In celebration of International Women’s Day, we take a look at some influential female figures that have helped shape our British history in the fashion industry throughout the years.
“Fashion is a tool to compete in life outside the home.”
During the 1960s, the British fashion scene saw the arrival of design and retail pioneer Mary Quant. After Quant’s parents refused to let her attend a fashion course, she decided to study illustration at Goldsmith’s. She attended evening classes and taught herself how to adjust and cut mass-market printed patterns to achieve unique designs. An iconic figure throughout the ‘Swinging Sixties’ she popularised designs featuring super high hemlines such as the mini-skirt and collared A-line dresses. Quant’s own image led her to become an influential style icon due to her love for geometric haircuts by Vidal Sassoon.
Dame Vivienne Westwood
“Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing.”
Vivienne Westwood, known for her punk rock aesthetic and instantly recognisable by her flaming red locks, first made an impact on the British fashion scene in 1971, which saw her designs feature in her boutique shop, ‘Let it Rock,’ located at 430 King’s Road. Her second husband Malcolm McLaren became the manager of the Sex Pistols, lending Westwood the opportunity to design the band’s outfits and contribute to their rebellious fashion identity.
"It's not really a question of inspiration. What you make as a designer is an expression of yourself.”
Influenced and inspired by Edwardian high-neck fashion, Laura Ashley introduced Britain to subtle pastels, repetitive floral prints, decorative frills, and lace. Her use of natural fabrics and overtly feminine prints brought a genteel English romanticism to her designs, which were highly favoured by Princess Diana.
“I'm a woman designing for women, and there are so many layers to that. On the one hand, it brings effortlessness, but it also means that I think and overthink every detail, whether it's physical or mental or even - in some sense - spiritual.”
Stella McCartney an animal rights activist and supporter of sustainable fashion proudly designs clothes that are welcoming to the modern woman. T-shirts emblazoned with bold slogans and her simple, yet feminine, tailored designs are not only for those who walk the catwalk, as she once declared: “it’s not about what it looks like in the studio or runway… it’s what it looks like on the real person that matters.”
Shop more influential British female designers at Beyond Bespoke:
Written by Hayley Peters
(Image credit: Laura Ashley - designguide.com)