Street Style: Print Mixing on Milwaukee Ave

December 28, 2011  |  Individuals, Streetstyle, Trends, Wicker Park

Print-mixing is similar in concept to the TV show Chopped; take these totally diverse visual elements and combine them into something that works. It’s very difficult. I find it fascinating that at this point in time there are two main paradigms in fashion; the minimalist Céline/Jil Sander/Calvin Klein aesthetic which despite becoming somewhat overplayed, is still strong; and then print-mixing, which Givenchy nailed to a tee this season (pansies and panthers? brilliant!). What’s so delightful about prints is that it allows each designer to create their own aesthetic while evolving from season to season. A Peter Pilotto print is instantly recognizable across seasons without becoming stale and predictable.

Mixing together prints is one of the things I love most about my favorite fashion brand Suno. The designs impart a magical sense of confidence in the wearer because each garment contains a mix of two or three colorfully energetic prints. Most of us eventually learn the importance of proportions, fit, and how to wear colors together. While the people who master fashion’s vagaries are often revered for their supernatural abilities to see trends years in advance, I believe it’s the ability to mix prints from different collections (or designers) that truly defines an expert eye.

The key is for designers to create prints season after season in a way that doesn’t stifle their creative growth by imposing self-inflicted boundaries. I’m going to be honest here; I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own. A friend of mine kindly explained this concept to me when I was sad after finding out that Suno is no longer using only vintage Kenyan kanga cloth in their designs. Rather than boxing themselves into a certain niche – one that would inevitably become stale – Suno is taking the idea of African prints to the next level by creating and designing their own printed cloth and evolving beyond the look of their first season. Now I’m more excited than ever to see how they grow. Meanwhile, designers like Proenza Schouler use wildly different prints to re-invent themselves each season. Just look at how the Spring 2010 scuba collection differed from the Spring 2011 shibori collection, and how divergent that collection was from the Spring 2012 Hawaiian collection. Yet all are quintessentially Proenza while all looking completely different. I’ve learned that is the magic of Proenza.

One of the toughest skills to master in style is the art of mixing prints. This is something I have learned only after paying close attention to what makes the outfits of street-style icons like Sarah Rutson and Giovanna Battaglia work so well, and what makes my own outfits sometimes fail. One of my friends is the master of mixing prints when she styles outfits on clients and friends. I seriously doubt anyone else on the planet is more talented at this rarefied art than she is. It took a long time for me to realize that her ability to mix prints unlike anyone else on the planet is a part of what makes her so brilliant.

I find print-mixing endlessly fascinating mainly because I find it so difficult to accomplish in my own wardrobe. I’m learning, but I’m still a long way off which is why I stick to solid pants and a single printed top most days. The best part about being a street-style photographer is that my photos allow me to live vicariously through the outfits of other people, something I’m sure you all enjoy as well.

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