Since the invention of the teenager in the 1950s, Britain has led the field in producing clothes that appeal to the youth market. From mods to rockers and punks, each tribe has been defined as much by their music taste as their style of dressing.
Born in 1909 Fred Perry was England’s greatest tennis player as well as the founder of an iconic fashion brand and the pioneer of the polo shirt.
In the late 50s the Fred Perry shirt moved from the tennis courts to the streets of London when it was adopted by British mods as their uniform of choice. It was the mods who asked Fred Perry to start supplying them with different coloured shirts, as opposed to the standard white top. The ‘Fred’, as the polo shirt became known, was resurrected in the 90s when Brit pop exploded and with it the retro sportswear look championed by the likes of Damon Albarn of Blur.
Since then the brand has built on its fashion credentials by collaborating with designers such as Comme des Garçons and, more recently, Raf Simons who has also designed a modern interpretation of an outfit worn by Fred Perry in 1947 to celebrate the centenary.
From the 50s mods to the 90s skaters, streetwear brand Fenchurch was conceived by a group of skateboarding friends with a passion for art and design in the late 90s.
At the time skate fashion was dominated by Californian brands and mainly focused on big logo T-shirts more suitable for the sunny LA climate than the inclement British weather.
“Their jackets never really worked, there was a lot of nylon and they were not warm enough,” says Fenchurch creative director Chris Isherwood. “British blokes like a nice jacket for winter and we decided we could do it better.”
The jacket has been a central part of Fenchurch’s collections since its launch in 1999, often with an element of tailoring which adds to the brand’s British handwriting. The focus is on subtle, quietly sophisticated detailing rather than loud brash statement pieces. “It is a very urban style, I hate to use the word eclectic but it does describe us quite well,” says Isherwood. “You can wear Fenchurch and still be individual.”
Young fashion brand Supremebeing is living proof that fashion may change but true style will always remain. One of the label’s first products, the Gamut Track, a retro track jacket with a bold three stripe panel, is still one of its bestselling products ten years on. The women’s Fifties jersey skirt, which can be worn as a dress or long skirt, has also taken on a life of its own and is reincarnated in every collection while the Mid, an asymmetric mid high sneaker, is now in its fourth season.
In the last ten years the brand has grown from being largely a T-shirt brand to producing a collection of 180 styles covering both men’s and women’s wear as well as footwear and accessories. The down to earth approach still reverberates through the brand with its marketing manager Simon Purchase declaring: “There’s no point in chasing what the markets are doing – we can only be ourselves.”