Why the most stylish women are wearing British fashion – Telegraph.co.uk
Long celebrated for its showstopping individuality, British fashion is now super-wearable too. Five stylish women tell us why home-grown labels work for them
BY Alison Taylor |
23 March 2014
Photo: MICHELLE BEATTY
Think British fashion and what springs to mind? Eccentric characters? Bonkers designs? Or wearability? “When people tell me that British designers are difficult to wear I say, ‘Have you tried wearing it?'” says Alison Loehnis, president of Net-a-Porter, who flies the flag for British fashion. “There is an amazing range of British designers who create not only incredibly imaginative collections, but also supremely accessible ones. They have real women in mind.” The five real women shown here are the perfect example.
From left Jean Marks, Anne Sebba, Oriole Cullen, Phoebe Smith, Davina Katz (Photo: Michelle Beatty)
Last Thursday night Stella, Net-a-Porter and the British Fashion Council joined forces to celebrate the industry’s ever more savvy pas de deux (or should that be two-step?) of creativity and wearability. One hundred British-fashion-loving women – including three Stella readers, each the lucky winner of a £1,000-voucher from Net-a-Porter – celebrated at the suitably chic Browns Hotel in London with Veuve Clicquot champagne, Belvedere vodka cocktails and delectable canapés by Mark Hix.
“Britain has a fantastic reputation for creativity – and with this comes diversity,” says the BFC’s CEO Caroline Rush. “The appeal for women who favour British designers is that these labels celebrate individuality.” We drink to that!
Anne Sebba, 62, Author
Anne Sebba wears jacket and skirt by Alexander McQueen, from
. Shoes by Jimmy Choo. Camisole and jewellery, Sebba’s own. (Photo: Michelle Beatty)
For most of my work, I’m either sitting in libraries doing research or I’m at my desk at home. So I live in jeans or yoga pants. Then, you publish a book and every so often end up on television or giving a lecture and it’s really important to make an impact. If I’m doing a lecture I like to wear a smart jacket and McQueen jackets are fabulous for this. You feel empowered and that’s what he was trying to do.
is another British designer I greatly admire. I met him before my book about Wallis Simpson was published and because she’d been such an inspiration to him he offered to design a dress to coincide with the launch, called ‘That Dress’. Its origami folds were in homage to Wallis’s love of the Far East and he made it in gold because of the regal connection. I wore a black version for a talk I gave at a girls’ school last year. It helped to convey the message, ‘I believe in myself and if I do you can too’.
Accessories are key for me and I do tend to go British with these, too.
s shoes are brilliant yet wearable, and I have a Burberry tote, which is stylish but roomy enough to carry my computer and a tape recorder. I’ve also got a fabulous Perspex Charlotte Olympia clutch for evening. It only holds a credit card and some money but you wear this bag and everyone talks about it. It’s clever and funny: classically British, in other words.
Dr Phoebe Smith GP, 30
Phoebe Smith wears dress by Teatum Jones, from
. Shoes, from a selection, by Rupert Sanderson. Necklace by Crux London. Bangle by Links of London, from
(Photo: Michelle Beatty)
As an inner-London GP I’m always trying to strike a balance with what I wear. The key is to look professional, but not intimidating, and also to be comfortable – I can be stuck behind a computer or jumping around examining people. Also, I’m young so I want to look my age. I don’t like the stereotype that GPs are frumpy and old.
I am a “fit model” for the British duo
so I wear a lot of their designs. They’re feminine but not super-fitted or overtly sexy and I feel confident when I wear them. I find the fabrics really wearable and I love their prints. I tend to wear a skirt and top, or a dress [above], and add a jacket. This season I bought their pale-blue leather biker jacket.
Scarves are also a good way to add colour, so most days I wear a Teatum Jones one that I can take on home visits to add glamour without being showy. Colour and print are qualities I look for, so I’m also keen on
I love Saunders’ bright jersey T-shirts. There’s an ease to how British designers use colour. It’s bright, it’s cool; it’s instinctively London.
