
Of course, the garden party look will not appeal to everyone. Linda Fargo, the Bergdorf Goodman fashion director, is betting that shoppers, some of whom have already invested in longer hemlines and knife-pleated skirts, will go for tribal patterns, art-inflected designs and, among the more adventurous, Etsy-like homespun effects. And, she added, “anything with fringe, bomber jackets and mandals” (that last fashionspeak for the season’s mannish lug-soled sandals).
Like the sneakers and clumpy sandals that are standing in for floppy thongs this year, fringed bags, hand-tooled accents and deliberately frayed hems can inject an engagingly disruptive note into a relatively formal season. Much the same can be said for the upscale athletic wear filtering into stores. Sweatshirts embellished with ribbons and appliques, overblown pansies and sprigs of lace are flippant yet look decorous enough to wear with a streamlined calf-length pencil skirt.
Prada’s introduction of ribbed, triple-banded tank tops and leg-warmers, a raffish nod to the street/sports insignia of West Coast girl gangs, were echoed in the marketplace. So were the bomber jackets at Marc by Marc Jacobs and Marni, which included a gem-encrusted version that would likely appeal to even the most sports-averse consumer, and may tempt her, for the moment at least, to retire her well-worn biker jacket.
“Do you really need another motorcycle jacket?” Cohen asked rhetorically. Not likely, when there are so many racy alternatives. “Athletic clothes are going from the gym to the office and even out to dinner,” he pointed out. “They have become acceptable around the clock.” More than acceptable, they have proved a reliable means of relaxing or, indeed, subverting a look that may otherwise seem contrived. No surprise then that this track-and-field trend is being adopted by the fashion set, whose members were among the first to perceive that, in matters of style, few sins are more grave or weirdly shaming than trying too hard.