September 2012 is London Fashion Week, one of the fashion world’s most prestigious events. With London just being voted the most fashionable city in the world by the Global Language Monitor, it’s clear that this year all eyes are on the English capital. As top designers show off their designs on the London catwalks, we take a look at the many ways the UK has revolutionised the world of fashion.
Undoubtedly one of Britain’s biggest contributions to the fashion world is making black the ‘it’ colour. Though Coco Gabrielle popularised the colour in the 1920’s, it is widely thought that Queen Victoria was the first person to thrust the eternally stylish colour into the mainstream. Before Queen Victoria, black was widely associated with mourning and when her husband, Albert, died in 1861 she too donned the traditional shade of mourning as she grieved for him. However while most only wore the colour for a short while, Victoria continued to wear black until her death 40 years later, once more thrusting it into the public eye.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Britain is also responsible for injecting a little colour into fashion as the birthplace of artificial dye. Of course dyes had been used to colour clothing for millennia but these dyes all had their origins in the natural world. However in 1848 the young London chemist William Henry Perkin was working on an artificial treatment for malaria and instead created a synthetic dye called Mauveine. He then nicknamed the colour ‘mauve’ and went to mass produce the dye to great success.
Colourful outfits are all the range these days with pop stars like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj raising eyebrows with bold, eccentric designs. Though their choices of fashion may turn heads they’re not the first to challenge the fashion status quo. In the late 19th and early 20th century, London’s Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon, more commonly known as Lucile, shocked the world with her radical designs. Rather than following current trend, Lucile instead created bold fashions that she designed for individuals, not the masses. She was also one of the first to show off her wares on catwalk shows and shocked society with her racy lingerie. The House of Lucile was a huge success, becoming one of the first truly global fashion brands and has recently been revived by Lucile’s great, great, grand-daughter Camilla Blois.
So while London Fashion Week will show of many of UK’s best contemporary designs, remember that Britain’s contributions to the world of fashion go back much, much further.