- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 15, 2006

With spring’s color palette focused on neutrals, what’s a stylish gal to do if she wants to make a bold fashion statement? She picks a print.

In fact, she’ll show she’s really on the ball if it’s a white-ground print — hitting two trends with one top — or bottom, or dress.

British designer Luella Bartley, who is Target’s guest international designer this season, is known for bold prints and patterns. The Target collection features garments decorated with cherries, cowboy boots, graffiti and plaids, while Miss Bartley’s upcoming signature fall collection uses lots of schoolgirl plaids.

“I like things to be quite poppy, quite graphic — it’s quite a London sensibility. I’m not looking for ‘pretty’ or ‘nice,’” Miss Bartley says. “Stripes are always a huge thing for me. I’m obsessed with stripes. I like a graphic flower print, not a delicate Liberty [of London] print, and I like uniform prints.”

Miss Bartley says she shies away from intricate artwork and cutesy things, but fruit prints look crisp, too.

“A cherry is very iconic. I like to play those sorts of images. I take something sickeningly sweet and use it in a subversive way. With cherries, the way to do it is to make it graphic. It’s sweet, cute, but hopefully with a little bit of teen angst,” she says.

As a woman in her 30s, Miss Bartley says she would wear the cherry print with a tailored pantsuit. “I like that bold pop but without being too in your face.”

Miss Bartley and her team design all the prints themselves, and they’re typically the first step in building a new collection. The inspiration for one could come from something on the street to a piece of art.

“Usually when I’m thinking about the story behind the girl of the collection, I’m thinking about the things she loves, and then the prints just sort of come,” Miss Bartley says during a phone interview.

James Ferragamo, director of women’s leather goods at Salvatore Ferragamo (and grandson of the famous designer), had the luxury of looking at the company’s rich print archives to create the Fiera handbag collection.

“Prints have been a Ferragamo signature since the late 1970s, when we first introduced our now-famous silk scarves,” he says. He used 13 prints — all representative of brand signatures — to create a patchwork effect of color, animal motifs, florals and geometric shapes.

“The effect is very fresh, young and playful, and a great way to liven up your spring wardrobe,” he says. “Not everyone would be comfortable wearing lots of bold prints, but these Ferragamo printed handbags are the perfect way to add a splash of color and interest to your outfit without feeling overwhelmed.”

At Boden, another British-based brand with a penchant for prints, women’s wear designer Tara Ryan says big, bold Hawaiian flowers are used for a loose silhouette like a caftan, while smaller prints — dots and gingham check, for example — work better on more fitted garments.

“Smaller size prints always seem to be a winner; they’re easier to dip your toe into. Printed cotton shirts sell so well every season,” Miss Ryan says. “They’re not anonymous, but they’re something more neutral, and anything with a white ground is fresh and lends itself to spring and summer. In autumn, people play it safer with prints and focus on tonality.”

Shoppers get excited when they see cheery floral dresses in stores in early spring and snap up dresses that they probably can’t wear until June, Miss Ryan says. “Prints can be a positive, optimistic statement.”

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