Irealise that saying florals are a la mode for summer is about as surprising as claiming boots are in vogue for walking holidays, but those accustomed to these pages will know that fashion trends in florals can veer wildly, yes, WILDLY, I say, from one year to another. Sometimes the catwalks sprout nothing but ditsy prints, sometimes they’re awash with painterly petals, sometimes abstract splodges.
But for the summer of 2016 I have to tell you that we are knee-deep in suburban soft-furnishings. Shy not away from the 1930s tea-room look: chintz is in.
With the sun finally making an appearance, temperatures up and Chelsea Flower Show on the horizon, we are now in optimum position to embrace the busy floral. Matchesfashion.com have timed it well with a capsule collection of what they’re calling “retro florals in orange, raspberry and lilac” created by the designer Emilia Wickstead, which launches this week.
Imported from India, chintz had been used initially as a furnishing fabric. But when the upper classes handed down their older textiles to their household servants these exotic patterns started being used as clothes linings and then garments.
“In an interesting move this was then adopted by the higher classes who also saw the attraction in wearing these fast bright colours on clothes,” says Divia Patel, curator of The Fabric of India, last year’s exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. “The furnishing fabrics required large flowers, but when people started wearing them the merchants went back to India saying that a European audience might prefer, say, a cream background to a red and smaller sprays of flowers to the larger, so you started getting smaller patterns and a different look to the fabrics.”
When merchants started importing them in the 17th century, the surge in popularity alarmed the linen, wool and silk weavers of England who didn’t have access to cotton nor the fast dyes to make the exotic, hand painted textiles. With everyone who was anyone suddenly simply mad about chintz it threatened the ruin of the European textile market.