Davina Katz Partner and head of the family department at Schillings Law Firm, 33
Davina Katz wears dress by Roksanda Ilincic, from
. Shoes, from a selection, by Manolo Blahnik.
There’s court and then there’s court. I may have a trial that lasts 10 days, or a hearing, which is less dramatic and takes up an afternoon. For me, that’s the difference between wearing McQueen or McCartney.
gives you real presence at a trial. But day to day, my outfit is a navy
dress with a coat the same length – really smart.
McCartney’s designs are tailored but easy to wear. I have a lot of the pieces she makes every season, such as the Bryce coat, in different colours. I don’t like fussy clothes so a Stella shift is ideal; accessories add character and dressiness for a client dinner. McQueen was a masterful technician, playing with proportions and flattering a woman’s figure. I own a lot of his iconic pieces, including jackets with shoulder pads and nipped-in waists for an instant power hit.
The corporate world is still shy of bright colour, but
makes it not too scary and shows you can be bold but feminine. So a predominantly navy dress will have a colour block at the bottom, like the one I’m wearing here [below]. I wear her brighter shades for after-work events.
London designers have a nuance you don’t find elsewhere and are emblematic of people in Britain in general: they don’t quite conform. I like that. As a lawyer you want to be known for thinking outside the box. Why not with your clothes too?
Oriole Cullen Senior curator of contemporary fashion at V&A, 37
Oriole Cullen wears trousers by Osman, from
. Top, from a selection, by Osman. Shoes by Sophia Webster. Bangle, from a selection, by Katie Rowland. (Photo: Michelle Beatty)
When an item of clothing catches my eye it tends to be by a British designer. People say Miuccia Prada sets the tone for the season, but increasingly I think all eyes are on London’s
. He has an amazing vision and a big perspective. I have a few of his dresses and some knitwear too.
Dresses provide the foundation to my working wardrobe because I need to be versatile – you can throw a sweater over them for day and change your shoes for the evening. On any day I may be up and down ladders accessing costumes at our Blythe House archive, meeting clients or attending events. I have to cover all bases.
I like a clean silhouette. For the V&A’s “British Ballgowns” launch (an exhibition I co-curated) I wore a dress by Osman, whose top and trousers I’m wearing here [above]. A-line and knee-length with brocade inserts, it was – crucially – easy to wear. You have to feel comfortable. That’s why I love these designers: the focus is on really good cut and making it wearable.
Traditionally, British fashion was about tailoring. Then the 1980s and 1990s saw a new energy and mayhem – with, unfortunately, little business backing. But in the past 10 years things have changed. I feel as if all the elements have come together with spectacular results.
Jean Marks, 71, chairman of Connections, an education charity supporting young Jewish students in Eastern Europe
Jean Marks wears shirt by Antonio Berardi, trousers and biker jacket by Erdem, and slippers by Alexander McQueen, all from
(Photo: Michelle Beatty)
When I ran a childrenswear business with my sister in the 1970s till 2001, we would take twice yearly buying trips to Europe where I’d also stock up on wardrobe pieces such as Armani suits. Nowadays, I can find that kind of classic piece by British designers, such as Antonio Beradi and Erdem. British designers are just as pioneering in terms of tailoring: the Beradi jacket today feels like the Armani jacket felt back then. I can team one with black trousers and I’m dressed up.
Day to day, I’m very casual because I’m no longer in business – I wear trousers and jumpers. This is appropriate for when I travel to Eastern Europe on behalf of my charity, too.
is a current favourite when I’m dressing down.
The main appeal of British designers is cut and colour.
is joyous. It makes me feel happy. I love the prints. The floral biker jacket is a departure from what I usually wear but because it’s so beautifully made, I feel comfortable with the modern shape.
If I go to a really formal event, I have a Beradi skirt that I love to wear. I’ve just been to a fabulous wedding party in Paris and that came out with a beautiful white shirt of his too. I don’t like a stereotyped ‘hairdoey’ look, or something that says “I’m expensive”. I’m more understated. It’s about tailoring, and quality.
Shot at The Opus, the new suite at
, Knightsbridge, London