Forget Cool Brits, just flash your mac

The grand old houses of British couture are in the vanguard of a new wave. By Cayte Williams

August was the month when British design caught the attention of the press. What's new, you might ask. Well, rather than reading about the latest antics of Britain's enfants terribles in Paris, the fashion press was more interested in clothes designed by people whose names they don't know.

British companies Burberrys, Aquascutum, Scotch House and Austin Reed were declared the labels to watch this Autumn. Vogue started the ball rolling when it stated that "there is currently a gentler, more whimsical take on our fair isles. This is less in-yer-face London, more quiet, Cotswolds town." Cool Britannia was replaced with Gentle Englishness, and London replaced by Cheltenham. There were no Union Jacks or Kangol hats to be seen, but duffel coats, brogues and even Marmite were cited as the things to come.

One of the reasons for this love of all things quintessentially English was the admission by New York's fashion gurus that they looked to vintage Burberrys for inspiration. "Burberrys is iconic," said Rose Marie Bravo, the company's chief executive, in ES magazine. "A lot of these big US designers, like Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors, are inspired by what I call classic British style."

The truth is that the English company is hot. Burberrys new advertising campaign was shot by Mario Testino, styled by Alex White (of W magazine) and broke on 13 August in British Vogue. It featured blue-blood English model Stella Tennant enjoying a tea party at a polo match, she was surrounded by great-looking men, a fine bone-china set and a lady in a Mardi-Gras mask stroking a horse. This is hardly the stuff of trad macs and raincoats.

So why the change? Much has been made of the English invasion of New York, but it's a two-way street. Burberrys lured Rose Marie Bravo from Saks of New York late last year, and she has brought several compatriots into the fold. The new senior vice-president, Accessories Worldwide (how American is that!), is Robin Marino whose CV includes Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Macy's. Rose Marie's aim is to make Burberrys a global brand in five years and she's up for weaving a bit of wit into the Burberrys check. Her first "innovation" was the checked knickers, and her latest triumph is the grey flannel tote bag, the current love of all fashion editors. The English love of animals has not been wasted on the American chief exec. Burberrys are pushing the doggy Trench Coat (from pounds 115) with the tenacity of a Rottweiller.

The English company hasn't always been so experimental. "About three years ago Katy England [Alexander McQueen's muse] styled a shoot in ES magazine featuring the recognisable Burberrys check," says one fashion insider. "She styled it brilliantly with hunting, shooting and fishing themes and one thing I really remember was a girl holding a rifle ready to load. It was very naughty, very tongue-in-cheek. Burberrys were furious. They thought it would scare their traditional customers. They couldn't see the wit in it at all."

Even the humourless Aquascutum is enjoying a renaissance. "Our ladies' trench coat, which is shorter and more streamlined than before, has been featured in Vogue twice already," says a company spokeswoman. "And the classic pleated skirt has been very popular with the press." Pity all those middle-aged loyal customers. Their teenage daughters will be stealing their entire wardrobe before Autumn is over.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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 General

    Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

    Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat