The world’s first couturier, British Charles Frederick Worth was Napoleon III’s cherished designer at court, shaping the history of costume with his sumptuous, luxuriant gowns. Centuries have passed and fashion has moved way beyond Worth’s embellished silks and corsets and some of the most progressive style movements have been down to British designers. Today London Fashion Week is renowned for showing an edgy breed of fashion, celebrating cutting-edge couture that pushes the boundaries of convention, a signature to British design.
The fashion-obsessed and hedonistic cult of the hyper-cool
UK’s most defining period in history, the Swinging Sixties made London synonymous with fashion, music, and pop culture. ‘Swinging London’ became the home of mod-fashion, the style of the “fashion-obsessed and hedonistic cult of the hyper-cool” young adults of Carnaby Street. There’s been much debate as to who invented the miniskirt, but it was undoubtedly fashion designer Mary Quant who blew life and fame to the garment that would change the face of fashion forever.
John Stephen, the king of Carnaby Street changed the attitudes towards male fashion in a time where this was much tied to traditional boundaries. He would be the first to mass-market what was then understood as a transgressive gay style, to straight men. Stephen’s label ‘His Clothes’, were worn by those at the forefront of Swinging London, including The Who, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and the Small faces.
The Architects of Punk Fashion
After the Swinging Sixties of Mod, it would be Vivienne Westwood who would become one of the architects of the punk fashion phenomenon of the 70s. Westwood and her husband Malcolm McLaren gave birth to the sartorial identity of punk, drawing inspiration from bikers, fetishists and prostitutes. During this period, McLaren became manager of the Sex Pistols, and subsequently the two garnered attention as the band wore Westwood’s and McLaren’s designs. The imprint of Westwood’s work on fashion has been and still is omnipresent. She is, quoting former Womenswear Daily editor in chief John Fairchild, “the designer’s designer…copied by the avant-garde French and Italian designers because she is the Alice in Wonderland of fashion.”
UK’s creative influence on international fashion
Whether it was changing the attitudes to male fashion or the arrival of the miniskirt, UK’s creative influence revolutionised fashion, driven by music and subcultures. It remains home to some of the industry’s fierce and forward-thinking designers today. From Vivienne Westwood’s timeless Punk aesthetics, McQueen’s surreal fantasy world, to Gareth Pugh’s sculptural ‘struggle between lightness & darkness’- carrying forward the progressive spirit of the Union Jack- continuously challenging the conventions of fashion. Hence our choice for the article header image to be of Gareth Pugh’s tribute to his homeland, his AW15 Britannia collection.