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Sleek, contemporary silhouettes counterbalanced the intricate craft patterning in Scottish-born designer Holly Fulton’s spring 2015 collection. Something old with something new has never looked so good. Dress, £1,295, coat, £1,985 through www.hollyfulton.com. Earrings, £257 and bag, £850 through www.mawi.co.uk. Shoes, £575 through www.sophiawebster.com. (Photos by Mark Binks for The Globe and Mail)

France has its storied couture houses, Italy its renowned luxury-textile mills. American style is awash in denim and sportswear. Canada’s fashion industry has made great strides in recent years, with the introduction of the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards in 2013 applauding our homegrown heroes. But for all the activity and ideas flowing in and out of the various fashion markets, there’s one place that has remained unmatched in its flair and unbridled creativity. The United Kingdom rules when it comes to producing artistic ingenuity; and like the glorious Blenheim Palace grounds where we shot our fashion feature, the landscape of current British fashion is equally marked by elements of grandeur and wit. U.K.-based designers have honed an unmistakable aesthetic, one that sees a clash of iconic principles that are essentially oppositional – the heavy use of patterns from wild florals to stolid checks; precise tailoring pitted against eccentric, occasionally rebellious detailing – yet have come to symbolize the cheeky, charming vibe of British style.

Britain “is a buttoned-up society, but [Brits are] very receptive to the eccentric, the dandy,” says British fashion champion Nicholas Mellamphy, vice-president and buying director of The Room at Hudson’s Bay. “They celebrate that person.” While the initial idea of Britishness may conjure up a conservative three-piece suit, you could be sure that just as quickly Mary Quant’s miniskirt or Alexander McQueen’s “bumster” trousers would jump to mind as well. Renowned English designers such as Ossie Clark and Dame Vivienne Westwood looked to Great Britain’s storied design history for inspiration – whether it be William Morris’s artful patterning or the irresistible frippery of Elizabethan attire – but turned these elements on their head to create something daring and new. The current crop of U.K.-based fashion stars featured in The Globe are no different, using reworked iconic design concepts to offer new points of view.

On location in Woodstock, England

Two hours outside of London you’ll find the Cotswolds, one of Britain’s most picturesque regions, dotted by quaint villages and sprawling countryside. Woodstock is one of the area’s most famous towns, thanks to its biggest attraction – and our photo shoot location – Blenheim Palace.

Where to stay

Epitomizing the charm of Woodstock to a T, The Feathers offers a cozy place to stay while taking in the sights of Oxford. The 17th-century townhouse hotel boasts a variety of rooms and suites, and a courtyard terrace where you can take in their afternoon tea service. If something stronger suits you, The Feathers is also home to the first gin bar to be named in the Guinness Book of Records for its assortment of more than 280 bottles of the spirit. Room rates begin at £199 and include breakfast.

Where to eat

No trip to England is complete without a pub meal and a pint. The Star Inn serves both, but don’t expect only the usual assortment of chips and pies. Chef James Brooks has put a twist on classic pub fare like Scotch Eggs, serving them as part of a “British Tapas” menu. (See page 12 for more haute bar snacks.) Eclectic local ales including Waggle Dance (made with honey) and Wells Banana Bread Beer are also on offer.

What to do

For a royally good time, the site of our fashion shoot and home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough is a must-visit. Blenheim Palace is a Baroque beauty – and also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Formal gardens, lush park walks and a butterfly house are only a few of the attractions on the palace grounds, and summer events include a flower show, auto-club rally and jousting tournament.

Drawing from rave culture and 1960s psychedelia, House of Holland’s collections are a mash-up of ideas as rich as they come. Subscribing to the mantra “More is more,” designer Henry Holland’s fans include style eccentrics such as Katy Perry and Rita Ora. Shirt, £300, skirt, £495 through www.houseofholland.co.uk. Bag, £948 through www.mawi.co.uk. Earrings, £95 through www.fionapaxton.com.

The consistent ability of designers from the U.K. to reinterpret the core elements of “British” style is the reason why I – a self-confessed Anglophile – felt compelled to showcase the exciting offerings of contemporary British design in a lush editorial; the irreverence and attention to detail of the pieces played brilliantly off the Palace’s intricate interior and charming grounds. There was also a desire to pit the fresh ideas of U.K. design talent against the storied Palace as a way to highlight how important a mix of elements (grand and street, punk and prim) is to British style.

Just as the notion of Westwood being damed by the same queen she had a hand in helping the Sex Pistols rally against in the late 1970s seems like an incongruous idea, so too are the underpinnings of a design by Roksanda Ilincic, one of our featured designers. The Serbian-born, London-based industry darling has captivated the fashion crowd with her elegant-yet-quirky clothes thanks to a careful incorporation of novelty (bright pops of colour, cartoonish detailing) into otherwise exceptionally tailored pieces. Style influencers like Cate Blanchett and Yasmin Sewell have worn her pieces – coveted endorsements for any designer. Ilincic and her contemporaries, including Christopher Kane and Montreal-born, London-based Erdem Moralioglu, says Mellamphy, “take the best of the history of British fashion and rework it.” The Room was highly instrumental in introducing these designers, whom Mellamphy calls “the new establishment,” to the Canadian consumer. Net-A-Porter’s founder Natalie Massenet has similarly been a consistent champion of U.K. style. She made fledgling faux-fur brand Shrimps an overnight success by picking up its candy-coloured coats and clutches after one season. She also serves as the chairperson for the British Fashion Council. Mellamphy uses that group to highlight the enthusiasm U.K.-based designers are being met with in the international marketplace. “The British Fashion Council holds a dinner for international buyers. At the first dinner there was six of us, now there’s around 40.”

