The Appeal of Englishness
French couture and English relaxed style have long been bedfellows. The death of fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld last month confirms the ongoing discreet infatuation
Despite all the various shrieking over something political that’s going on (??), two news items over the past month reinforced, in different ways, the continuing allure of English elegance and lifestyle. The death of Karl Lagerfeld and the opening of the V&A’s Christian Dior exhibition bought together two iconic couturiers who both discreetly (or openly) revered the English lifestyle.
From childhood, Christian Dior had an affinity for Britain, his mother kept an English rose garden and he first visited these shores aged 21. Once an established couturier, he frequently visited London; his social circle in this country was wide and varied – and of course, famously, he created dresses for Princess Margaret. Dior adored the country, relaxed style of the old English aristocracy – the fact he opened a Conduit Street atelier and boutique as quickly as possible seems to sum up the feelings of this colossus of French fashion towards us.
Fast forward to today and the death of Karl Lagerfeld – the longest standing pillar of the titans of post war French couture – seemed to re-enforce the unspoken ties between the two countries. For decades Lagerfeld was the face of Chanel – who famously had a long affair with the 2nd Duke of Westminster and was another designer who loved the laid back tweedy English style. Many papers pointed to his own unique style – one that was honed by patronising one of the most English of shirt makers Hilditch & Key – mostly at their Paris address on the Rue de Rivoli. Another discreet customer was contemporary and rival Yves Saint Laurent – Dior’s successor who famously “saved France” with his 1958 collection for the house.
So, despite the froth and frantic screaming, underlying ties (pun semi intended) do continue to bind us. Vive l’entente stylistique…….