Designer stripes have parallels in Picasso

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 March, 2011, 12:00am

Consider what Pablo Picasso has done for the art world. He launched an artistic movement that will forever be studied and revered, and he created some of art's greatest masterpieces. Now consider his contribution to the fashion world. Most would draw a blank when trying to find a link between the Spanish master and the art of threads and needles. But for those who know fine arts as well as they know fashion, Picasso could be credited for launching the trend for nautical striped shirts, aka the Breton, just as much as Coco Chanel.

Google images of Picasso and you are likely to find images of him sporting the blue and white striped long-sleeved shirt.

If Picasso were alive today, would he approve of spring's obsession with stripes? Would he go to Jean Paul Gaultier and trade up to a designer version of his favourite item? Gaultier has made the nautical shirt a fail-safe item on his repertoire, churning it out in various forms and materials season after season. In his current collection, there is the gauzy sailor sweater that is an obvious homage to Picasso. But Gaultier also uses the stripes motif to create a double-breasted jacket with black thin horizontal stripes on a cream fabric (1) (HK$16,850). It's a daring look, one that requires serious guts to pull off, especially when paired with the vertical-striped trousers (HK$6,080) as suggested on the runway. But take the pieces apart and, say, wear the jacket with a solid tee and pastel-hued trousers and you'd look like you're ready to hit the scene on a Mediterranean island.

The Mediterranean inspires other designers as well. Dolce & Gabbana produces several variations, with separates similar to men's swimwear from the 1950s such as belted striped trunks, and black and white knitted polo shirts with deep V-necklines.

Massimiliano Giornetti at Salvatore Ferragamo goes for a more polished and elegant look. He uses the stripes motif on relaxed white silk trousers (HK$10,500) worn with a royal blue silk shirt and a cotton navy blazer (2). It's the kind of look that one associates with the nightlife in the Cote d'Azur or Capri, or at least an idealised version of it.

But not all of spring's stripes are dual tone or borrowed from sailors' uniforms. In fact, if you want to really get in on the trend, the best way to do it is to wear a multicoloured sweater from Jil Sander. Raf Simons, the designer at Jil Sander, produces light knits (HK$6,900) in an explosion of colours (3). There's also a similar piece from Ralph Lauren Black Label (HK$7,150) in a punchy array of red, lime, teal, purple, orange and green. The pieces from Jil Sander and Ralph Lauren nail two of the hottest trends for spring: bright, bold colours and stripes.

Miuccia Prada, too, plays with crayon colours for her knitted striped sweaters (4) (HK$6,900) but hers have the added dimension of having wider stripes from the neck to mid-chest, then transitioning into thinner stripes in a different shade altogether from mid-chest to the hem.

All these colourful knits are best worn with dark jeans or black trousers. Because they are already eye-catching and outstanding pieces, you wouldn't want to wear something that clashes. Play down the effect of the stripes and the rainbow hues with something pared down and understated. For daytime, you can pair them with white jeans for a cool, relaxed vibe, or up the style quotient by throwing on a navy blazer.

Shopping list:

Dolce & Gabbana Alexandra House, Central, tel: 2877 5558

Jean Paul Gaultier Pacific Place Mall, Admiralty, tel: 2918 0374

Jil Sander at Joyce Pacific Place Mall, Admiralty, tel: 2523 5944

Prada Alexandra House, Central, tel: 2522 2989

Ralph Lauren The Landmark, Central, tel: 2869 0388

Salvatore Ferragamo Pacific Place Mall, Admiralty, tel: 2845 2718