Royal Mail Stamps: Great British Fashion

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04 May 2012
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imports_CCGB_apaulsmithdesignfrom_04354.jpg A Paul Smith design from the Great British Fashion stamp set
More than seven decades of groundbreaking British fashion is celebrated through ten stamps showcasing the work of some of the country’s top fashion designers ...

More than seven decades of groundbreaking British fashion is celebrated through ten stamps showcasing the work of some of the country’s top fashion designers

Ten fashion designers who have helped make British fashion world famous are showcased on Royal Mail’s recent issue. Comprising ten first class stamps, the set covers British fashion from the post-war ladylike styles of Norman Hartnell, dress designer to the Queen, through to the groundbreaking tailoring of the late Alexander McQueen.

The Great British Fashion stamps were inspired by the success of the Mary Quant stamp which was part of Royal Mail’s 2009 British Design Classics stamps, featuring Quant’s daring 1960s mini skirt, which became one of the most popular of the Design Classics issue.

Each of the ten new stamps features a selected example of one designer’s work, including a suit created for Ringo Starr by Savile Row tailor Tommy Nutter and a Vivienne Westwood dress modelled by Naomi Campbell in 1993. Because the stamps are printed across two sheets of five se-tenant designs, vertical strips of each design are available.

In order to create a sense of movement on the stamp designs, Royal Mail took the decision to use live models rather than static mannequins, who were chosen for their embodiment of the ideal silhouette of the fashion era depicted, allowing them to fit into the surviving garments used on the stamps. Whilst some of the clothes used were borrowed from the designers featured, others were sourced from specialist vintage fashion stores. The models then took part in a two-day fashion photo shoot in London with renowned fashion phtographer Sølve Sundsbø.

Great British Fashion stampsThe first two stamps in the set celebrate the long-standing connection between the royal family and British fashion designers. Sir Edwin Hardy Amies KCVO (1909-2003) was born in Maida Vale, London and was the man who created clothing for the 1966 England World Cup squad, and for the British 1972 Olympics squad. Amies had his own fashion business in Savile Row and in 1955, received a royal warrant as dressmaker to the Queen.

Amies’ fellow designer Norman Hartnell, featured on the second stamp, was another Londoner who began working in fashion in the years before World War Two. He too received a Royal Warrant to dress both the Queen and the Queen Mother, and the Queen was often photographed wearing his designs. One of the outfits created around the time of the royal coronation in 1953 is shown on the 1st class stamp.

The third stamp in the set pays tribute to the role which 1960s London played in the development of British fashion. The jacket shown on the stamp is a John Pearse design created from Morris & Co furniture fabric. Pearse was co-owner of Granny Takes a Trip, a Chelsea boutique which was called the ‘first psychedelic boutique in Groovy London of the 1960s’.

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The next two stamps continue the Sixties theme, with an Ossie Clark outfit in a Celia Birtwell print. Clark is credited with having influenced a raft of top designers including Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford. His contemporary Tommy Nutter, whose Ringo Starr suit is shown on the fifth stamp, reinvented the Savile Row suit in the 1960s, at a time when it was falling out of favour, and opened Nutters of Saville Row, attracting famous customers such as Mick Jagger and Elton John.

Jean Muir, whose 1980s design is featured on the sixth stamp, began her working life in a solicitor’s office before she was given the opportunity to work in Liberty’s burgeoning ready-to-wear department in the 1960s. Despite a lack of formal training, she created her own fashion label, Jean and Jane, and dressed some of the top actresses of the day, including Joanna Lumley, Charlotte Rampling and Maggie Smith.

Flamboyant fashion queen Zandra Rhodes was one of the new wave of British designers whose dramatic clothing brought a new appeal to 1980s fashion. The stamp features her early 1980s ‘gold’ dress, which comes from her personal collection. Another trailblazer was Dame Vivienne Westwood, the designer credited with bringing punk fashion into the mainstream. The stamp shows her Harlequin dress, modelled by Naomi Campbell in the 1990s.

The final two stamps are devoted to Nottinghamshire designer Paul Smith, who opened his first shop in 1970 and has gone on to open showrooms in London, Paris, Milan, New York and Tokyo; and the late Alexander McQueen, originally a chief designer at Givenchy, who founded his own label and became four-times British Designer of the Year.

In the presentation pack, dress historian Professor Amy de la Haye, of the London College of Fashion, takes a look a British fashion design since World War Two, and the carrier tells the story of the stamp photo shoot. Also available are a first day cover, designed by Johnson Banks, and two different pictorial first day of issue postmarks, featuring a button (Tallents Hosue, Edinburgh) and needle and thread (London W1, the location of Carnaby Street and Savile Row).

Stamp details
Great British Fashion
Issue date: 15 May, 2012
Design: Johnson Banks
Printer: Cartor Security Printing
Perforations: 35mm x 37mm

1st – Hardy Amies
1st – Norman Hartnell
1st – Granny Takes a Trip
1st – Ossie Clark with Celia Birtwell
1st – Tommy Nutter
1st – Jean Muir
1st – Zandra Rhodes
1st – Vivienne Westwood
1st – Paul Smith
1st – Alexander McQueen

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See the 2012 Schedule for GB Stamps here