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The Brits are Back!




They were once the ultimate fashion faux pas. Despite an illustrious past and a great reputation of good quality clothing, the classic labels like Daks, Pringle and Aquascutum were as fashionable as a velour tracksuit.


{mosimage}The only people buying these clothes and accessories were Japanese tourists who revel in our Englishness, or the aging Sloane Square business man whose style has remained for the last 3 decades. When Mulberry and Burberry spectacularly reinvented themselves over the last few years, the other brands were forced to watch from the sidelines.


However, this begun to change because after years in the doldrums, they are again registering on the fashion radar and  coming back with a boom. Even the brand Holland and Holland – a label for the shooting elite, not a fashionistas closet-has been reinvented and reaccredited by the new English lady, Madonna. Modelling the I’m-an-English lady-now-I-have-a-cute-English-hubby, look, she has made the knee length tweed skirt and gamekeepers cap a must have for 2005.


Found in 1894 and with an image which hasn’t really change since then, Daks was the dowager duchess of fashion. Only the very  stylish and well off wore it.

Like Burberry, it was famous for it’s distinctive check which came in black, tan and red and with a tradition for tailoring. Burberry managed to spot the potential for the younger market, and reworked the brand and reinvented the pattern, however, Daks continued creating sand coloured trench coats and ‘comfort in action’ trousers. That is until now…


{mosimage}The autumn collection features romantic floral, print dresses, military style coat, frame bags and checked ponchos. Instead of sensible ladies in even more sensible shoes, the ‘bohemian traveller’ and hippy chicks were the inspiration of this collection. There was even a 60’s style beatnik coat with psychedelic elements to it, which was definitely more Lilly Cole than Parker Bowles.


{mosimage}It is a similar story with Aquascutum, best known for its sensible separates and stiff coats. It is now however, sporting raunchy corset tops and tulle skirts with a touch of elegance with their added cashmere scarves.


Ballantyne has also undergone a turnaround. Since it was founded in 1921, the label has rarely strayed from its roomy-fit cashmere knits. But  now the Argll jumper has been remodelled as a sexily cut V-neck, tight fitting and very sexy. A world away from the image which once ruled the label.

The collections for spring 2006, there will be print dresses, sexy camisoles and the return of the espadrilles.  A sleek flagship store has opened on Bond Street  where Ballantype once occupied in the Sixties when icons such as Hepburn, Kennedy and Grace Kelly wore the label.


{mosimage}These traditional British bands have certainly learned from fellow Brit label, Burberry whose fortunes were revived by the team of Rosemary Bravo and Christopher Bailey. They have assigned many bright new designers to vamp up the look, which has resulted in fantastic profit sales and a modern market.

Following Burberry’s example is Pringle, the Scottish cashmere house famous for its frumpy cardigans and diamond patterned golfing sweaters. It celebrated it 190th birthday by appointing a new artistic director, Clare Waight Keller, who had previously spent time working with Gucci. The label recently unveiled its latest collection to international acclaim during Milan Fashion Week.


The labels known as ‘heritage labels’ have also made strong appearances in all fashion magazines as key trends for this season. For what they call ‘heritage chic’, has been so popular on the catwalk, be prepared to see mini country gals roaming a street near you. With the traditional element as well as a elegant selection of tweeds, it is hard for a girl to say no.


These heritage labels are tapping into nostalgia for bygone eras. Lyle and Scott, the Scottish cashmere brand, has raided its 125 year old archive and reissued designs by Christian Dior from back in the Fifties.  It has also opened a store in London Covent Garden dedicated to its vintage designs.

Keira Knightly, darling Hollywood, has bought a black round neck cashmere sweater based on a 1958 design. Jamie Oliver aka the naked chef, and Franz Ferdinand are also fans.


It is by no coincidence that all these brands are linked with countrified aristocratic pursuits and the Royal Family – both of which are huge sources of inspiration to the world’s top fashion designers.


{mosimage}Muiccia Prada is said to be a long standing fan of the Royals, while Christopher Bailey cites Princess Margaret in the Sixties as the inspiration for his summer collection. Royal warrant holder Asprey has hired Keira Knightly as its face and fashion insiders are beating a path to its door to snap up ‘Keira’s’ cocktail rings, crocodile handbags and cashmere sweaters in 15 colours for £295 a pop.


{mosimage}It seems that the once ‘unfashionability’ of many of these labels has helped with their comeback. It is like, ‘If it’s uncool, lets wear it’, not that the designers mind I am sure. With people like Kate Moss for  Burberry, and Keira for Asprey, it is clear that these labels will not fall from favour anytime soon, if ever.

With all of these dowdy labels being reinvented, one must ask ‘who’s next?’ My money is on Laura Ashley, as it has so much potential with the younger market. It will only be a matter of time until you see the wall flower prints dominating the catwalk. You heard it here first…


By Kyrsty Hazzell.


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