Sunday, April 20, 2008 | Los Angeles Times
THE SPRING COLLECTIONS were so full of trembling blossoms and tropical blooms, the runways were like Impressionist galleries in motion. These were the masterpieces of the season — floral prints without hard edges, saturated with color, in soft, fluid shapes.
The pastel caftan at Michael Kors, the unbelievably beautiful watercolor silk jumpsuit at Roberto Cavalli, the handpainted abstract floral ball gown at Dolce & Gabbana, the molded, hothouse flower minidress at Balenciaga, and the flowing English garden print peasant blouse at Stella McCartney — all of them reached a new level of artfulness, charming and romantic, yes, but with the forceful presence of strong design. Florals, but not for wallflowers.
And what better place to show some of these magnificent clothes than the vaunted grounds of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino?
We caught the gardens in full bloom, the flowers on the vine mixing with the flowers on our dream pieces. Rather than casting the clothes in a stuffy, ladieswho- lunch context, we brought them down to earth, breaking up the busy prints with 1970s-era bohemian touches, for a look that's more reminiscent of Joni Mitchell's days in Laurel Canyon than a formal garden party.
Amacramé belt is tied in a casual knot around the Kors caftan, and flat brown sandals lend a relaxed feel to a bright pink vintage Hanae Mori gown. Classic suede Minnetonka ankle boots are a must-have for this Southern California story, worn with a light washed denim vest by Sass & Bide and a Missoni dress. Slips and camisoles with lace or eyelet trim provide extra coverage and a sweet detail, worn under a sheer dress or blouse. You might also try tucking a floral print shirt into a pair of vintage-looking, high-waist, wide-leg jeans such as the pair above from Diane von Furstenberg, and tying the pieces together with a distressed leather belt.
Dries Van Noten's button-downs are on the lust-worthy list for spring, but, really, any floral shirt will do. And if you don't have one, you can always take a cue from Dolce & Gabbana and paint it yourself.
THERE'S no better backdrop to capture the season's best floral prints than the Huntington Libary, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.
The lush gardens have long been a muse to fashion designers and artists, including Robert Rauschenberg, who was inspired to pursue a career in painting after visiting the Huntington in 1946, while on leave from the Navy. More recently, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the Pasadena-based designers of Rodarte, were charmed by the place. Their intricate rose appliqués, which could have come right out of the gardens, put them on the fashion map.
In fact, April is the best month to visit the Rose Garden, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. An exhibit, "La Rose Impériale — The Development of the Modern Rose," continues through the end of the month, with rare botanical books illustrating the development of repeatblooming roses in 19th century France, and the Empress Josephine's role in their history. There's also an interactive fragrance display, where visitors can sample rare rose oils from Turkey, Bulgaria and Morocco.
The $20-million renovation of the Huntington Art Gallery, the original residence of Henry and Arabella Huntington, is wrapping up after 21⁄2 years. The grand reopening is May 28.
Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino. (626) 405-2100, www.huntington.org. Noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekends
Photographed by Jay L. Clendenin. Styled by Melissa Magsaysay. Hair by John Ruggerio at Exclusive Artists. Makeup by Sonia Lee at Exclusive Artists. Models Ruby Corley at Next Models and Maya Brown at L.A Models. Fashion assistant Ronit Nabi. Shot at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino.