Long gone are the days when the idea of British fashion was limited to tweeds and hunting jackets. Today, designers from the U.K. comprise a group that’s as varied as the fashion industry itself, and a new crop of designers is establishing itself alongside the more recognized brands who have been redefining the idea of British style in recent years. While Barneys has been casting an eye London-ward for decades, the past several seasons of men’s and women’s shows there have been bringing a renewed energy that can be felt resonating throughout the global fashion community.
“In the 1980s, Barneys was one of the most important importers of British men’s apparel—so much so that the Royal Family of Great Britain visited the Barneys store in 1986 to bestow a special recognition for this achievement,” recounts Barneys EVP/GMM of Men’s, Tom Kalenderian, noting that he and his team have been heading across the pond and bringing new talent back to New York since before the existence of London Fashion Week Men’s. “Back then, we were driven by the historical tailoring houses, but now we have a more contemporary view of British style. We’re more focused on the extremely modern statement coming from the new breed of British designers.”
Barneys Fashion Director Marina Larroudé agrees and adds that the revolution extends to women’s designers as well. “Across the board, British designers today aren’t afraid to try out new trends, materials, or silhouettes. They’re fearless in the way they approach fashion, which is why it’s so appealing.” Summing up this energy in a single word, Larroudé doesn’t hesitate to peg it as ‘youthful.’ “It can manage to be very chic, but without feeling like you’re wearing your mother’s or grandmother’s clothes.”
In recognition and celebration of British fashion’s creativity and innovation, Barneys is partnering with The British Fashion Council to toast today’s top British designers with a series of windows at our Madison Avenue flagship. The work of established designers lives seamlessly beside the work of those fresher to the scene, echoing the BFC’s commitment to fostering the growth of emerging talents and supporting all British designers. Brands featured include J.W.Anderson, Anya Hindmarch, Osman, Teija, Erdem, Saloni, Alice Archer, Victoria Beckham, Alexander White, Nicholas Kirkwood, and Tabitha Simmons. On the men’s side, J.W.Anderson will be featured again, along with designers like Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith, Craig Green, A-Cold-Wall*, Margaret Howell, Belstaff, and By Walid.
“This very strong group of designers, for the most part, all comes from the same generation,” says Marina Larroudé. “It hasn’t been since Alexander McQueen graduated from Central Saint Martins that we’ve seen the level of talent in London that we’re seeing now.”
Kalenderian, too, gives a nod to the energy that McQueen brought to the British fashion scene, and credits him for paving the way for today’s dynamic creatives. “In some ways, everything that young British designers today have been able to achieve was made possible by the genius and accomplishments of McQueen,” he says. “But what keeps these designers moving forward is the edict to be different, and yet true to their core beliefs. Designers like J.W.Anderson, Craig Green, and Martine Rose are making a statement and carving a path with great individuality and integrity.”
These trailblazers are redefining the scene even as they form it, and in doing so, are tapping into a uniquely British sensibility. “New York-based collections tend to be more sportswear-driven, which is a reflection of how the American people live and dress—our clothes tend to include more references to classics,” says Larroudé. “In general, the British are less afraid of color and prints, so we’ve seen such amazing, crazy prints coming from British designers in the past five years.”
That fearlessness meets with a certain brand of unconventionality to foster this new British fashion that expounds upon the country’s heritage of style. “Beyond the reverence for tailoring that comes from Saville Row and its history of menswear based on exquisite military uniforms, British style is also rooted in the fascination with English eccentricity,” Kalenderian tells us. “For decades, the country has been credited for many iterations of over-the-top style. Whether it be the punks of Kings Road or the Mods of Carnaby Street, London pop culture and its music scene have influenced not only the Brits, but also the world with an obsession for rock-star-level style.”
Today, though, it seems the rock stars are often the designers themselves, churning out season after season of stand-out collections that deeply resonate with the fashion crowd. “Consumers today are looking for very unique, distinctive pieces, and British designers are bringing that element to the table,” says Larroudé. “Erdem does it in a way that’s super-feminine, while J.W. Anderson brings an edge to it. There’s a unique style to each one of them, and when someone is walking into a store, they’re looking for that level of specialness. They want something unique, and that’s what these British designers offer.”
Our windows created in collaboration with The British Fashion Council are on view at our Madison Avenue Flagship now through January 25.