As Britain is finally doused in a welcome hit of sunshine, alongside the onset of summer comes the inevitable hotbed of Hawaiian florals. The two forever-entrenched in a once-a-year-love-affair, dressing in spare, Spartan pattern and dull neutral hues is abandoned in favour of the boom and bust of halcyon days Hawaiian flora and fauna.
Danced across Bermuda board shorts and those squarely-cut, don’t button all of the way up shirts – cropped awkwardly, kicking up boxily, finishing in an angular upended sleeve to exaggerate the torso – hyper colour florals in yellows and oranges, azures, violets and turquoises are peppered with birds of paradise and gleeful hula dancers, snake-hipped surfers segueing through verdant forests of realist print.
Spanning a cross-generational, cross-cultural spectrum from skater boys to dapper granddads, why does the Polynesian hold such a draw? Originally endowed with the title Aloha shirt, the Hawaiian shirts coining in the 1930s saw American visitors to the island pick up and appropriate the good-time prints and after World War II, servicemen and women returned to their homelands decked out in the finest of Hawaiian foliage. A saturated symbol of success and celebration, optimism and victory, look no further for a pure, unadulterated symbol of summer exaltation.
Transplanting the heat and exotic escapism to the dourest of picture-postcard shores, Hawaiian florals eclipse the fey William Morris blooms and delicate, decorative Dandyisms of seasons and eras past to present a bolshy, florid take on seasonal print. No longer the mainstay of vintage, the Resort/Pre-Collection and Menswear Spring 2012 catwalks saw Hawaiian take on a crisp, revitalized modernity - sharp, shameless and shocking.
Reintroduced by Maarten Van Der Horst Central Saint Martins’ MA graduate show of Autumn/Winter 2011, Van Der Horst described an intention to take an archetypal garment and “dragify it” on a very low budget. A desire fulfilled, oversized shirts, Bermuda shorts and Capri pants came smothered in a collision of lilac and pink, Alice blue and mint green florals alongside a frothy burst of vintage petticoats exploding from bust and behind to constitute an alternative holiday wardrobe. Seeking to interrogate ideas of escapism and gender ambiguity what at first appeared to be a simple play on irony and bad taste – much like Miuccia Prada’s Spring 2012 South Pacific golf homage in psychedelic, LSD prints, tweeds and gem-peppered shoes – mastered a balanced androgyny.
A historically masculine garment, when considered in print terms – uninterrupted florals spanning whole bolts of fabric – there exists a challenge to “normative”, now conventional concepts of what menswear is. It makes sense then that Ricardo Tisci – following a womenswear Pre-Collection – took on the Hawaiian floral in menswear. Forever revelling in the interrogation, subversion and strength of uber masculinity, where Tisci has previously summoned Latino and British street culture, he turned for Spring 2012 to the surfer.
Inky gothic blacks and Catholic conceits gave way to blinding whites and symmetrical digital prints, placed in kaleidoscopic formations across skirts and baseball caps, athletic cropped jumpers and sharp, severe tailoring. Offset against combatant olive green and military motifs, Tisci recontextualised a nostalgic notion – the aforementioned soldiers of WWII and their sartorial souvenirs – through a refreshed narrative. Another harbinger in progressive menswear, Raf Simons returned to the shadowy silhouettes of his Black Palms collection to deliver signature subversion. Once again reinterpreting the Hawaiian floral, primary hued tanks came marked with a single, sometimes double band of intarsia knit flora in the deepest of blacks, transforming halcyon days Hawaiian prints into a brooding, contentious commentary.
Not neglecting womenswear, Stella McCartney clashes deckchair stripes and Polynesian blooms for a literal collision of British and exotic summertime whilst Phoebe Philo’s all-overlooks at Celine appropriated the aesthetic with almost suffocating coverage – Hawaiian florals; a classic contemporised.