I was sitting in Terminal 5 at Heathrow awaiting a British Airways Triple 7 when the news of L’wren Scott’s tragic death hit social media. I had been quietly contemplating a week’s worth of fantastic people watching at various hotspots around the capital of both England and the United Kingdom. After indulging in a Downton Abbey marathon in my New York apartment, I had planned my UK holiday around what I had imagined would be an exploration of “old” London – lunch at the Ritz, tea at Claridge’s and dinner at The Savoy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that although the venues were definitely retro, the patrons – and, more importantly, their wardrobes – were decidedly modern.
Today’s Londoners are global fashion consumers. You see just as many Londoners are sporting Ralph Lauren as you do Liberty print scarves. To be fair, both are readily available at the Regent Street bastion in London’s West End. Those of you who follow my column closely know that on my last visit I found inspiration in the classic British wardrobe. This time, my people watching focused on the modern British wardrobe. The focus at many of Britain’s most storied fashion houses is the new generation of design talent.
Perhaps the most famous supporter of the New Guard is HRH Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. She, like HRH Diana, the Princess of Wales, before her is considered the patron saint of the Sloane Rangers or Sloanies. Sloanies are the aristocratic British equivalent of the French BCBG (Bon Chic Bon Genre) and the less high born Preppies of the American Northeast. These are the tastemakers and trendsetters of London’s fashion scene. They migrate like a chic flock of fashion birds from drinks at Aqua Shard with its stunning 360 degree views to more intimate settings like the art deco dining room of The Savoy, no doubt in chauffeur-driven Bentleys like their Bright Young Thing counterparts of almost a century ago.
Today’s Sloanies effortlessly mix High Street brands like Top Shop & Zara with international designers like Alexander McQueen and Burberry. But the core of their daytime outfits – most often dresses, and occasionally an exceptionally well-tailored pair of pants – are brands that global fashion citizens will recognize: Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham, Jenny Packham and Christopher Kane. In the accompanying photos, I have selected a few great day dresses from these designers’ current Spring 2014 collections for you to peruse.
I cannot close this month’s column without at least mentioning my favorite souvenir of this recent trip. A prize bottle of Tom Ford’s London Private Blend perfume carefully wrapped in a pair of red socks bearing the motto “Keep Calm and Carry On” and tucked in a pair of patent leather Chelsea boots, fully declared at US Customs – of course! This unisex fragrance opens deeply woodsy and transitions to a glorious floral bouquet, not unlike a spring walk through Hyde Park. This coveted addition to the Private Blend line was launched in 2013 to commemorate the opening of the UK flagship on – where else? – Sloane Street. What better olfactory reminder of London, and indeed England, could I bring home?
One of my fondest memories of my early years in New York as a fashion publicist was my first call to VOGUE House to confirm then VOGUE UK Editrix in Chief, Lucinda Chambers’attendance at a fashion show. I still recall the loud buzz of the ringer which was interrupted by a crisply starched “Good Morning, VOGUE” followed by a completely charming and languid chat with her assistant – the very opposite of my interaction with Ms. Wintour’s assistant at American VOGUE. Having confirmed her boss’ attendance – and her front row seat – she chirped brightly “Brilliant!” I thought our little conversation was meant to continue but that exclamation was followed by the dull drone of dead line. I would learn over the seasons that no one ever said something so mundane or American as “goodbye” at VOGUE House. They ended all conversations with the same supremely chic closing.
So, dear reader, until next month…
– Joseph Ungoco
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