What is a Designer brand in 2017? Back in the day, we knew a Designer brand was a House, often in Paris, headed by a famous-name designer, such as Christian Dior, Yves St Laurent or Chanel.
But those founding designers have all gone to the Great Atelier In The Sky, leaving their ‘house’ in the hands of corporations who install new designers to create collections behind a façade that still bears the founder’s name (or part of it).
Then there is the next generation of designers who have a ‘house’ in their own name – designers such as Stella McCartney, Roksanda, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs and Prada. And then there’s the new-wave of Designer brands, such as Self Portrait, The Row and Rag & Bone, which do not bear the name of a designer yet are true designer brands underpinned by a real design aesthetic.
In addition to all the ‘big’ names we love from Paris, Milan and New York, London has its fair share of super talented designers. Here, we take a look at a few of our favourites…
The extravagantly talented Amanda Wakeley is not just a truly talented designer but she is also herself A Woman Over 50. She knows what we chic over-50s want from our wardrobe. Hence, she is a special favourite of Prime Minister, Theresa May. As we have observed before, one has to admire Mrs May’s wardrobe choices regardless of one’s views on her politics.
For A/W 17, the Amanda Wakeley collection features more of the same – but in a good way. It again has plenty of ‘statement’ dresses that are perfect for all kinds of special occasions (day and night) and for making an impression at work (whether that work is politics or commerce). The ‘short’ dresses usually have a hemline over the knee, and many dresses have sleeves. But where there are no sleeves, there are matching jackets and coats – and all are in cuts, luxe fabrics and colours (seasonal shades as well as timeless ones) that make us yearn to have them in our wardrobe.
The collection features covetable off-duty pieces, too, such as trousers (slim-fitting and wide-leg, some in leather or suede); there are sumptuous knits in cashmere and merino, and off-duty jackets with face-framing fur collars.
And as we approach the chilly months (the official chilly months, that is; it was pretty cold last week), we can find in the Amanda Wakeley collection, head-turning winter coats we will not ever want to remove.
James Lakeland is another super clever British designer, but with an aesthetic steeped in legendary Italian fashion thanks to James’s Italian heritage.
James launched a little more than a decade ago, but his blend of fashion-forward styles, brilliant cutting and sumptuous fabrics (sourced mainly in Italy) meant he became an almost instant success. This put the James Lakeland label into top department stores as well as James Lakeland boutiques in Central London and around the UK. But no matter how well-known his name becomes, it remains an authentic designer brand, with the dresses, jackets and coats all originating from the sketch-book of James Lakeland himself.
For A/W James offers covetable pieces for work, weekends and for both daytime and evening occasions. We especially love this velvet blazer which can be styled in different ways to work for every part of our lives.
A jacquard shift dress with an elegantly simple matching coat would strike precisely the right fashion (and seasonal) note for a wedding any time between September and April when styled with ‘occasion’ shoes and a clutch. The same dress-and-coat would look super smart with plain pumps and a roomy tote for an important business meeting. And that’s the kind of value-added versatility that James Lakeland offers throughout his collection.
And if you love designer brands and want to splurge (perhaps when you have a wedding or another Big Occasion) you can find all the top fashion-forward international designer brands at Harvey Nichols.
The new A/W collections at Harvey Nichols feature stunning dresses for all kinds of occasions from a lengthy and stellar list of leading international designer labels, including Givenchy, Valentino, Armani, Lanvin, Roland Mouret, Roksanda, Dolce & Gabbana, Stella McCartney, Diane von Furstenburg, Self Portrait, Keepsake, Moschino, and many more.
If you fancy splashing out on a coat – either for an occasion or just to look impressive throughout the winter – the coat collection is also irresistible and includes coats from Lanvin, Givenchy, Balmain, The Row, Dolce & Gabbana and Stella McCartney, plus quilted coats for winter-sports types from Moncler.
And because it’s Harvey Nichols, their website offers you the designer accessories you want for both your working life and for special occasions from their galaxy of starry designers including shoes from Manolo Blahnik, Aquazzura, Valentino , Gianvito Rossi, Lavin and Gucci, and bags from Valentino, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Fendi and lots more.
Rêve En Vert also offers designer labels but this ethical online brand focuses on designers who are fashion-forward but who also take green and ethical issues seriously. Founded in 2013 by Cora Hilts and Natasha Tucker, Rêve En Vert (or REV) promotes independent designers who “carefully consider” how and where they produce their designs and what goes into their products.
While all their brands are by designers, few of them are familiar names because, of course, they are not backed by big corporations. But that means there is great individuality and originality in the clothing and accessories, alongside any green and ethical considerations.
A long list of designers includes Christopher Raeburn, Filippa K, Maiyet and Mara Hoffman, who are all familiar names (at least, to Jan, our resident fashion nerd).
Maiyet is the New York-based modern, ethical and luxury fashion brand that makes beautiful bags by working with “global artisans” in places such as India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, Peru and Thailand, to incorporate exquisite, handcrafted details and “unexpected” fabric techniques into their collection.
Christopher Raeburn is best known for his up-cycling (or “re-appropriation” in current green-speak) of military fabrics. For A/W Raeburn uses these to create timeless contemporary pieces such as statement bomber jackets, fitted roll-neck jumpers and utility skirts.
From the coterie of ethical (and stellar) designers at Rêve En Vert, we also love the luxe knits from Filippa K, especially the merino jumpers and her oversized cashmere tee.
When you reach the more expensive bit of the High Street it all gets confusing as the lines blur between what is ‘designer’ and what is ‘High Street.’ The industry knows, and thinks it can tell us. For them, L.K.Bennett, is ‘High Street.’ But the L.K.Bennett collection has a true designer aesthetic and the clothes are beautifully made, in luxurious fabric and finished with statement detail, making them perfect for a special occasion. It is affordable luxury so we’re counting them as equal to designer…
For the new season, they are tempting us with silk, leather and merino, suede and fine tweed in a collection that spans sleek workwear, chic off-duty wear and elegant, timeless occasionwear for day and evening. Plus, of course, the shoes, boots and bags we need for a perfect finish to any outfit.
Who is your favourite “designer” brand? Tell us below…
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