Prints charming

Break your addiction to basic black by seeing how Gorman, Camilla and Marimekko colour outside the lines

Fashion is for the brave. Sure, you can play it safe and live a sheltered life in a perfectly prim little black dress or your inoffensive activewear leggings and blend-in with the crowd, but where’s the fun in that?

For 16 years Gorman designer Lisa Gorman has been tempting and teasing Melburnians away from the safety of neutrals and nudes into full skirts, cropped pants and jackets with a Pop Art palette and quirky prints. “Print gives a piece of clothing its own personality,” Gorman says. “It adds another element to a garment, aside from fabrication and structure.”

Most of Gorman’s prints are hand-drawn or painted with a beguiling naïve quality and enlivened by metallic foils and unexpected additions. “But the print that transcends all others is the good old polka dot in its many shapes and sizes,” she says. For this season’s prints Gorman explored the visual appeal of geology, crystals and weather patterns. “My favourite is the Stacks On sweater where the crystal print is over printed with gold metallic foil,” she says. “It’s the all-time bedazzled sweater.”

If you’re still scared of print, however, Gorman recommends starting with pants or a skirt in a striking pattern. “Often print next to the face can be the challenge for some, so taking it to the legs means that a plain item can then sit on top,” she says. 


Now that you’re feeling braver you’re probably ready to step inside the rainbow world of Camilla designer Camilla Franks. The favourite of Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson has no rules when it comes to wearing print. For 12 years the Sydney designer has been converting blue-denim, white t-shirt devotees into caftan queens with intricate prints on flowing fabrics that hint at a jetset life. “I am always in search of new places to be inspired by,” says Franks. “We’ve only covered a tiny part of this beautiful world, and I know there is so much gold out there still to find!”For Franks every Camilla boutique, including the colourful Eastland outpost, is a library as well as a shopping destination. “Every print has a story and tale to tell,” she says. “They are fun, vibrant, eye-catching and mark a moment in time.” Travel has always been Franks’ greatest inspiration and this season Greece, Spain and Turkey informed the new prints and silhouettes. “I fell in love with the rich history and passion of these beautiful countries and wanted to encapsulate their unique spirit in the El Duende collection.” Franks boho spirit has carried her bedazzled backpack across the globe but so far a stamp from Finland is missing from her passport. The small country already has a global reputation of producing prints to rival our caftan queen.


Marimekko is a Finnish fashion institution, launching in 1951 following an acclaimed runway presentation celebrating the aesthetic impact of textiles. It was in the ‘60s that the company’s bright prints perfectly captured the decade’s hippie dippy, Pop Art spirit, with many prints finding their way into Australia. “Perhaps Finns and Australians share a certain down-to-earth attitude towards life, and both are quite bold in using colour and prints,” says Paul Alvarez, country manager for Marimekko. “Marimekko collections always mix new and old prints,” says Alvarez. There are approximately 3,500 prints in our archive, which is a great source of inspiration for our designers, but we bring a few new prints for each of our collections as well. “Our most iconic print must be the Unikko poppy, designed by Maija Isola in 1964. Armi Ratia, Marimekko’s founder, had said that we would never print a flower pattern. Designer Maija Isola refused to obey Armi’s orders and – in protest – created an entire series of gorgeous floral prints. One of them was Unikko, which has become a story of creativity, strength, courage and faith.” Courage and faith sums up the best approach to experimenting with print and it’s what keeps pushing fashion forward. When asked whether there is a print that she would never work with, Camilla Franks is succinct with her approach to style. “I haven’t ruled out anything just yet.”