From the trench coat to the tweed jacket, British fashion history is peppered with iconic pieces that are constantly tweaked and reinvented for a new audience.
It is the ability to combine the classic with the unexpected that gives many British brands their quirky handwriting and the longevity to withstand changes in trends - whether it is a strategically placed bow on a trench or a fuchsia lining on a jacket.
Launched 10 years ago Sara Berman’s eponymous brand has quickly become a modern British classic. At a time when many brands are outsourcing their production to China and Eastern Europe, Sara Berman is a rarity in that 90% of its range is made in the UK.
The Harris Tweed coat is Sara Berman’s signature product which has appeared in every collection since the label’s inception. Berman says both she and her sister Amiee, who run the brand together, have a passion for the fabric.
“I guess that is probably where our ‘English Eccentric’ label comes from as it does lend our style a true British reference,” she says. “Many high street brands have copied us but they cannot compete with the quality of the fabric or the high standard of production that we achieve by working in the UK.”
Ann-Louise Roswald, whose graduate collection was snapped up by Liberty in 1999, is another designer committed to working with UK based knitting and weaving mills. Having grown up in Yorkshire with a Scottish mother and a Swedish father Roswald draws on her multi cultural heritage for design inspiration, but says: “I definitely have a British point of view when it comes to design and manufacture”.
Originally Roswald’s collections were all about printed textiles, which still feature strongly, but as the company has grown, it has also started to create its own embroideries and weaves.
While a floral theme has underpinned Roswald’s collections since the brand’s launch the designer says the signature product changes every few seasons: “We started out hand printing onto cashmere cardigans, and then it was all about printed skirts and coats, now the dress reigns supreme.”
Adini, which celebrates its 30th birthday this year, is another British womenswear brand with a distinct handwriting. Inspired by the vibrant colours of India and its colonial past the label has built its heritage on a fusion of East and West which reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Britain today. “We get customers ringing up who have pieces that they bought 20 yeas ago and they still wear them,” says director Dev Sachdev.
Elegant and timeless are the watchwords at Frank Usher which at 65 is one of the Grande Dames of British fashion. Launched just after the second world war when Christian Dior’s new look was all the rage, the brand quickly found favour with the fashionable women of London who loved the idea of buying a couture look at realistic prices. The designs have changed over the past decades to keep up with trends but the brand retains its unashamedly glamorous style.
A recent surge in popularity of Frank Usher’s vintage pieces has led a new younger audience to discover the brand. To mark its 65th anniversary Frank Usher is producing six dresses based on archive pieces which will be presented to its six biggest customers later this year.