Her Majesty’s appearance at London Fashion Week at designer Richard Quinn’s runway show underscores the importance of this £66 billion industry to Britain, writes Olenka Hamilton
The Queen has made headlines for making a ‘surprise’ appearance at London Fashion Week this week — her first ever visit. A ‘surprise’ it may have been, but what is most surprising in all this is that she had never been to London Fashion Week before.
The Queen is after all, thanks to her bold colour choices and impeccable turn-out, an international style icon in her own right. Plus, she has always been a great supporter of the British fashion industry, championing the likes of Hardy Amies in the 1950s to Catherine Walker today. And where the Queen has led other royals have followed: the Duchesses of Cambridge and Cornwall — among other royal ladies — are keen supporters of British fashion, drawing attention to talents such as Alexander McQueen, Amanda Wakeley, Emilia Wickstead and Jenny Packham.
Now, however, it seems the Queen has moved her sights to supporting emerging talent — and it’s high time. Because this is something that Britain is really good at and ought to shout about. Our fashion industry is thriving and a major money spinner. Totalling £66 billion, it accounts for 6 per cent of the UK economy, meaning it’s worth around half of financial services or manufacturing.
And alongside Paris and New York, London fashion week is hands down the most important event of the fashion calendar. British designers – from Giles Deacon and Christopher Bailey to Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney – are some of the best in the world.
So with Brexit approaching, now more than ever would we do well to cultivate one of our most prominent exports.
Which all goes to explain the Queen’s presence at 28-year-old British designer Richard Quinn’s runway this week, to present the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. The first award of its kind, it aimed to ‘highlight the role the fashion industry plays in society and diplomacy’, according to the British Fashion Council which decided on Quinn as its recipient. It described the award as ‘an incredible honour’ for the industry.
It is of course not the first time the fashion industry has been recognised by the royal family. Burberry (a FTSE 100 company, of course), John Lobb, Barbour and Gieves and Hawkes are among many to hold royal warrants, while American Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Vivienne Westwood have damehoods, Paul Smith is a knight and designers Anya Hindmarch and Bruce Oldfield are both OBEs. Alexandra Shulman, who stepped down as editor of British Vogue after 25 years, was appointed CBE for services to fashion industry in January 2018.
The award certainly puts Quinn, who set up his label in 2016 after completing a degree at Central Saint Martin’s, on the runway to his own future honour. For now, the designer, who has worked at Christian Dior, Michael van der Ham and Richard James on Savile Row (who was appointed OBE himself in January), is known for mixing prints with classic silhouettes, with the aim of creating a look which is ‘elegant with a touch of edge’. Perhaps not quite what the Sovereign would go for, but tastes and convention aside, the Queen’s London Fashion Week intervention could not have come at a timelier moment.
Olenka Hamilton is staff writer at Spear’s