Spring fashion: Go native

Ethnic prints, tribal touches are big this spring.

04/13/2012 5:00 AM

06/26/2014 4:27 PM

If you’re ready for a change from the perennial floral prints for spring, borrow some prints and patterns from lands far, far away. The look is known as “tribal,” and the trend is warming up faster than the weather. Bright stripes that look like what you’d see in Guatemala, rich prints with an African feel and mixes of the two are everywhere this season.

Tom Julian, author and retail consultant at the Tom Julian Group based in New York, says color and prints are the biggest stories for 2012. “Ethnic prints provide an escapism element when the wardrobe is inspired by exotic lands,” Julian said.

David Wolfe, trends analyst for the New York-based Doneger Group, agrees the colorful prints are part of the bright color trend for spring.

“Designers are always eager to adopt native prints. Then they don’t have to design anything original,” he said.

“And tribal fashion represents the hands-on, human touch and is an antidote to the barrage of high-tech that is driving our lives these days,” Wolfe said, calling it “techno-backlash.”

But for many, it’s not faraway lands that these prints bring to mind. For some, the prints are nostalgic.

“I’ve always loved this look,” said Linda Burton, owner of Sister Moses at 29th North and Rock. “It’s a throwback, and it brings back images of those little dried flowers, the scent of patchouli, and lots of fond memories.”

Dresses of all lengths and other clothing pieces are available in these prints, but it’s not just clothing. Swimsuits, hats, shoes and even cocktail dresses are all part of the tribal print trend.

The best accessories to carry the look are made of natural materials — wooden bangles, cork wedge sandals, wooden beads of all colors and sizes, leather — both straps and braided — and some seashells thrown in for good measure.

You know a trend is strong when it crosses boundaries into all categories.

“From women’s to men’s, sportswear to swimwear, accessories and shoes, the ethnic story is right for retail as consumers look for distinct pieces that stand out,” Julian said.

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