With the Royal wedding of Prince Wiliam and Kate Middleton having taken place in April, and the Olympics set to be held in 2012, our little nation is enjoying its 5 minutes of fame. Victoria Beckham has established herself as a well known face of fashion, as her own designer collections are now spreading worldwide. Her movement from England to LA brought further awareness and recognition of Britain’s fashion culture. Meanwhile, the movement of British stars into the American limelight is increasing, with the likes of Emma Watson as the face of Burberry and Lancome, and Keira Knightley as the face of Chanel; both of which are now internationally established fashion icons.
When we say ‘British’, people think of quaintness and politeness, of the countryside and of the Queen. This is mirrored in the individuality of Britain’s style culture. Britain may be small, but it has had a phenomenal influence on global culture: we are the home of Shakespeare and Hitchcock and Julie Andrews; we gave the world James Bond and Harry Potter. The British music scene is also closely linked to the world of fashion. It saw the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones through to The Spice Girls claim international success. But what does this mean for the world of style? It means we are constantly being watched, and in doing so, are constantly adding to the world of fashion on a global scale.
One of Britain’s most notable contributions to fashion is the legendary Alexander McQueen, whose death rocked the world’s fashion industry. He was known for his fashion designs and couture, which incorporated the sharp edge of feminity contrasted against its vulnerability. MqQueen was named British designer of the year four times between 1996 and 2003 and was also awarded a CBE. Other famous British designers include Christopher Kane, Paul Smith, John Galliano, Stella McCartney, Christopher Bailey, Julien Macdonald and Vivienne Westwood, all of which are now internationally acclaimed.
British fashion is known for its trends of tea dresses, florals, tweed, plaid and knitwear. These traditional clothing trends mirror the pleasant images of British heritage. They are still found on today’s highstreet, and can also be found all around the world in international clothing brands such as Topshop and Uniqlo. Topshop has literally taken the world by a storm, with stores now open in Iceland, Gibraltar, Serbia, Lebanon, Kuwait, and the Philippines, amongst many other countries. However, the most famous store outside of the UK is the New York flagship store, located in the heart of Broadway. The store opened in October 2008 to inject some British spirit into the US. For a modern twist on British looks, think brogues and over-the-knee socks with a high waisted floral skirt and plaid shirt, accompanied by an oversized satchel and a leather aviator jacket. These are parts of the everyday British style.
A number of awards are given out in Britain, illustrating the wealth of individuality and talent that we have to offer. The winners of the 2010 British Fashion Awards were announced last December, where we saw Mulberry win the British Designer brand award, and Alexa Chung win the public’s vote for the British Style Award, recognising her ability to capture the essence of London, Britain’s fashion capital, within her style. Britain is also home to London Fashion Week, one of the biggest weeks in the world’s fashion calendar. The Elle Style Awards also took place earlier this year, hosted by last year’s star Alexa Chung, where Christopher Kane deservedly walked away with the award for the Best British Designer.
Of course, British fashion has also taken up ideas from other countries. With France just across the English Channel, giving us an essence of à la mode, their influence can be seen as far back as during the Regency period. Although Britain may take inspiration from other countries and cultures, it makes them into their own. America tends to take style from all over the world, but Britain has stayed true to its style roots, continuing to create individual trends and looks for the world to enjoy.