by Camilla Ridley
Is it the beginning for the end for Britains favourite floral midi dress? Or is current consumer defiance marking a new period in our collective relationship with fashion? We share our ideas and lessons from inside the vibe shift.
Two examples of summer dresses from the new Ridley London collection utilising both simpler paired back styles and more abstract floral prints
It’s been absolutely amazing to see so many beautiful floral print dresses out and about this week. Whether it’s been at Chelsea Flower Show, or simply on the London streets, it’s as if everyone has suddenly come into bloom with the long overdue arrival spring weather. So it’s hard to imagine that only a few weeks ago the fashion pages were stuffed full of pieces proclaiming the death of the floral midi dress under the catchy instagram ready caption of the ‘Vibe shift’. Even middle England mainstay John Lewis had publicly called time on an item that has been a best seller, and as the excellent Harriet Walker in the Times put it this week was "practically national costume.”
For the front row fashion set of editors, influencers, A list celebrities and emerging designers at the sharp end of the adoption curve, there’s more than an element of maintaining influence by constantly re-setting the style agenda. And for one or two well know ailing British retailers an opportunity to revive fortunes through manufactured demand must have seemed like manna from heaven. For a little label that had built a reputation for producing high quality, personalised floral dresses, it certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons. And if I'm honest, caused a few sleepless nights.
Inspiration from the vibe shift. A snap shot of the front row at Louis Vuitton's recent summer show with A listers including Lea Seydoux, Jennifer Connelly and Cynthia Erivo demonstrating the kind of looks we should all be considering this spring. And (right) an image from John Lewis's new clothing rental website looking suspiciously like a floral print midi dress.
Of course, in so many ways the very essence of fashion is change. New generations of consumers are constantly looking for a fresh and distinctive uniform. And labels and collections need to constantly evolve and adapt to stay relevant. All without loosing the DNA that made them so popular and pertinent to their customer's needs in the first place. It’s a very complex and intricate balance at the best of times, but with a back drop of marked economic uncertainty, terrible early spring weather and therefore virtually no concrete commercial data to go on, and a media seemingly stoked with revolutionary zeal, the whole exercise quickly becomes a high stakes night at the casino. Perhaps most importantly what does this so called vibe shift mean for you the customer? Can you still wear your favourite floral dress? Will they be around in the future? And how does this possibly fit with a much needed environmental behavioural shift where we all need to shop smarter and wear our clothes more.
Floral dresses are popular for a reason. As Harriet Walker eloquently points out "When a garment surpasses seasonal trends and sticks around, that’s because it is life-changingly useful and easy to wear.” From hiding stains and flatteringly camouflaging our less sightly curves, to greater wardrobe versatility, floral dresses bring a whole host of practical benefits that other garments simply can’t (See our previous post). Not to mention the emotive and culturally hardwired associations us Brits clearly share for them. And if recent evidence on the street is anything to go by, I would suggest we’re by no means ready to jettison this summer wardrobe staple altogether. But that doesn’t mean floral midi dresses can’t subtly evolve.
Unlike the champions of the 'Vibe shift’ calling for immediate and hard action, a ripping-off of the sartorial sticking plaster if you will, here at Ridley we suspect consumers will adapt and things will evolve organically over time. Having seen the fabrics on offer at premier Vision (The world’s biggest fabric buying show) in Paris earlier this year, there’s a definite trend towards more graphic and abstract interpretations of floral prints…but they’re definitely still floral. And the actual cuts and styles of dresses are also always evolving. While many of our best selling Ridley London floral print midi dresses are still available but have subtly evolved (see our occasion wear edit) , we’ve also introduced some more paired back utilitarian styles which chime with recent catwalk trends (see our summer dress collection). And when you put any of these new styles next to a Ridley floral midi dress from five years ago, they’re all very different, but they’re all still floral midi dresses. Add to this the trend for taking a favourite dress that makes you look and feel amazing and giving it an update with new accessories and I’m sure you will agree the 'Vibe Shift’ suddenly seems somewhat cynical and maybe even a little out of touch.
Some examples of our Ridley London printed floral dresses from spring 2018 showing pronounced frills, tiering and a distinctive prairie style
I’ll leave you with one final thought. As I was walking around the manicured avenues of Chelsea Flower Show earlier this week, I noticed a couple of cool young things wearing fantastically beautiful prairie style maxi dresses that would have been bang on trend 5 or 6 years ago. I can only assume these were vintage. They'd been accessorised in a really cool edgy and up to date way, and it really underlined the irony in all of this. So as one generation traditionally moves onto other styles in the pursuit of chic/ cool/ an image boost/ eternal youth there’s another generation quickly adopting cast-offs and making them all their very own. And in a world that's increasingly defined by individual expression, if it looks and feels great, and you wear it with attitude, then a floral midi dress will always be in style.
Ridley London's new holiday collection of summer dresses, skirts, tops, jackets and knitwear is available to purchase online and in Ridley's Barnes store. Celebrate your individuality this season with a unique piece that's individually crafted to flatter from your choice of any of our stunning new printed floral or solid silks or cottons. Or call us to arrange a virtual fitting:
Ridley London, 82 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 0DQ T: 0203 3367900