The perennial desirability of white for high summer — both in practical terms for reflecting light, thus making it cooler than dark shades, and aesthetics (nothing looks quite as fabulous on a hot day as icy white) — means that designers return to this particular monochrome every few summers. They cater for a clientele who are unperturbed by weather and possibly less bothered by the extra laundering that is necessary to keep white looking good. And we are not talking classics here, like a crisp white shirt or white tees, which are the backbone of any summer wardrobe, but statement pieces — the white jacket, the crisp white dress, white trousers paired with a white gypsy top by Norma Kamali, or a draped Vince tank.
American designers have a ready-made constituency of consumers who favour white — think of all those Choo-shod New Yorkers who head to the ritzy Hamptons where white, or bleached chambray, are virtually a summer uniform. So in the US white invariably features strongly and, this season, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Proenza Schouler, Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein were all white hot, with languid sportswear, big shirts, crisp little dresses and stunning draped gowns — a Hilfiger speciality — all in cool white.
Paris, Milan and London also fell under the spell of white mischief, with Hussein Chalayan producing the most consistently desirable collection of directional white pieces. Gucci, Givenchy, Stella McCartney, Chanel, Chloe, Nicole Farhi, Gucci, Yves St Laurent, Preen and Jil Sander all produced directional white pieces, including a sleeveless coat dress in white by Nicole Farhi and a slim-fitting sheath by Jil Sander that would be a summer perennial.
It goes without saying that white should always be pristine. If you don’t want sky-high dry-cleaning bills, buy washable white, and if it needs to look crisp, head to Robert Dyas for a can of spray starch — it is amazing the edge something as simple as starch can give to even Primark white.
This season’s way with white is to keep it pure; it should be worn alone, accessorized with nothing more than a light tan. But while models who have been professionally spray-tanned from foot to forehead may be able to work that look, those of us who are less adept with the fake tan application (or tan less evenly) may wish to add a spectacular necklace or wrap a long scarf around our neck so that we don’t have stark white next to our face.
And the good news is that — despite sunshine and the sales having arrived virtually simultaneously — because white is definitively high-summer apparel, it is often delivered in July and even August, so white is arriving now, fresh, crisp and deliciously tempting.
Fenwick Bond Street and Brent Cross both have new white pieces, including a demure cotton tea dress with crochet bodice by Darling, skinny and straight-leg white jeans by Hudson, and a resort-perfect Nicole Farhi smock top at £120. New white at Marks & Spencer includes a shapely pencil skirt in the Autograph range at £39.50 and a pair of languid beach trousers in white at £19.50. Topshop also has a stock of white, including a flowing, scrunched cotton dress with frilled neck at £45, and off-white line turn-up, peg-top trousers at £35.