Culture, Featured

From Simplification to Revolution – The Evolution of British Fashion

Nmesoma Okwudili


April 1, 2023

Fashion has remained an important part of human culture throughout history, and various determinants such as social, economic, and political changes have influenced its evolution.

British fashion has a long history that dates back to the mediaeval period, when the nobility and the church dominated fashion. However, it was during the Victorian era that British fashion gained international acclaim, with designers such as Charles Frederick Worth and Thomas Burberry breaking through.

The postwar period saw the beginning of British fashion’s influence on global trends. The introduction of new fabrics such as nylon and synthetic fibres, combined with mass clothing production, allowed British fashion to reach new heights.

The emergence of the “Mod” subculture in the 1960s marked a significant shift in British fashion. Bold prints, bright colours, and slim-fitting suits defined the Mod fashion movement. This zeal had a particular impact on global fashion trends, and its influence can still be seen today in the form of mini-skirts and geometric prints.

This era also saw the rise of iconic British designers like Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood. In addition, during the 1960s, the “Swinging London” movement ushered in a new era of fashion that emphasised youth culture, colourful clothing, and bold patterns, all of which became famous around the world.

Punk fashion was at its peak in the 1970s, with designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren making a name for themselves with their innovative designs. DIY aesthetics, safety pins, and leather jackets defined the punk movement. This movement dramatically altered global fashion trends, and its influence can still be seen in punk-inspired designs today.

The “New Romantic” movement dominated British fashion in the 1980s. Gaudy colours, ruffled shirts, and androgynous clothing helped to distinguish this. During this time, designers such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen rose to prominence. The 1980s saw the beginning of British fashion’s influence on high fashion, with London Fashion Week becoming one of the world’s most important fashion events.

The “Edwardian” style, which featured elegant, tailored garments made from luxurious fabrics such as silk and velvet, defined British fashion in the early 1900s.

The “Cool Britannia” movement emerged in the 1990s, characterised by a mix of high fashion and streetwear. During this time, designers such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, and Burberry made a name for themselves with innovative designs that fused traditional British aesthetics with contemporary streetwear. The 1990s saw a significant shift in British fashion, with the country’s influence on global fashion trends growing.

Modern British fashion has emerged as a significant player in the global fashion industry, combining heritage and contemporary style in a unique way. In order to create sustainable and responsible fashion manufacturing practises, British fashion brands have embraced and fused innovation and technology.
The fashion industry is a powerful visual marker of our times, and British fashion is no exception, with trends reflecting current issues like climate change, diversity, and inclusivity.

Vivienne Westwood, who began her design career in the early 1960s and has since become a symbol of British fashion innovation and originality, is one of the most famous British fashion designers.

With the rise of new talent and fresh approaches to design in recent years, the British fashion industry has seen a resurgence. Stella McCartney, known for her ethical and sustainable approach to fashion, and Burberry, known for its iconic trench coats and innovative use of technology in their collections, are two of the most exciting modern British fashion brands.

Another unrivalled brand that combines traditional British tailoring with avant-garde designs is Alexander McQueen. Furthermore, the rise of streetwear and urban fashion has resulted in the emergence of global brands such as Palace Skateboards and A-COLD-WALL.

London Fashion Week has now established itself as one of the most important events on the global fashion calendar. The city is well-known for producing some of the world’s most influential designers. One of the most recent British fashion trends is “heritage fashion,” which combines traditional fabrics and patterns with edgy, punk-inspired elements. Furthermore, the Autumn/Winter 2022 fashion trends from London Fashion Week include optimistic, playful designs inspired by the 1960s women’s liberation movement. Overall, British fashion has a long history of innovation and creativity, and it continues to have a significant influence on global fashion trends.

British fashion has also made significant contributions to the global economy. The fashion industry in the United Kingdom employs nearly 900,000 people and contributes £28 billion to the country’s GDP, making it an important sector for economic growth and job creation.
Aside from its historical and economic significance, British fashion is a pioneer in promoting sustainable and ethical practises in the industry.

British designers are pioneering new materials, such as vegan leather and recycled fabrics, in order to create more sustainable manufacturing processes and influence global trends towards a more acceptable fashion approach.

British fashion has historically and currently has an impact on the global fashion industry. In the past, I helped to shape global fashion trends by developing new looks and popularising them through various outlets such as fashion shows, magazines, and the media. Today, British fashion is also at the forefront of the industry’s sustainable and ethical practises, influencing global trends towards a more conscious and responsible approach to fashion.

Overall, British fashion has a rich history that dates back to the mediaeval period, and various factors have influenced its evolution. The post-World War II period marked the beginning of British fashion’s influence on global trends, with the emergence of subcultures such as Mod, Punk, and New Romantic significantly influencing global fashion trends.

The emergence of the “Cool Britannia” movement, which combined high fashion and streetwear, marked a significant shift in British fashion in the 1990s. With its distinct blend of heritage, innovation, and originality, modern British style has had a significant impact on the global fashion industry.

British designers and brands continue to push the boundaries of what it means to be fashionable, making this an exciting time for fashion enthusiasts and consumers alike. The industry’s influence on global fashion trends continues to this day, with designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, and Alexander McQueen pushing the envelope.


  • “Evolution of Fashion down the history- A timeline of fashion Romans and Egyptians took great interest in their appearance and spent a lot of effort and currency on fashion and style. Wearing a particular type of clothing communicated status, wealth and occupation.” URL:
  • “1940s. With a dull fashion evolution to start the 1940s with WWII, the fashion industry thrived beyond this. The typical customer changed from only the richer members of society to the common person at the centre. Mass manufacturing began with ready-to-wear clothes at lower prices. The centre of fashion moved from Paris to London and New York.” URL:
  • “Fashion has increased throughout the years, and it is still increasing. The clothes people used to wear in the 1930s are different from what people wore in the 2000s. Most people today think that wearing older style clothes is cute, but other people think it’s ugly and not in style.” URL:
  • “Mulberry proves that responsible British fashion manufacturing is possible, says Billington. “At Mulberry, we compete with Louis Vuitton and Chanel and Gucci, and we hold our own. But it would be…” URL:
  • “Fashion is a potent visual marker of our times,” says Caroline Stevenson, head of cultural and historical studies at the London College of Fashion. “Trend analysis of any given era will reveal…” URL:
  • “You can’t write a piece about British clothing brands without mentioning Vivienne Westwood. When she started her design career in the early ’60s, Westwood’s focus was largely on costume jewellery. After opening a store with her partner (and Sex Pistols manager) Malcolm McLaren, Westwood decided to try her hand at clothes.” URL:

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