Once again fashion invites us to stand out in patterns inspired by the art of blending in.
Ever since its common use and term coinage in World War 1, it has caught the imagination of endlessly renewing generations in fashion, from the outré black and white clothing of the Dazzle Ball of 1919 (in patterns not unlike those we've seen revived in recent seasons) to the anti-war protest regalia of the 60s and a nonchalant flash in the pan of 90s grunge, that rather complimented a pair of black Dr. Martens. Fashion addicts of my age may also recall the appearance it made on the easy-to-copy bandwagon of the pop circuit before the turn of the millennium.
Its enduring appeal of patterned disorder has captured the imaginations of artists and designers from Ian Hamilton Finlay to John Galliano in his heyday at Dior. But we must never get stuck so superficially on the ice floe of generalised symbolism. The combative rebellion aspect is merely a one-sided interpretation - a single paradigm among the complex signs of fashion. Every trend and iteration had its unique context, angle - zeitgeist, if you will. Put simply, it ain't what you say...
The class of 2013 is seeing a softer, more feminine incarnation from the colourful Warhol-like prints at Christopher Kane to the playful patchwork of fur at 3.1 Phillip Lim. The fabrics, the colour palette and the quirky, inventive detailing set the new breed apart, so that no-one need think we're still living through the great combat trousers fixation of 1998 (All Saints is a global fashion label now, not an embarrassing pop trend instigator!) or rifling through a charity shop for an army surplus backpack. Let it never be said that chaotic patterns and feminine elegance should be conflicting subjects!