10 reasons why we love British fashion & style
Since this is the UK's year (Olympics, Jubilee, generally being awesome...) I decided it was the perfect time to talk a little bit about why I love my home country so much. Catwalk Queen may now have contributors from around the world, but it's here in the UK that it first began (via dial-up internet in my bedroom at my parents house!). Over the ten years that CQ has been a fashion blog a lot has changed, but my devotion to all that is brilliant about British fashion remains. Here are just ten of the reasons why I love good old Blighty and all its style - the brilliant and the bonkers!
1. We have the best high street in the world
Topshop, Whistles, Reiss, Oasis, New Look, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Dorothy Perkins, Warehouse, Miss Selfridge...the list could go on for pages and pages. We are incredibly lucky in the UK to be served by some amazing high street stores. Our appetite for fast fashion shows no signs of fading, but luckily we have shops that women the world over dream of shopping at (think about how excited everyone was when Topshop opened a store in the USA).
Sure, we have our fair share of popular shops from other countries (Zara, H&M, Mango, Urban Outfitters etc) but there are few countries that have such a long list of great high street stores as us, and that is something to get excited about!
2. We're prepared for all weather
We may complain about the changeable weather, but there aren't that many places where you can be in a faux fur coat and winter boots one day, and a tiny Summer dress the next. Our mad weather gives us the chance to wear all kinds of trends throughout the year, which means we never miss out on the next big thing. As Brits, we're adaptable, mastering the art of layering, knowing a million ways to wear a scarf, happy to shove a rain coat over a maxi dress, and in some cases not adverse to teaming black tights with open toe shoes (if the shoes are really, really nice and the tights are from Wolford). Plus, even when the chill sets in, we don't let it get us down. British women are known for getting their legs out for a night out regardless of the weather. It's amazing what the warmth of a beer jacket will do!
3. We have some of the best creative design talent in the world
From trailblazers like Mary Quant, Vivienne Westwood, Terry de Havilland, Barbara Hulanicki and Alexander McQueen to current big names like Erdem, Christopher Kane, Phoebe Philo and Christopher Bailey Britain is chock full of amazing fashion designers.
Ok, we don't have the monopoly on design talent, but we definitely nurture creativity in this country and for such a small island we definitely have more than our fair share! UK arts universities are the breeding ground for many of the industry's biggest names - Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art are particularly well-known for their killer alumni lists - Riccardo Tisci, Zac Posen and Mary Katrantzou all studied fashion in London.
4. Our style icons are celebrated the world over
Look at any best-dressed list and you'll see the same British names over and over again - Kate Moss, Kate Middleton, Victoria Beckham, Alexa Chung, Emma Watson etc. A unique mixture of edgy, slighly bohemian dressers and classic beauties, our style icons are global phenomenons. Women the world over want to look like Britain's best-dressed. In fact, US Vogue voted Kate Moss the best-dressed woman of the decade in 2010, ahead of competition like Sarah Jessica Parker and Michelle Obama.
Of course, we probably have just as many people on the worst-dressed lists too, but that leads me perfectly on to my next point...
5. We have the sense of humour to laugh at past mistakes
We've all worn horrible things at some point. I grew up in the 90s so have more than my fair share of sartorial nightmares - there was the orange Kappa tracksuit, the silver hankie hem top worn with embossed dragon trousers, the drop-waist 1960s minidress in lime green (complete with faux Gucci horsebit belt), the white high-waisted shorts, the red silk blouse with matching red check mini kilt...I could go on. But the good thing is I can look back now with affection - even at the silver velcro platform wedge trainers. That good old British sense of humour (explained not-so-expertly here on Yahoo Answers) will see us through even the most ridiculous trends (remember dummy necklaces?) with our dignity intact.
At least until someone tags us in an old photo on facebook.
6. We're getting increasingly good at catering for all shapes and sizes
We still have a very long way to go before women of all shapes and sizes are properly represented within the fashion industry, but at least retailers and designers in the UK are moving in the right direction. Our plus size brands are collaborating with unique talents (see Evans and Clements Ribiero / Beth Ditto / Georgina Goodman Simply Be and Zandra Rhodes) and more retailers are expanding their sizing with special ranges (ASOS Curve, AX Paris Curve) so stylish women above a size 14 or 16 can have easy access to something other than shapeless tees and ugly cropped trousers.
The UK also leads the way when it comes to lingerie and fashion brands that cater to women outside the A-D bracket (via Freya, Curvy Kate, Bravissimo / Pepperberry etc) and we also have a wider range of sub 30" band sizes than most countries.
On the other end of the scale, shops are also introducing smaller sizes (UK 6 and 4) and increasing their petite ranges. We also have a reasonable selection of 'tall' collections (though we could do with many more), with plenty of shops now offering longer leg lengths.
7. Our boutiques / indies are brilliant
From high end boutiques like Dover Street Market in London and Cricket in Liverpool to indie haunts like Birmingham's Oasis, we're never short of quirky boutiques, independent retailers and concept stores. The joy of getting to know your home is discovering these little gems - the tiny boutique in a small town that stocks a hard-to-find denim brand, or the indoor market stall that imports rockabilly clothing from the US. Our high street may be absolutely brilliant, but when we're bored of the usual, we can always find the unusual just around the corner.
8. We don't follow trends, we start them
Walk down London's Brick Lane in daylight, and it's likely you'll stumble across someone starting new trend. You'll probably also stumble across a street style photographer snapping a photo of said trend, ready to blog it later. This country is a key part of the 'trickle down, bubble up' concept - the idea that half the big trends start at catwalk level, trickling down to 'real life', while the others 'bubble up' the other way - starting at street level, spotted by designers when they're out and about seeking inspiration, later appearing on the runway. From the streets across our country to the catwalks at London Fashion Week, this is a country that's very much about what's new, edgy and current - we are a nation of trendsetters!
9. Our fashion industry contributes to our economy
Fashion equals jobs, it's as simple as that. In 2011 it was reported that the fashion industry contributes around £37 billion to the UK economy. it's a reality check for anyone who thinks or says that fashion is just a few snooty people messing about with overpriced clothes. British fashion is about far more than a few designers putting on shows for one week every February and September.
In difficult economic times, this is an industry that continues to flourish and keep people in jobs. To put it in perspective, the Guardian reports that the fashion industry in the UK generates "more than twice as many jobs as real estate."
For more information on why our industry is so important, you can download the British Fashion Council's annual report for 2011 or read the Value of Fashion report.
10. We are fearless
How else can you explain this?
Lady Gaga excepted, nobody does bonkers fashion like Brits do!