The Queen’s Quiet Influence on Britain’s Fashion Industry

The outpouring of tributes from designers, from Stella McCartney to Paul Smith, reflected the impact the late Queen Elizabeth II had on the British fashion community throughout her reign. From the way London legend Alexander McQueen consistently referenced royal iconography, to Erdem Moralıoğlu’s reimagining of the Queen’s stories for his own narratives, Her Majesty has, as Sarah Burton put it, “been a constant source of stability.” But beyond the explicit references—the headscarves, loafers, and ladylike handbags—there are other, quieter ways in which the passionate advocate for quality helped to raise the bar for the making of our clothes.

Announcing Richard Quinn as the inaugural recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in 2018, Her Majesty touched on the talent at the heart of the country she represented: “From the tweed of the Hebrides, Nottingham lace, and of course Carnaby Street, our fashion industry has been renowned for outstanding craftsmanship for many years, and continues to produce world-class textiles and cutting-edge practical designs.” This excellence—the very foundation of British fashion—is echoed in the Royal Warrant system, which V&A senior fashion curator Sonnet Stanfill classifies as a “mark of distinction that suggests legacy and tradition.” For a brand to be welcomed into the royal household (warrant holders must have supplied goods or services to the Queen or the former Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, for a minimum of five years), is a true signifier of the best of British—not the loud, showy kind, but quiet, classic fashion built to last.

“As a Royal Warrant holder, we adhere to the highest ethical and environmental standards,” says Jo Smith, grantee of the warrants at tailoring specialist Daks, which was given its first royal nod by Her Majesty 60 years ago, and enjoyed visits from the Queen at its Larkhall factory in Scotland. “Our procedures and standards are therefore rigorous—from procurement of raw materials for our fabrics, through to the treatment of staff in factories and excellence in the finished products and service.”

Her Majesty at Daks HQ in Larkhall, 1979.

Photo: Getty Images

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