Saturday, 9 July 2011

London style

Numerous fashion journalists, models and designers often subscribe to a similar opinion - that London, as a city, is unique when it comes to style. It is very edgy and adventurous, not afraid to define its own take on a current global trend. In London anything goes when it comes to fashion.  The French may be classically stylish, the Italians sharply tailored but here in London we are style chameleons, hopping schizophrenically from trend to trend, dictated by catwalks.  There is no classic London look.  Ecclecticism is what floats our fashion boat.

Let's not forget that London fell in love with punk; the movement of anarchy and rebellion (first born in New York in 1974, I am reliably informed). Punk style pioneered leather, studs and 6-inch high mohican hair.  The Kings Road hosted the first boutique of grand dame of English fashion, Vivienne Westwood, (co-run with Malcolm McClaren) which was at one time provocatively titled "Sex".  Not far from where I live, this look is still alive and well in Camden, home to numerous alternative fashion stores.  Hopping on the bus outside the Camden branch of Sainsburys one often comes face to, er, pierced face, with some of the world's most ardent supporters of this unique mode. (Just this morning on my way to work, I noticed a wonderful head of bright blue hair and face full of silver studs was taking its cat to the vet.  The cat, I hasten to add, did not look in the least bit punk.) 

The soggy summer is presenting Londoners with quite the fashion connundrum. Should we dress for the summer (in its absence) and haul out our denim shorts, sun-dresses and espadrilles? Or should we dress for the never-ending rain in far less glamorous wellies and waterproofs?  London's answer appears to be a combination of both.  Recent festival-wear seems to be inspiring the current style of those who pound the pavements of this city, and Hunter wellies appear on the end of long, bare legs, topped with floaty summer-dresses.  Never will a Londoner opt for the solely practical choice - every pavement is a catwalk, the city is the backdrop for a never-ending fashion show. 

London is, and has been, home to numerous designers of world renown; Vivienne Westwood, Giles Deacon, Stella McCartney and the late Alexander McQueen to name but a few. London Fashion Week, held twice a year, draws an influential and international crowd, including the queen of the global fashion industry, American Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Formerly held at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington (Harvey Nichols famous windows once displayed fabulous dinosaurs made entirely from coathangers as a nod to the hosts of the event), LFW is now held at Somerset House on The Strand.

Not so far from The Strand is Oxford Street, an urban shopping Mecca for anyone in search of the season's latest styles.  For the feint-hearted it is not, however.  On Oxford Street one is reminded just how serious a task is clothes shopping.  One only has to witness the scramble of a sale in Topshop at Oxford Circus to be reminded of the ruthless lust and desperate behaviour which fashion can inspire.  If you're the sort who likes your shopping intense, you can take on Westfield, Europe's largest city shopping centre over in Shepherd's Bush - 150,000 square metres of wet-look leggings, Ugg boots, Japenese-style Obi belts, and endless stripes. Go forth and accessorise!

But whilst the big fashion retailers may churn out indentikit dresses in their millions, and every second person appears wearing the same Primark skirt, London style is not afraid to look to the glamour of earlier times to enhance the present. Vintage pieces are incorporated into the wardrobes of the truly stylish with a consumate fashonista's eye.  As someone exclaims over an admired item of clothing, it is not uncommon to hear a reply indicating that the piece was picked up in "some little vintage place in Hackney" or that it was pinched from an older relation's wardrobe. Similar to London's architecture and culture, its sartorial style blends the ancient and modern in ways that clash, but some how also seem to look just right.  It's the classic London style.

(For a far better picture of London style than I can paint in mere words, allow me to point you to the excellent StyleScout blog, containing snaps of the most stylish Londoners out and about around the city.)
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  1. Thinking of a career change, Accidental Londoner? What I love about London is the fact that you can dress the way you like, nobody will comment on it. No pressure.

  2. So true - one of my ex-housemates used to go to Waitrose in her pyjamas! (No one batted an eyelid.)

  3. Anything goes in London.

  4. Agree with MuMuGB,
    I have to tone my style down here in the Midlands.

    I once overheard a girl say to her friend "She looks like a witch" because I wore a black fringed jacket and had purple dip dyed hair!

    That's why I love my trips to London, the more elaborate the better :))

  5. I do just the same when I go home to the Midlands too, JuJuJenny! Shall be dressing down this Christmas and leaving all my heels at home in London...


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