Chelsea Girl: Let's twist again

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The revival of Sixties high-street emporium Chelsea Girl brings a touch of fashion nostalgia to a new generation.

It's always interesting to note the Proustian resonances that shops can have on our consumer consciousness. Whether your first trip to the mall away from the beady eye of your parents or your first salon appointment on the Rue Cambon, shopping stays in the memory as much as a taste or a smell. The places we haunted as teenagers – invariably now closed down or revamped (for this, read dragged into the Day-Glo realm of the 21st century) – are as fixed in our memories as the music of the time.

Which is why it's no surprise that many a seasoned shopper has a nostalgic glint in their eye at the news of a relaunch of the much-loved British high-street name Chelsea Girl. Defunct since it morphed into River Island in 1988, from 1965 Chelsea Girl offered Mary Quant at manageable prices, and was one of the first stores across the country to provide affordable and trend-led pieces to a young audience desperate for them.

"I loved Chelsea Girl as a youth," says Katie Grand, editor of Love magazine. "There was a huge one in Birmingham and it was one of my favourite places to hang out."

Boasting a selection of modish pieces that were, in the Sixties, relatively difficult to find outside the capital or at pocket money-friendly prices, Chelsea Girl – so named for the capital's fashionable epicentre, the King's Road – was a saviour for the style-savvy teenager. "C&A was the big clothing store we all went to as a family," fashion commentator Caryn Franklin remembers, "but Chelsea Girl was where I headed to declare my independence." And it remained so well into the Seventies and Eighties.

"It was the nearest thing that passed as a happening boutique in Hounslow when I was in my early teens," Franklin adds. "The thing I remember most was that it was pitch-black in there and hard to see anything you were buying, but that – together with the glamorously disinterested shop assistants and Slade soundtrack – was proof of absolute credibility for me."

And this week sees the return of the name, launching as a vintage-inspired (original Chelsea Girl customers may bridle at being classed as this) capsule that will be available from River Island stores nationwide. Taking the brand's heritage as its reference points – and feeding off the near-ubiquitous Seventies aesthetic for summer – the range includes fluid and wispy shapes, bohemian influences, and floral and paisley pieces that could well have walked straight in off Carnaby Street.

"I had a lovely black gathered skirt that I used to wear with a mauve pair of pointy kitten-heel shoes," Katie Grand remembers. "Come to think of it, it was quite 'Prada autumn/ winter 2010'."

Designer Lucy Moller paid heed to the brand's original USP, researching on eBay and in her mother's attic. The collection will be aimed at a younger audience, and the familiar logo is resurrected on cropped cotton T-shirts and tote bags.

"I don't remember Chelsea Girl myself," admits Moller, who joined River Island as a design intern in 2006, but "my mum has such fond memories of the collection. She had kept some of the original clothing in our attic, and I fell in love with a pair of tan suede hotpants with lace fringing – which I would never have imagined my mum wearing!"

Mums in their girlhood is the reason Chelsea Girl is remembered so affectionately – everyone has a paisley minidress or crochet waistcoat lurking in their loft, and there are so many vintage pieces knocking around on eBay that the label has taken on rather a rosy tinge. So it makes sense to offer it to the next generation of shoppers.

As well as arriving in stores this month, the Chelsea Girl redux will also be available at a pop-up shop opening in Selfridges. What was once the beating heart of the British high street is back to prove it still has a finger on the pulse. So no matter what age you are, don't forget to go with hundreds of your friends and clog up the changing rooms for hours – it's all part of the Proustian shopping experience.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

    Recruitment Genius: Associate Sales Consultant

    £16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Associate Sales Consultant i...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

    Recruitment Genius: Water Jetting / HGV Driver - Industrial Services

    £14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Skilled Labouring staff with id...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot