Top 7 British Fashion Icons

The UK has played an integral role in the evolution of fashion over the last century, both through the emergence of subcultures like Mods, Punks, and New Romantics, and the creation of now internationally renowned luxury fashion brands like Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, and Alexander McQueen. In this semi-serious list, I want to discuss seven British designers, celebrities, and characters who have left their mark on the world of fashion.

Vivienne Westwood

Dame Vivienne Westwood is famous for making punk popular, while still preserving its message of rebellion. Her use of tartan, leather, and provocative graphics meant that neither she (nor her brand) has ever really gone out of fashion, especially with younger consumers and those who love to embrace their rebellious side. In fact, prices for archival Vivienne Westwood pieces have soared in price since her passing in late 2022. Vivienne Westwood’s unexpected, and often erotic, themes were initially laughed at (see her interview on Wogan in 1988), but this turned out to be proof that she was always ahead of her time.

Mary Portas

Starting out as a humble shop window dresser, Mary Portas later became the creative director of Harvey Nichols, dominated the BBC in the late 2000s with Mary Queen of Shops, and was appointed by the government to attempt to save British high streets in 2011. Though she was rarely seen without her bright orange bob, business-casual clothes, and chunky statement jewellery, recently Mary Portas has changed her style to include more neutral tones, showing that changing your iconic look doesn’t have to come at the cost of your personality; it is merely an evolution of yourself.

Janine Butcher from Eastenders

AKA Judith Bernstein, Janine Butcher (played by Charlie Brooks) has been terrorising the residents of Albert Square for years and has always looked good doing it. Camp, risqué, and downright-evil, Janine has proved that you an always look the part while you’re killing your husband, committing romance fraud, or just being a super-bitch. Wardrobe highlights include her leopard-print jacket, all of her incredible wedding dresses, and the iconic red coat she wore when she pushed Barry off a cliff.

Alexander McQueen

Four-time winner of the British Designer of the Year award, Lee Alexander McQueen wowed audiences for years with his avant-garde designs and futuristic footwear, with collections that often blurred the lines between beautiful and monstrous, and natural and technological. His untimely death in 2010 was felt around the world, but his inspiration can be seen in so many brands, and his final show, inspired by Plato’s Atlantis, is still relevant and futuristic over ten years later.

Kate Moss

Since 1990, Kate Moss has almost irreversibly changed what it means to be a model. Her style (described as ‘grunge’, ‘dishevelled’ or even ‘heroin chic’) has had a lasting impact on society, becoming an ‘anti-supermodel’ at the time due to her short stature and thinness, but went on to inspire the ‘size 0’ craze of the 90s and 00s. Nowadays, Kate Moss consistently informs new trends whenever she leaves the house.

Patsy and Eddy from Absolutely Fabulous

Everyone’s favourite irresponsible middle-aged women, Patsy and Eddy (played by Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders respectively) solidified their statuses as fashion icons as the main characters in Absolutely Fabulous. Patsy’s sleek, edgy, and rebellious outfits contrast perfectly with Eddy’s eccentric, mismatched, and over the top ensembles, brilliantly displaying the contrasting yet complementary aspects of their characters.

Mystic Meg

Astrologer Margaret Lake became a mainstay of 90s pop culture when she would appear during broadcasts of the National Lottery to announce who would be in receipt of good fortune. Nearly always appearing in something black, red, or purple, alongside her signature black bob and red lip, Mystic Meg seemed to be a British manifestation of the dark fantasy themes that became prevalent in American TV shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Charmed.