During the lead up to her Diamond Jubilee, our 86 year old monarch's dress sense has been the topic of many a fashion article. She apparently knows what suits her, has a distinctive style and always dresses appropriately. It's doubtful we would ever see a headline trumpeting "Queen in Pastel Colour Dress with Matching Frock Coat, Gloves, Hat, Boxy Handbag and Coordinated Shoes Shocker!" But with all eyes on Britain from now until the Olympics, and Britishness being at virtual fever pitch (if I see any more bunting, I'll wrap it round the nearest Beefeater's neck), isn't it time our greatest tourist attraction was doing more to promote British style?
Norman Hartnell was one of the most prolific of the Queen's designers. He dressed her for various occasions throughout the 40s and most famously designed her Coronation dress in 1953. During the 50s and 60s, she turned to Hardy Amies. Then there was Ian Thomas (who?) Maureen Rose (never heard of her), John Anderson (you've lost me), Karl Ludwig Rehse (made up name?) followed by someone called Stuart Parvin from 2000, so anonymous that the poor chap doesn't even warrant his own Wiki entry and he's a recent one. Angela Kelly is her current personal dresser and now her main designer, according to the Royal website. Don't know who she is either.
Apart from Norman Hartnell, these designers are, at best, catering for an uber exclusive niche market and at worst, unknown. I think you would actually define some as dressmakers rather than designers. So I asked myself, why hasn't the Queen, whose image has been plastered around the world, been promoting those British Designers who are available to the global luxury retail market? Okay, so maybe not her own website ASOQ (As Seen On Queen) as clearly fashion is not the foremost of her concerns and that's fair enough. But as she does have to wear clothes anyway and is a public figure, couldn't she have used that opportunity, over the last decades to promote a few British brands or designers, fly the flag for Blighty and for women of her generation?
The Duchess of Cambridge has taken over where Diana left off and to startling effect. Diana transformed the fortunes of Catherine Walker, Bruce Oldfield and Elizabeth and David Emmanuel. Now Kate has boosted a more accessible name, LK Bennett, by wearing their wedges and suits. Last week LK Bennett secured funding to expand further in the US. That's on top of its 156 branded outlets in the UK and around the world. Would this expansion have happened without Kate? A thoughtful choice translates into a boost for the British economy. Mary Alice Stephenson, a former fashion editor of Vogue, states "Kate is championing new home-grown talent and breathing life into iconic, traditional British brands."
So, what if the Queen had made more commercially astute choices to promote Brand Britain? Perhaps she could occasionally tote that unmistakably British Mulberry bag - oh, it's now owned 100% by a Singaporean billionaire. Okay, what about donning a quintessentially English Aquascutum raincoat? Ah, they went into administration last month with 150 employees standing to lose their jobs. Surely, she could wear a twinset and pencil skirt from Pringle of Scotland founded in 1815? Okay no, that was in fact bought in 2000 by Hong Kong-based S.C. Fang & Sons.
Even recent labels like Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney have sold out to foreign companies rather quickly. Why is it that we're renowned for our designers and style but can't run globally recognised fashion businesses anymore? If the Queen had supported some of these fashion houses more obviously in the past, could it have made a difference?
The companies who bought such high profile British fashion houses knew exactly how valuable Brand Britain is. Brands that originate from Britain are considered to be laden with a tradition of quality, design brilliance and craftsmanship, even if many are no longer actually manufactured by us. But does that even matter? Isn't it enough that people want to buy into the idea of British quality even if the product isn't made here? That still provides employment and generates investment.
But it would be simply fabulous if, at the Jubilee Pageant, the Queen stepped out in a Philip Treacy hat shaped like a Routemaster Bus, swathed in a glorious red, white and blue Vivienne Westwood gown patterned with corgis, red phone boxes, Winston Churchill and fish and chips; the anarchic label, I believe still owned by its namesake, and the monarch united in their desire to fly the flag. God Save the Queen and her Fashion Regime!
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