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Valerie Steele Curated Playlist: British Designers in London and Paris

DOI: 11.5040/BritishDesignersinLondonandParis

Curated by Valerie Steele

Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano were already showing in Paris. But McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 1996 show, Dante, was held at a candle-lit church in Spitalfields, London. McQueen’s colleagues look back now and see this show as a turning point, when he first began to be perceived as an important designer. The collection mixed religion, war, and Victoriana into a heady brew, epitomized by Mr. Pearl’s lavender corset and Shawn Leane’s crown of thorns. Not long after, McQueen was in Paris, too. In Autumn/Winter 1998, he presented both haute couture and prêt-à-porter shows for the house of Givenchy. Although historicizing and strong, his Givenchy collections never received the acclaim of his own.

John Galliano’s Autumn/Winter 2003 show for Dior, Hardcore, continued his emphasis on extreme glamour, while also featuring highly saleable items like a baby pink corset body suit and his incredibly successful Dior handbags.

Vivienne Westwood, the queen of punk, would go on to pioneer the New Romanticism, and to inspire another generation of historicizing British designers, including Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. Westwood’s Autumn/Winter 1989 show, Voyage to Cythera, was one of her most beautiful, featuring eighteenth-century inspired looks like Harlequin and Columbine, as well as an Eve bodysuit in nude stretch fabric with a fig leaf.

The French brand Chloe, founded by Gaby Aghion, has been helmed by many successful designers, from Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney to Phoebe Philo. Stella McCartney, the daughter of Paul McCartney and self-proclaimed Rock Princess, channeled her childhood memories of the disco years for her Autumn/Winter 2000 collection for Chloe. The following year she launched her own company.

Bella Freud, daughter of the painter Lucien Freud and great granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, has long had a small, independent fashion brand. Her Autumn/Winter 1997 show featured a variety of quirky, sexy knits, tailored jackets and miniskirts, accessorized with vintage-inspired shoes of her own design.


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