From Barbour to Burberry — a look back at the Queen’s favourite fashion designers
As the highly anticipated London Fashion Week season rolls around next week, it will fall during the national mourning period of Queen Elizabeth II. Some fashion houses - such as Burberry - have already cancelled their shows, with more reshufflings expected to be announced.
Most shows however, will go ahead as planned, with the British Fashion Council stating: “London Fashion Week is a business-to-business event, and an important moment for designers to show their collections at a specific moment in the fashion calendar, we recognise the work that goes into this moment.”
Queen Elizabeth II had a longstanding relationship with fashion, and in 2018 launched the QEII Award for British Design - recipients include Richard Quinn, Priya Ahluwalia and Saul Nash. The Queen was a keen supporter of British fashion and, with her award, aimed to recognise design excellence.
Though the award usually falls to a rising star of British design, the Queen herself opted for more traditional wardrobe choices, turning to the same handful of designers time and time again. Below, we walk you through some of Her Majesty’s most beloved fashion designers, from the gowns that symbolised a moment in history to her most reliable wax jacket.
Hardy Amies, a designer and expert tailor, was best known as the Queen’s official dressmaker for 50 years. The two first started working together during the fifties, before the Queen’s Coronation whilst she was still a princess, during her tour of Canada. In 1955 she appointed him one of her three official dressmakers, though he gave up his Royal warrant in 1990.
More than just the Queen’s official dressmaker, Amies was an author, tailor and costume designer (as well as Martini ambassador and connoisseur). He designed the costumes for Stanley Kubrick’s first film, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), as well as uniforms for mountain rescue teams.
The designer once said of the Queen: “The Queen has the most perfect manners. She gives you her undivided attention and never makes a critical remark. The only sign of disapproval is a raising of her eyebrows… But you get the message.”
Before Hardy Amies, in the 1940s, Norman Hartnell was appointed official dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and subsequently to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1957. The first Norman Hartnell dress the Queen would wear was as a princess, when she was a bridesmaid aged nine at the marriage of Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester.
Hartnell’s work was approved by the likes of Coco Chanel, whilst his friendship group included master couturiers Christan Dior and Mainbocher. After already an illustrious career and vast impact on London’s luxury fashion scene, in 1947 Hartnell was asked by Queen Elizabeth II to design her wedding dress, and six years later, her Coronation dress too.
Norman Hartnell is celebrated throughout history as the man responsible for dressing some of Her Majesty’s most significant moments. Even those who do not know his name will see his work when picturing an image of the Queen.
During her time at Balmoral in particular, one wardrobe item was certain: the Barbour jacket. The English brand - founded in 1894 - has been awarded three Royal warrants, with the first being awarded by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh in 1974. Renowned for its wax jackets, Barbour was beloved not only by the Queen but by all the Royal family.
Founded almost 130 years ago, the first Barbour jackets were crafted from leftover sails and coated with fish oil, which, as you can imagine, carried an awful smell. When adopted by the Royals, of course, the smell was long gone.
Barbour pride themselves on timelessness, there’s even a rumour that the Queen wore the same jacket for over 25 years. It’s thought that she asked for the jacket to be re-waxed around the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and was offered a new one to replace it, instead she asked for her old one back.
This morning Burberry announced the cancellation of its London Fashion Week show which was due to be held next Saturday. As one of the oldest British heritage brands showing as part of LFW - with deep-rooted connections to the Royal family - it’s no surprise that the brand has chosen to ‘mourn with the nation’, rather than go ahead with its show. What’s more, in 1955 Burberry was awarded a Royal warrant as the Queen’s ‘Weatherproofers’ of choice, and later received a second warrant from the Prince of Wales as the ‘Outfitters’ of choice.
As one of Britain’s most celebrated, inherently English brands that connects generations and cultures, it is perhaps the only brand on this list as equally coveted by the Queen as it is by teenage boys. Her Majesty was pictured most frequently sporting a Burberry trench and headscarf.
In 2018 Queen Elizabeth launched the very first Queen Elizabeth II Award, an accolade that recognises pioneering design talent “that shows exceptional talent and originality, whilst demonstrating value to the community and/or strong sustainable policies”, according to the British Fashion Council.
During a very special moment in fashion history, the Queen herself attended Richard Quinn’s AW18 show and made the London-born designer the award’s first recipient. Attendees waited in anticipation to see who would fill the velvet-cushion-topped seat next to Anna Wintour - they were not left disappointed, tears were shed as she made her appearance.
Though Richard Quinn’s designs may not have been a staple in the Queen’s wardrobe, his talent, commitment and innovation was something she chose to honour, a mere two years after he graduated. Her own tastes and regimes may have been with traditional, heritage brands, but she didn’t let that stop her from recognising young talent.