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Spring collections offer bright, attention-grabbing colours

Our fashion columnist discusses the return of colour.

The trouble with living in the iPod age is that we now press the shuffle button without thinking. Recently, I watched a programme about people forming clubs in order to listen to music albums from start to finish. That way they didn't feel compelled to cut out tracks or play only ones they liked. Editing and personalising has become such a part of our 21st-century consumer lives, we are forgetting how to react when something confronts us, demanding to be accepted for what it is without compromise or interference.

It's affecting fashion. This week I found myself scrolling through the spring 2011 collections online, with a finger poised on fast track, as you do, skipping over anything too dull.

There was, however, something about the collections by Prada, Jil Sander and Christopher Kane that made me stop and watch them in their entirety, in some cases over and over.

It wasn't just that they were short and neatly edited, or appealed to my personal taste; more that they were so utterly convincing and confident in terms of delivery, I dared not shuffle.

Between them they captured the essence of spring 2011: eye-popping, Warholesque brights incorporated into clothes with attitude. You can't have one without the other.

While so many other designers produced vast collections of colourful, often very beautiful, clothes, darting off down the 1970s route and spicing up designs with clever prints, Prada, Raf Simons (who designs the Jil Sander label) and Kane used shocking pink, zesty tangerine, fluoro lemon or astro-turf green, akin to using highlighter pens to underline key pieces that justified a place in the modern wardrobe.

The effect was not so much palette-cleansing as shocking. Here were clothes that radiated an energy that has been lacking of late.

It may be something to do with the fact that fashion to Prada, Kane and Simons is not simply a question of hemlines or silhouettes or what era inspires what print, or even what colour.

Their clothes don't epitomise glamour and they're not about looking pretty. They pinpoint an attitude. Right now this is about being bold and assertive. (Listen to the album 21 by Adele Adkins, better known as Adele, who provided the soundtrack to many spring/summer 2011 catwalk shows to help get you in the mood).

All three made a valid point for a colour comeback in the context of modernity.

Look beyond Simons's colour-infused catwalk spectacle and you find an assortment of casual classics centred on none other than the ubiquitous T-shirt.

"I was thinking that surely women must be fed up with the overworked mini cocktail dresses of the past decade, with the little evening bag and the big high heels. How much longer can they be excited by that?" Simons asked in an interview with Vogue UK this month. We don't need to dwell on the fact that the inspiration behind his striped floor-swooshing ballgown skirts came from the cheap plastic bags you get from convenience supermarkets and inevitably end up in landfill.

His explorative riff on eveningwear for women who have modernised their daywear and want to do the same with occasionwear (which is where ball skirts came in) is almost as exciting as his treatment of the colour pink, very much seen through the prism of the former menswear designer (ie not gender-stereotypical in the least).

It's fascinating but ultimately irrelevant to know the thought process of designers. Clothes are largely not art pieces, although one could argue Christopher Kane's fluorescent lime lace-print punched-out leather skirts and jackets, dipped in plastic, were wearable art.

Like their creator, who once put photo prints of screaming monkeys on shift dresses, Kane's designs don't ask to be explained, just coveted.

At a time when catwalk shows are becoming a selling tool or brand extension, and "celebrity" fashion designers such as Victoria Beckham are being welcomed into the fold, it's important to value designers whose approach to their craft is forensic in terms of colour and fabrication. Without them, fashion loses any sense of direction.

Maybe one day, looking back at the Jil Sander spring/summer 2011 collection will be akin to listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

Frightened of bright colours? Me too. I intend to opt for a neutral canvas and throw in a few bright accessories. This is how most women will approach spring fashion. A hot pink Miu Miu mini satchel is on my wish list. I might even stretch to that YSL Lingerie Pink lipstick. Rose-tinted sunglasses, anyone?

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