Lauren Laverne on style: hidden assets

Barbour Khaki Waxed Camouflage Bedale Jacket

Camouflage has always been cool – even in 1986, when Stan Ridgway sang that song about it that made it sound like it had an L in the middle.

It doesn't have an L in the middle, obviously, because the word itself comes from the French camoufler – to veil or disguise (the French presumably got dibs on naming the technique as they were the first nation to create a formal section de camouflage during the First World War).

Mr Ridgway is by no means the only artist to be inspired by camouflage. It has fired the imaginations of everyone from Picasso to Andy Warhol. Fittingly, the unknowable, always hidden last major work by Warhol was Camouflage Self-Portrait, created a few months before his death in 1987. Picasso, meanwhile, made a controversial claim that cubism spawned "dazzle camouflage" – a psychedelic form designed to disorientate the enemy rather than conceal (and which really was pioneered by artists like vorticist Edward Wadsworth, creator of more than 2,000 ship designs).

And so it is in fashion. Camouflage has fascinated designers since the First World War (in this country at least: in Barbados it is still illegal for those who are not military personnel to wear it). It's back on the fashion agenda this autumn, but while previous iterations of the look have played up its tough connotations, this season sees something softer – similar to Warhol's subversively pretty prints. A relief if – like me – the real stuff gives you flashbacks to the teenage years you spent combing the army surplus store for cheap backpacks and Dr Martens.

Christopher Kane's camo was a huge hit on the runway and so wildly Warholian that much of the collection looked as if it had been cut straight from the canvas. The dress of the season is at Net-A-Porter now. Needless to say it will cost you almost as much as the painting it resembles, but at least it's a work of art you can wear to go dancing in.

Kane's cool tones are the ones the high street will be copying this season – Topshop and Zara already have their own versions (ethical shoppers may note that Topshop's is made here in the UK). Great Danish label Baum und Pferdgarten are offering the cutest camo around.

As usual, Whistles have got it just right with some great outerwear in store. If you'd rather kick back in camo jeans like Gwen Stefani, head to Hudson at House of Fraser or Karen Millen.

Finally, if full-on print isn't for you, dilute it by teaming camo accessories with a simple outfit. Philip Lim's killer clutch, Office heels or a pair of House of Harlow sunglasses (available at Urban Outfitters online) will have you ready for fashion combat in a flash.

Powered by article was written by Lauren Laverne, for The Observer on Monday 26th August 2013 09.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010