Let’s Get Digital

Bold, bright and slightly surreal—what spring is looking like, with a marasma of amazing prints to cheer up with after the winter gloom. The new season has found its calling, and it’s all about the scientific imagery of fascinating natural phenomena. Designers’ new infatuation with digital printing has resulted in a few incredible collections that will surely become iconic, thanks to well-played color combinations and curious patterns.

The most avant-garde of spring trends uses extremely advanced techniques to reproduce ethereal, and natural images. While shapes are kept basic and tailored, colors explode on fabric; bodies are re-shaped with exaggerated pictures and every garment tricks the eye, balancing honest realism and a bit of magic.

Oversizing is the rule, while silhouettes remain simple; some draping, lots of tailoring and clean lines are common characteristics, but it’s the images that tell the stories among a sea of abstract explosions, oversized fauna and organic materials. These unique pieces bring life to otherwise basic dresses; accessories are kept to a minimum to allow each print to play its own character.

The first to jump on the bandwagon was British sensation Christopher Kane who, back in Spring 2009, showcased the most sought-after dresses of the season—little black dresses with digital gorilla prints defined the mood for celebrities, editors and fashion victims who were seen wearing apes on their chests well after the end of the summer. The three-dimensional feel of those pieces—whose cuts were otherwise utterly simple—shared the catwalk with delicately scalloped numbers in pastel colors, creating an exquisite contrast. Fast forward to 2010, and Kane’s experiments in printing feature nuclear tests from the 1950s on the garments we’ll remember the most from the Resort collections this year.

Many designers followed suit: prints of animals, minerals and natural phenomena were spotted on catwalks the world over, from Prada to Maison Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester to Rick Owens.

But the young designers are the ones most enthusiastic about this contemporary technique. SOMA alumna Mary Katrantzou (see SOMA vol. 23.1) is still fascinating crowds with the genius prints she developed, moving from jewelry to breathtaking glass design for Spring 2010. Italian duo Leitmotiv (seen in SOMA vol. 23.8) are bringing their signature prints of curiosities and paraphernalia to their new collection, debuted in Milan last February. And the newest talents worldwide seem to be on board: this is our selection of the most exciting prints, wonderfully executed by designers you should keep an eye on.

Michael Angel > Michael Angel’s fluid, energetic prints are a worldwide favorite. It took the Australian designer (hailing from Melbourne) two years to perfect the pleating, draping and color palette to create the powerful pieces he’s now famous for. His latest effort combines black silk numbers printed with crystals and flowers in jewel tones—a powerful mix of symmetric patterns on supremely cut, extremely versatile dresses.

Peter Pilotto > Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos met while studying at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 2000. Abstraction of natural phenomena is the main fascination of the duo behind the highly celebrated London-based brand, reflected in their microscopic, encrusted, hyper-real prints. For spring they developed snakeskin patterns in bright shades on a highly wearable lineup of revisited basics, from belted trench coats and minidresses, to T-shirts and blazers.

Krystof Strozyna > Recent Central Saint Martins’ graduate Krystof Strozyna is quickly becoming one of London’s greatest new names. His sculptured tailoring earned him a Topshop sponsorship to showcase his work at London Fashion Week, and his last effort surely didn’t disappoint. On the catwalk for his Spring 2010 presentation, structured dresses were worn with oversized jewelry, and the color palette of neutral tones, summery yellows and black paneling worked perfectly with the symmetric, body-conscious abstract prints.

Louise Amstrup > Danish designer Louise Amstrup has been experimenting with digital prints and symmetric patterns: her spring collection – presented in London, where the designer has been showing for the past few seasons – is an ice-cold affair of grey and white, broken by black leather and over-structured shoulders. Glass and mirrors are printed in symmetric reflections on deconstructed trenchcoats and body-con pieces, with layers of black and white organza (a jacket, a cropped top) layered over simpler shapes.

Il Sistema degli Oggetti > A newborn Italian brand that’s already turning heads among the fashion cognoscenti, Il Sistema degli Oggetti was founded by three Politecnico graduates with a shared passion for artisan techniques. Their goal is to re-invent classic, iconic pieces – the blazer, the white shirt, the parka – with a contemporary flair. The Fall/Winter 2010 collection mixes black and white photographs of pebbles, rocks and mountains printed on shirts and dresses with grey knits and soft trousers, for an overall relaxed look that will feel just about perfect come fall.

– Rosa Marie Bertoli