Not all knitwear is created equal, as the provocative brand Sibling proves. With a penchant for eclectic styling and over-the-top craft (this crochet raffia skirt is as weighty as it is lovely), their shows are a popular draw during London Fashion Week. Bustier dress, £5,200, skirt, £7,600 through www.hlorenzo.com. Bernstock Speirs for Sibling bow hat, £290 through www.net-a-porter.com. Necklace, £450 through www.mawi.co.uk.

The aesthetic identity (a.k.a brand U.K.) that these designers are cultivating is key to a growing consumer interest in their work. Though diversity does reign throughout London’s fashion week calendar, one would be hard-pressed to not find an inkling of Britain’s history woven through all the collections – a history that many can immediately connect with and find value in. Holly Fulton’s spring line, as seen at the top of this story, showcased a wealth of folk art patterns that harkened back to the days of the Arts and Crafts movement; the decorative detailing gave vibrancy to the collection’s more demure silhouettes. Brazilian-born Lucas Nascimento, whose punchy update to the shift dress is featured in our shoot, is primarily known for his knits, and this season he diversified with more finely tailored pieces. The influence of London’s famous Savile Row suiting was unmistakably present. And the show-closing, idiosyncratic combination of Sibling’s outsized crochet skirt, intricately beaded bodice and bold bow hat lends our story the ideal amount of eccentricity and regal stature.

There’s perhaps no more obvious example of how heavily the fashion industry relies on the ideas of U.K. designers to lead the way than the fact that Central Saint Martins, a London design college, has an MA presentation on the city’s official fashion week calendar. The mood of the crowd at the runway show in February was electric; some of the best British designers (and Kanye West) have emerged from the iconic school – and it’s where many insiders look to for a sense of who will produce fashion’s great new ideas in the years to come. And if the recent buzz generated by CSM graduate Christopher Kane’s subversively embroidered dress – worn by burgeoning style icon FKA Twigs – at the MET Ball this month is any indication, there seems no conceivable end to Britannia’s reign over the fashion world.


More photos

The designs of Molly Goddard can best be described as Victorian with a modern twist. Her ruffled baby-doll dress with gauzy sleeves is both prim and provocative, especially when paired with lug-tread shoes. Dress, £825 through www.mollygoddard.com. Shoes, $160 at Dr. Martens retailers and www.drmartens.com. Necklace, £230, collar, £200 through www.fionapaxton.com.
Toying with tailoring has become a trademark of Roksanda Ilincic, the London-based designer whose star continues to rise (she opened her eponymous boutique in the city’s tony Mayfair neighbourhood last year). Her exaggerated coat, complete with outsized lapels and cuffs, takes outerwear to the extreme. Coat, £1,460, shirt, £570 through www.roksanda.com. Clutch, £390, earrings, £284 through www.mawi.co.uk. Shoes, £550 through www.sophiawebster.com.
Dublin-based designer Natalie B. Coleman riffed on the charm of the English Rose in an exclusive digital print for her spring 2015 line. Juxtaposed with graphic op-art lines, this floral jumpsuit is anything but trad. Jumpsuit, €490 through www.nataliebcoleman.com. Shoes, £675 through www.rupertsanderson.com. Chain necklace, £249 and collar, £155 through www.fionapaxton.com.
Lucas Nascimento used clever tailoring tweaks to update style staples, including the humble shift dress, this season. In beige leather and accented with a vibrant swath of satin, this frock feels modern yet classic. Dress, price available upon request through www.lucasnascimento.com. Necklace, £310 through www.fionapaxton.com. Shoes, £1,345 through www.rupertsanderson.com.
Jonathan Saunders’s quirky take on tailored trousers and a pinstripe shirt – complete with a bugle-beaded felt appliqué that deftly nods to England’s Arts & Crafts movement – is best paired with attitude. Jonathan Saunders blouse, £620 through www.matchesfashion.com, pants, £650 through www.liberty.co.uk. Earrings, £145 through www.fionapaxton.com.
The poppy range of faux-fur pieces from phenom designer Hannah Weiland’s two-year-old label Shrimps has struck a chord in conscientous shoppers. But not all of Weiland’s fans are staunchly anti-fur. Given the brand’s penchant for loud colour and prints, it isn’t surprising that fashion lovers of every stripe are taken with her work. Jacket, £395, skirt, £250 through www.shrimps.co.uk. Necklace, £295 through www.fionapaxton.com. Shoes, $155 at Dr. Martens retailers across Canada and through www.drmartens.com. T-shirt, stylist’s own.
Although the print on Mother of Pearl’s breezy summer dress is reminiscent of demure florals from iconic English brands like Laura Ashley, a dash of neon orange in the pleating makes the frock look fresh. Coat, price upon request through www.motherofpearl.co.uk. Mother of Pearl dress, £525 through www.fenwick.co.uk. Necklace, £295 through www.fionapaxton.com. Rupert Sanderson shoes, £925 through www.farfetch.com.

Photo shoot credits

Styling by Odessa Paloma Parker. Makeup and hair by Kenny Leung at Carol Hayes Management using Bobbi Brown and UNITE.

Shot on location at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England.

Accommodations and additional support were provided by Visit Britain and The Feathers Hotel. None approved or reviewed this article prior to publication.

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