6 British Designers Of Fabulous Fashions

From the punky style of Vivienne Westwood to Burberry's famous trench coat, we celebrate British designers in the build up to London Fashion Week.

As London Fashion Week hits the catwalk in September, strutting the autumn/winter 14 collections, we salute some of the UK’s most prominent names in the world of fashion design. Visit their London stores and take a piece of the stylish capital home with you.

Paul Smith, Champion Of Natty Menswear

Stylish menswear from British designer Paul Smith
Stylish menswear from Paul Smith (courtesy Paul Smith)

Background: Left school at 15 with no qualifications, intending to be a professional cyclist, until hospitalised by a crash. He got into fashion almost by accident: his girlfriend (now wife) Pauline Denyer, an RCA fashion graduate, encouraged him to open his first, tiny shop in Nottingham in 1970, while he took tailoring classes at night. He now sells in 66 countries and in Japan, where he has more than 200 shops, he gets mobbed like a rock star.

Key Moments at London Fashion Week: Smith is the true King of LFW, having stayed loyal while other big UK designers such as John Galliano or Alexander McQueen decamped to Paris. He missed 2001, however, when he and five other top designers pulled out due to security fears following 9/11. He first launched his women’s collection at LFW in 1998, though he declined to show at London Men’s Fashion Week, which started that year, deeming it ‘too risky’.

Signature Style: Classic with a twist.

Famous Fans: David Bowie, Mick Jagger, David Beckham, George Clooney.

Where to Buy: Flagship store: 9 Albemarle St, W1S 4BL. T: 020 7493 4565.

46-48 Beak St, W1F 9RJ

40-44 Floral St, WC2E 9TB

Heathrow terminals 2, 3 & 5. 

Vivienne Westwood, Princess Of Punk

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood
Always outlandish Vivienne Westwood (©Ian Gavan/Thinkstock/Getty Images Entertainment)

Background: Along with her partner Malcom McLaren, Ms Westwood opened a shop in King’s Road in 1971 (where her shop still is), changing its style and name every year or two. The punk band the Sex Pistols was formed which helped promote her punk fashions, a trick repeated with Adam and the Ants, who launched Vivienne’s pirate look and helped create the New Romantic movement. After splitting up from McLaren she turned for inspiration to traditional Savile Row tailoring and the art and fashions of the 17th and 18th centuries. She collected an OBE from the Queen in 1992, causing a stir when a twirl in the courtyard revealed she was wearing no knickers. She was made a Dame in 2006, minus underwear again and wearing a pair of silver horns.

Key Moments at London Fashion Week: In2008 Vivienne returned to LFW after almost a decade’s absence and challenged other British brands, who only showed abroad, to do likewise. She came back with a bang: front-row stars included Kate Moss, Dita Von Teese and Pamela Anderson, and she dressed one catwalk model in nothing more than a gold lame skirt. Vivienne’s Red Label show has become one of the undisputed highlights of London Fashion Week.

Signature Style: She’s had so many over the years. She invented the punk and New Romantic looks, and pioneered underwear as outerwear. Her clothing is beautifully tailored, but always eccentric, with a strong political bent – she wore a Julian Assange T-shirt at LFW last year, and her designer son Ben Westwood is trying to get him to model at this autumn’s LFW.

Famous Fans: Too many to list, but particularly popular with musicians – witness Pharrell Williams’ outsized Westwood hat.

Where to Buy: Flagship store: 18 Conduit St, W1S 2YL

World’s End, 430 King’s Road, SW10 0LR 

Burberry's classic outdoor gear

Autumn/winter catwalk show for Burberry
Burberry's autumn/winter catwalk show (courtesy Burberry)

Background: The iconic British fashion brand was founded way back in 1856 by 21-year-old Thomas Burberry. Specialising in outdoor clothing, particularly waterproof fabrics, Burberry outfitted the first successful explorer to the South Pole, and Shackleton’s 1914 voyage across Antarctica; the trench coat for which it is still best known is so called because Burberry developed it for officers fighting in the trenches of World War I. It was Christopher Bailey, who joined Burberry in 2001 as Creative Director, who updated the brand for the 21st century and banished the ‘low-rent’ image it had acquired. Its stores are full of interactive high tech, and its high fashion brand Burberry Prorsum is a trend-setter.

Key Moments at London Fashion Week: Burberry returned to London Fashion Week in 2009, launching Emma Watson’s fashion career and instantly becoming LFW’s must-see show for international fashion editors. Its shows are always spectacular: one ended with snow showering on to models such as Cara Delevigne and Jourdan Dunn as they paraded in rain-capes and umbrellas; another sent 4D holograms of models down the catwalk.

Signature Style: The famous Burberry check.

Famous Fans: Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lawrence, Victoria Beckham, Cara Delevigne.

