Is Britain being out-competed by international brands?

British fashion is the hot topic of the moment and is constantly in vogue. Christopher Kane’s new, vibrant collection was described as “Princess Margaret on acid” and Alexander McQueen transported the audience to a blossom-filled wonderland. But is the high street able to keep up with our fanciful designers?

For the first time, I feel that the high street pales in comparison to the catwalk. There seems to be a distinct lack of channelling visionary ideas, and instead retailers opt for a more mainstream image. On the other hand, international high street brands become more attractive every day, with their choices of quality fabrics and their innovative designs.

Australia is a country close to my heart and in spending time there I have familiarised myself with their own fashion powerhouses. To my delight some of these labels are creeping over here. Going back a few years ago, Sass and Bide marched on Britain’s high-end retailers in a concoction of tailored jeans, embellished tops and cut-out dresses, but times are starting to change – as Sass and Bide’s popularity has increased, so have their prices. However, not to worry, Aussie brands at more reasonable prices are surfacing thanks to sites such as ASOS, which stock One Teaspoon, Stylestalker, Staple, and Minkpink. Pieces are effortlessly chic with unique twists, like One Teaspoon’s leather dresses, and Stylestalker’s open-back, oversized jumpers.

On the other side of the Pacific, the USA has always been a major fashion player, and some of its smaller brands are becoming more accessible to us through the internet (see Shopbop and NastyGal). I must admit that I am smitten with so many American designers (still reeling over the arrival of a pair of Jeffrey Campbell Litas – the most comfortable heels in the world.) Will exposure mean more Brits are likely to go the same way? Topshop may think so, since they are about to launch their first collaboration with an American designer, Pamela Love, which will be available in May.

Exciting collections and designers seem to be cropping up across the globe and many of them are in the student budget. The Swedish brand Cheap Monday (at ASOS and Urban Outfitters) has perfect pieces for layering and giving your look a bit of an edge. On the higher end of the scale, Theysken’s Theory (an American-Dutch collaboration) has classic wardrobe staples with a twist.

All this talk of international designers is not to say I am anti-British. In fact, I am a total Alexander McQueen addict, the countryside was created for Hunter wellies, and the Topshop website is often perused during study breaks. However, I think the high street is being less daring; weird and wonderful designs are being replaced by something tamer. In juxtaposition, designers have never been more in demand, or in the public eye (thanks go out to Kate Middleton). In recent years, Christopher Bailey has revamped Burberry, with Burberry Brit being the one-stop-shop for figure-hugging jeans and Burberry Prorsum providing luxe accessories and leathers (love the studs).

All in all, if you are looking for something a little different, a little quirky, why not look at some of the new international brands being made available to us? But if searching for something more classic, or an investment piece, think local – think British!


Tara Atkins

Images – Tara Atkins