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Caitlin Agnew reports that Spring's take on southwest style is decidedly more haute than hippie

For several years, fashion's prevailing interpretation of California has been dominated by the Golden State's beachy bohemianism; a free-spirited, unbuttoned take on dressing made famous by 1960s icons such as Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. But for spring 2017, designers are checking into a different kind of Hotel California, trading the ramshackle beach resort look for a five-star Palm Springs aesthetic.

High-end labels and fast-fashion retailers alike regularly capitalize on the area's annual, floral-crown festooned musical festival, Coachella (in 2016, UK-based retail tech company Edited reported that sales of festival fashion staples such as fringed garments increased by 118 per cent leading into the event). But Indio, Calif., home to the festival, is more than just a playground for young music lovers in denim shorts and crop tops. The Coachella Valley is just a 30-minute drive from Palm Springs, the long-time recreational haven favoured by Hollywood's rich and famous, including Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor, and the fashion world has taken note.

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At New York Fashion Week last September, designer Thom Browne presented his spring collection in a space transformed into an ersatz swimming pool complete with blue tiles and a faux swimming area. Featuring beach bags, pastel tropical prints and oversized sunglasses, the overall look of the collection was very Slim Aarons, the photographer known for his poolside shots of bouffant-topped American socialites snapped in Palm Springs.

Browne also looked to the sunny colour palette of UK-born artist David Hockney, whose paintings of California are part of a current solo retrospective at the Tate London. Hockney's work set the tone at several labels this season, including Hugo Boss, where artistic director Jason Wu incorporated bright blues, corals and greens evocative of the painter's signature saturated palette, along with prints inspired by Hockney's swimming-pool motif.

Michael Kors has been a long-time proponent of American jetset glamour, and also incorporated Hockney-inspired geometric patterns into his Spring 2017 men's-wear collection. Last October, the American designer hosted a launch party for the release of Slim Aarons: Women, a coffee-table book published by Getty and Abrams, which coincided with his namesake label's 35th anniversary. In an interview with, Kors emphasized the ongoing influence Aarons' work has on his designs.

"There will always be a little Slim in what I do," Kors said. "You look at the pictures, and every girl I know still wants to be like those women." While the same can be said of the 1960s photos of fringe-loving, undone, peace-and-love hippies, this season's take on California cool is as refreshing as an afternoon dip.


  • The spring edition of Toronto’s One of a Kind Show is on now through April 2 at the Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place. Find handcrafted pieces from 500 artisans, including special tributes for Canada’s 150th birthday, a section designed specifically for your spring refresh and a new area for craft beverages. For more information, visit
  • For the second year in a row, skate brand Vans is opening its House of Vans pop up in Toronto. Held at 99 Sudbury until April 2, this year’s edition will feature four days of skateboard-themed programming, including concerts, art exhibitions and a curated community market featuring goods from Canadian vendors like Hayley Elsaesser, Stay at Home Club and Style Garage. For more information, visit
  • Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week is holding its 12th season of shows this weekend. Running from March 31 to April 2 at the Fairmont Waterfront, the event will host designer showcases, collaboration with College LaSalle and Collective Conversation, a day of talks on the sustainability of the garment industry. For more information, visit
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