Where to Buy: Flagship store: 121 Regent St, W1B 4TB. T: 020 7806 8904

Burberry Brit boutique: 41-42 King St, WC2E 8JS. T: 020 3425 7020

Burberry Beauty Box: 3a The Market Building, WC2E 8RF. T: 020 3618 982

Also in Knightsbridge, White City and all five Heathrow terminals

Alexander McQueen: Flamboyant And Edgy

Alexander McQueen's creative outfits
Alexander McQueen's creative ensembles

Background: One of the most imaginative, daring and naturally gifted fashion designers Britain has ever produced, McQueen made dresses for his three sisters from an early age, and was apprenticed to Savile Row tailors at 16. His rebellious streak was already bubbling under: he later confessed that, when making a suit for Prince Charles, he stitched secret insults into the lining. He then studied at Central Saint Martins, his entire graduation collection being bought by fashion guru Isabella Blow. He was appointed head designer at Givenchy four years later, in 1996, and in 2001 Gucci acquired 51% of the Alexander McQueen label and made him Creative Director. He committed suicide in 2010, shortly after his beloved mother died.

Key Moments at London Fashion Week: McQueen was for many years the undisputed star of London Fashion Week, winning Designer of the Year a record four times.Choosing to show in warehouse spaces rather than the regimented LFW tents, he courted controversy when naming his 1995 show Highland Rape. But he also brought a unique theatricality to his collections. His 2001 show featured a mirrored box reflecting back at the audience’s own faces, finally falling apart to reveal a fat, naked model in a gas mask surrounded by moths. The label’s absence from LFW in recent years has been keenly felt, though the diffusion McQ range returned briefly in 2012.

Signature Style: Flamboyance married to exceptional tailoring. The McQueen skull motif is instantly recognisable.

Famous Fans: Who isn’t? Lady Gaga is anobvious McQueen fan; less obvious is Kate Middleton, who married Prince William in a McQueen dress.

Where to Buy: Flagship store: 4-5 Old Bond St, W1S 4PD. T: 020 7355 0088

Menswear flagship store: Savile Row, W1S 3PF. T: 020 7494 8840

McQ flagship store: 14 Dover St, W1S 4LW. T: 020 7318 2220

The Cheeky Henry Holland 

Henry Holland's fun T-shirts
Cheeky slogan T-shirts by Henry Holland (©Daniel Sims/British Fashion Council)

Background: Though interested in fashion from an early age, Henry Holland fell into it almost by accident. A journalism graduate from the London College of Communication, he worked for teen magazines such as Smash Hits and Bliss. In 2006 he designed a Fashion Groupies range of T-shirts with bold, 80s-inspired slogans such as ‘I’ll tell you who’s boss, Kate Moss’, and ‘Do Me Daily, Christopher Bailey’. When Gareth Pugh wore his ‘Get Your Freak On, Charles Deacon’ T-shirt at his show, and Charles Deacon then returned fire with Holland’s ‘UHU Gareth Pugh’, Holland capitalised on the sudden interest, launching the grandly titled House of Holland in 2008.

Key Moments at London Fashion Week: For Holland’s first LFW show, in 2007, he dressed his models in dress-length variants on his slogan T-shirts, as it was all he knew how to do. He was so new to fashion that, he told one interviewer,‘My intern was teaching me how to pattern cut on the living-room floor. It was very insane.’ He describes preparing for LFW as ‘like the longest panic attack ever’.

Signature Style: Cheeky, funny, irreverent, young.

Famous Fans: Katy Perry, Jessie J, M.I.A.

Where to Buy: Stockists include Browns, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.

Christopher Kane, the Young Pretender 

Playful designs by Christopher Kane
Christopher Kane's playful designs (©Christopher James/British Fashion Council)

Background: The Scottish designer was an instant success, winning the Lancôme Colour Award in 2005 while still at Central St Martins College, and the Harrods Design Award for his MA graduate collection in 2006. Vogue Editor Anna Wintour also loved his show, and introduced him to Donatella Versace, who immediately hired him as a consultant – though he turned down a full-time job with her to launch his own label.

Key Moments at London Fashion Week: At the British Fashion Awards, presented annually at February’s London Fashion Week, he was named New Designer of the Year in 2007, British Collection of the Year in 2009, and Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2013. He also won the first New Establishment award in 2011. Perhaps his most talked-about LFW show was his cave-woman look, in 2008. ‘I always loved dinosaurs as a child,’ he told an interviewer at the time, ‘then I got to thinking about the Flintstones and bright, bubblegum colours, then I’m thinking One Million Years B.C. with Raquel Welch. I went home that night and Gorillas in the Mist was on and I was like, ‘wow!’’

Signature Style: Bodycon, as well as unusual materials such as rubber, crochet and plastic. Vogue calls him ‘fashion’s Willy Wonka’. His 2009 monkey-print T-shirt also became iconic.

Famous Fans: Emma Watson, Carey Mulligan, Kylie Minogue.

Where to Buy: Christopher Kane’s first London store is expected to open on Mayfair at the end of the year.

Stockists include Browns, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Liberty.


London Fashion Week takes place 12-16 September. London Fashion Weekend is a less formal event, and takes place at Somerset House (18-21 September). Please check for tickets.

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