Just pay attention to detail…
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Appliqué trim dress, £75, Warehouse
It is up for debate which designer (or duo in the case of Dolce & Gabbana) was the pioneer of the spring/summer 12 trend for intricate detail which pervaded so many catwalk collections and which has found its way onto the high street at twice the speed of sound.
Was it Mulberry's Christopher Bailey with his chunky tribal beading, Miuccia Prada with her jewel-encrusted collars, Giambattista Valli with his appliqué flowers, Marc Jacobs (in his Louis Vuitton collection) with his broderie anglaise collars, Stella McCartney and Christopher Kane with lace inlays, or the aforementioned Dolce & Gabbana with their lace panels dotted with applique flowers?
As so often in fashion, a coterie of designers seems, as if by magic, to send out a colour, a shape, a mood or - in this case - detailing which is then echoed on many other catwalks, making it difficult to pin the "first in show" rosette on any single designer.
It's not magic, of course; it's the fact that designers go to the same art exhibitions, see the same films and plays, scour the same grungy little vintage stalls in SoHo, Brick Lane and Porte de Montreuil, and - most of all – visit the same textile fairs where the colours, prints and textures on show determine what will appear on the catwalks 18 months later.
But let's rein in our cynicism for a moment and rejoice in the fact that this season, high street and mid-range brands are channeling Marc, Miuccia et al by adorning their clothing with gorgeous detail. Most startling is that most of the pieces on the high street are refreshingly affordable. This is because the intricate embellishment which once had painstakingly to be done by hand, can now be reproduced by machine, making embellishments such as appliqué, embroidery and beading feasible at high street prices.
For the broderie anglaise/lace collar element of the "details" vibe, the plaudits definitely belong to Marc Jacobs. In his ravishingly pretty S/S12 collection for Louis Vuitton, which also kick-started the sorbet-colours trend, he added them to blouses, dresses, jumpers, coats and cardis and even contrived to have them trim his pastel biker jackets.
Jaeger and Topshop both have excellent, Jacobs-inspired shirts: Jaeger's is ivory silk; the Topshop version is cotton. In similar mood, Reiss has a broderie anglais tuxedo jacket with shawl collar and Zara has a short-sleeve blouse with lace trim and embroidered panels.
Embellished collars, and collars generally - especially Peter Pan collars - are a key detail, though sequins are, unsurprisingly, substituted for the Prada jewels. Our favourites include a black Peter Pan collar on a lace-embossed blouse at Zara (£39.99), a neat little Peter Pan collar finishing off a sunshine yellow, lace front shell top by Warehouse (£48), a tiny cream Peter Pan collar trimming a blue cotton dress by Confezione Crosby (£260 at Browns) and a white collar adorning a black sweater in the Hobbs Unlimited collection.
Appliqué was the favoured embellishment of Giambattista Valli, who would find plenty of tributes to his exquisite adornments on the UK high street. Look for them at Dorothy Perkins (white top scattered with white appliqué flowers, £32), at Mango (a cream top, lavished with appliqué flowers, £44.99, and a strapless cream dress with appliqué flowers over the bodice, £69.99); at River Island whose double layer white broderie anglaise under sheer lilac is dotted with applique flowers (£30); and at Warehouse which has an adorably pretty sleeveless nude dress with appliqué flowers over the lower two-thirds of the skirt (£75).
The trend is so ubiquitous, Topshop even has stiletto courts with appliqué flowers…
If you prefer to buy the originals, Stella McCartney's dress in Yves Klein blue with lace inset in a diagonal panel and lavished at the hem is available at Browns, while Christopher Kane's lace-trimmed dresses are on sale at Browns and Harvey Nichols. Marc Jacobs' broderie anglaise collars for Louis Vuitton are detachable, thus wonderfully versatile. And even at £380 they have virtually sold out.