Guest Post by George Langford (Glitterbird)
aka the NEW Fashion Junior at Large
Fashion and politics don't always mix, but it seems that Mr Cameron's recent arrival at Number 10 has had a significant effect on the style set. It may be 20 years since the Conservatives were last in power, but it has taken about 20 minutes for two very Tory garments to become essential fashion items for young cool scenesters everywhere. The Barbour jacket and straw boater hat, previously the uniform of public schoolboys and huntin', shootin' country folk, are now two of this summer's must-have items.
Barbour is an authentic, family owned British brand, which has long been the favoured supplier of outdoor garments to such style doyennes as the Duchess of Cornwall and the Queen.
HRH Princess Royal showing the cool kids how it is done back in 1988!
The extremely Conservative, upper class jackets are traditionally dark forest green with a tartan lining and particularly pongy waterproof wax coating - so why on earth have they suddenly become fashionable?
This trend has been a slow-burning phenomenon of the power of street style - without any involvement by the brand itself, these jackets have fast become the only outerwear to be seen in, and if you aren't sporting one at a festival this summer, you might as well not have bothered going. Over the last three years, the Shoreditch set have embraced these chunky, hard wearing coats, and Barbour-fever has quickly spread across the rest of the UK.
Boys are rocking the 'Hackney Farmer' look, and smartening up their t-shirts and skinnies by slinging on a wax jacket, whilst girls are teaming theirs with floaty mini dresses and chunky boots for a surprisingly practical festival outfit. Most bright young things are snapping up second hand Barbours at bargain prices - a brand new one can set you back around £200. However Barbour are quickly producing new styles to keep up with the fickle tastes of the festival crowd - wearing last years model is almost as bad as wearing some neon Wayfarer sunglasses (quelle horreur!). Alexa, Pixie Geldof et al were all wearing their Barbour "Bedale" see below and above at last weekend's Isle of Wight festival, so this trend ain't going nowhere (for this summer at least.) The other Barbour style storming up the popularity charts is the "Antique Coastal Durham".
Alexa Chung at the Isle of Wight festival in her Bedale
To get the genuine, country-fied Barbour look, have a look at Oxfam's vintage selection here or get a brand new one from BarbourByMail.
Also making a comeback is the straw boater hat, which has quickly usurped all other styles to be the headwear of choice. Boaters were usually only seen on the heads of very, very posh public schoolboys - they have been regulation accessories at Harrow and Eton for hundreds of years. Apart from a once yearly outing at the (also very posh) Henley regatta, boaters had been consigned to the fashion skip.
Public schoolboys at Henley
A minor celebrity called Lady Gaga wore one last year and kick started the boater revolution - now these cute, easy to wear hats are all over the high street and on the heads of many a style maven.
Gaga in 2009, looking fairly normal, wearing a boater
They are infinitely more chic than the trilby and cowboy styles that seem to reappear every summer, perhaps because they are remain true to a traditional design, just like the Barbour jackets. Gabrielle Chanel originally made boaters fashionable back in the early 1900s - and anything that was good enough for Coco is good enough for me. I bought my own boater from the Angel's Vintage sale way back in March, much to the ridicule of my peers, but look who is laughing now...
If you want to buy your very own boater, check out the Urban Outfitters version here or this classic style from Albertus Swanepoel at Net-a-porter.
Perhaps this move towards traditional British heritage garments is some sort of ironic protest against the Conservative government - a subversive sartorial mockery of the class divide. Wearing a Barbour or a boater is no longer the sole territory of Home Counties residents - everyone is at it! Young, old, 'have' or 'have not', it doesn't matter anymore. Wear your countryside garments with pride and the knowledge that you know you are being ironic, even if no-one else does.
The other day myself and the new fashion junior at large George Langford nipped along to see Fee Doran, aka Mrs Jones, the pop stylist and designer at the Clerkenwell studio she has just opened as a shop. I've known Fee's work for years. She is totally inventive, clever, fun, and super-talented. She first came to my attention a decade ago with the label Doran Deacon which she co-owned with Giles Deacon. Yes, the same GILES who has just got the job as creative director at Ungaro.
Fee properly came to fame as an individual fashion force at Christmas 2001 when the white jumpsuit she designed for Kylie Minogue's worldwide Number 1 hit Can't Get You Out of My Head became the unlikely star of the video. These days Florence Welch is wearing her gear onstage.
Flo's dress as seen in Mrs Jones Lookbook AW10
What I was not prepared for as I climbed - and climbed - my way to the top of a building more or less opposite my favourite London restaurant St. John, was the cacophony of costume madness that met me on the top floors. This apartment contains a design studio, and roomfuls of clothes that Mrs Jones refers to as "a decade of pop history." However, first of all I met this black fluffy dog with a dyed red streak down its back.
Turns out that little black Betty the poodle puppy was so black she blended with the variety of inky black rugs in the studio, and to save a visitor from becoming a dog killer, Mrs Jones gave her the red streak. V logical.
"All the clothes here represent my history and a pop history of the last decade," Mrs Jones told me at the event. "The way I innovate comes either from me having no money, or the artists I'm working with having no money." One of her favourite designs is the flared trousers made for Justin Hawkins of The Darkness from the pants thrown up on stage by fans. She refers to the raggle-baggle brilliance of what occupies her studio/shop as "Pop Stars Droppings." These include leftovers from Goldfrapp, The Killers, Rihanna and Madonna.
These trousers could be yours for £2,500.
Mrs Jones aka Fee Doran with a dress she created from a vintage find for Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters
"Take this dress, (above) I saw it in Portobello Road. It was a rejected piece. It was down to a few quid and I thought it would look great on Ana Matronic [Scissor Sisters]. My thinking is why not give something like this a second life? So I turned the dress upside down, added the string vest element, and voila! It was worn on stage by Ana."
Is she still working with Scissor Sisters? "Well...this is the thing," she says. "I met the Scissor Sisters when they had no money and worked with them through their Comfortably Numb period [mid-noughties]. Then they met Elton John and got confused," she deadpans. Me and the new fashion junior George Langford (a girl) ripple with laughter. Then a man comes over preening in a full-on leather jacket, (below) and we all burst out laughing. "God!!!" says Mrs Jones. "I did that for Bros back in the eighties!!" He bought it, too.
Luckily for us, Mrs Jones work is still coming out as unaffectedly individualistic as ever. "I'm not into fashion, I'm into music. I don't read magazines." Indeed, her new shop is amazing, just like a pop version of the classic kids show Mr Ben - you really can be who you want to be in here. Her new collection is fun (lookbook coming) and she is collaborating with young creatives including Parrillo London and special projects from Tatty Devine as well as Daddy's Favourite.
As we are leaving I meet the latest musical artist to get the Mrs Jones treatment. Meet Kirsty Almeida, who released her single Spider yesterday, and releases her album Pure Blue Green on Decca in September. Mrs Jones created all the looks for the video shown on her home page link, and it is magical. Here is Kirsty posing with one of the dresses from her video. Paloma Faith and Florence watch out!
The totally talented Kirsty Almeida with one of the sheet-music dresses Mrs Jones created for her new single Spider.