Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Luella's Guide to English Style by Luella Bartley

Being English is not about being obvious or sexy - it is about being interesting and illogically brilliant.
Luella Bartley, 2010
After a good few years of collecting style books I have finally grown weary of them, I mean there is only so much you can gain from reading about how to be chic isn't there?  Last year I kept hearing that hip designer, Luella Bartley was writing a book on English style which intrigued me as I am an admirer of her work but then it went all quiet. Last week while having my weekly browse through amazon I came across Luella's book which is called Luella's Guide to English Style so I snapped it up. Luella actually started off working in fashion journalism before she launched her collection so I was actually expecting the book to be along the lines of The Meaning of Sunglasses which is written by popular fashion journalist, Hadley Freeman which is an A to Z of fashion. In contrary, Luella's book is comprehensive and historic look at English style.
The book is divided into 10 sections which include a lengthy introduction on what English style is. According to Luella the English rose is a "multi- faceted dresser with an unrivalled eye for irony and English grannys for their quirky and batty style. She refers to them as fillies and gives a shout out to Agatha Christie, the fictional Miss Marple, Vivienne Westwood, The Queen and Maggie Thatcher. Luella takes us through her years at Central St Martins and onto her beginnings in the fashion industry where she was assistant at ES magazine to Lowri Turner. She also talks about landing a column at Vogue and eventually following her dream of launching her own fashion label. Then we are moved onto the seven stages of women which explores how the English lady gains her sense of style from her early years and then we move onto the great British Bosom. The next section delves into Birds of Britain where Luella talks about her favourite British birds (stylish brit women) who she defines as possessing all the traditional Brit qualities but are also inspirational. The birds include Princess Anne, punk icon, Poly Styrene, Marianne Faithful, Melanie Ward, Kate Bush, Justine Frischmann (lead singer of Elastica), the Duchess of Devonshire, Vivienne Westwood, Paula Yates, Vita Sackville-West, PJ Harvey, Mary Quant and Lily Allen. The next chapter, Love, Sex and Tomboys looks at the way the English figures deal with intimate things such as underwear, puberty and sex. This takes us to Tribes of Britannia and their different looks and cultures; punk, grime, Teddy Boys, New Romantics, post-punk as well as Hoxtonians where she gives us a fascinating look into the birth of Hoxtonian coolness. We are treated to a directory of English garb which is the lowdown on pieces of the English wardrobe from tea dresses to parkas to duffel coats and much more. Pretty in Pink talks about how iconic the colour pink has been in English fashion from punk, Thomas Pink, preppy pink and princess pink. Luella also looks at the sub cultures in England such as the creatives from art colleges, graduates of street style and the users of taste and irony. Last but not least is a list of iconic shops all over England.
Reading this book makes you realise exactly how well embedded and connected Luella is to various arms of brit creatives. Katie Grand and Giles Deacon were her class mates at Central St Martins and Justine Frischmanm used to be her landlady. These people are some of the most important figures in pop culture in the UK. Well connected or not there is no doubting Luella's knowledge on English style. Her philosophy is interesting; that any decent English fashionista cannot find their real self in a chic department store like Harvey Nicks unless they have served their apprenticeship in markets, high street, charity shops and jumble shops. She raises some really great points such as that young women pick the wrong icons to follow as oppose to following independent and original ones. At last someone who is not afraid to speak up against the invasion of the plastic princesses. There have been complaints that this book is too London centric but I think that is a bit unfair as Luella is London based. Luella's Guide to English Style is a fantastic gem of  a book that covers nuts and bolts in English style as well as the innovators and shapers that lead the way. The look of the book is very clever and is designed in an olde English style with a slightly distressed golden brown cover, there are gorgeous illustration of various English fashion icons but the image I like the best is of a country pile with a St Georges flag raised. The back of the book has words of David Bowie "They'll never clone ya." Which I think says it all.

Luella"s Guide to English Style is available to buy on amazon.

3 cool comments:

That's Not My Age said...

I was looking at Luella's book today - think I might have to click over to Amazon!

kemkem said...

hi - i read your blog and really enjoy it. I saw this book at the bookshop and it looked lovely so i gave it a flick through. It looked great but the only thing is, please correct me if i am wrong, but there is nothing about black british style, no pictures of any people of colour - maybe i am asking too much hoping for a bit of representation in a compendium on "english style" but i was disappointed, and wont buy it as a result

Ondo Lady said...

@That's Not My Age - It is a really great read, there is so much information in there.

@kemkem - I will admit that apart from a small section on street style and a mention on the Ska scene people from African Caribbean backgrounds are not mentioned. However I bought this book knowing that it would be about English style from an Anglo Saxon perspective so that was what I was prepared for. If you are looking for a book that covers Black British style then this book will not be for you.