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From the catwalks to the Home Counties, vivid colour is here for the summer – and the very thing to lift our spirits

I should have been concentrating on my downward dog, but last week at the spa, I was distracted by the eye-popping manicures and pedicures of my friends. They’d obviously all received the national fashion memo: brights (in case you didn’t receive it . . .) are in.

Almost to a woman, they were sporting vibrant orange and coral fingernails and toenails. These aren’t hipsters from Hoxton or art students from Brighton, but my neighbours in Weybridge, Surrey, who range from their late Thirties to Sixties. When the Home Counties are trumpeting a trend so uniformly, it’s a sure sign it has arrived.

Fingernails are just the tip of it. Sunshine colours are being embraced from high street to high fashion – and in more elevated circles than that, as no less a distinguished figure than the Queen demonstrated at the D-Day memorial in Normandy on Friday, wearing a coat in a dazzling citrus green.

At Marks & Spencer, the buying team is feeling pleased that it tipped “paintbox” as one of its key trends for summer 2014, because its bright-coloured pieces are performing beyond expectation. Yellow, a colour previously shunned by shoppers, is the big winner this year, says Jo Hales, its head of womenswear buying. “Corals and hot pinks are also selling exceptionally well, and floral prints in bold, optimistic colours are clearly resonating with our customers.”

Men want in on the brights trend, too: the best-selling M&S shorts are pink chinos. At John Lewis, sales of brightly coloured pieces are performing better than last year, says Jo Bennett, the store’s womenswear buyer. Meanwhile, at Whistles, it’s all about “nectar” – in particular, says its head of press, Virginia Norris, a cut-away dress that has sold incredibly well: “Even though it’s a bright, it complements pale skin tones.” Jade and minty-green bags and shoes are also flying.

This zingy palette was set way back last autumn at the international fashion shows, where the big design houses embraced art and, with it, rainbow brights. At Chanel – which seems to become younger in spirit as its creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, gets older – suits and dresses in tweeds made up of tiny squares of vivid colour, like those in a paintbox, were shown in a make-believe contemporary art gallery amid pieces of sculpture. At Prada, huge, vibrantly smeared painted portraits lined the catwalk and were replicated on dresses. At Dior, Raf Simons went for bold reds and yellows in his collection.

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