Featured designers

Featured designers

Fashion Rules spans four decades of recent fashion and features notable designers who had the privilege and the challenge of dressing these royal women in their fashion heydays.

(Pictured: Princess Margaret in Paris, 1993. Photo: Getty Images/Bertrand Rindoff Petroff)

Norman Hartnell

Sir Norman Hartnell (1901–1979) set up his own label in 1932, employing 550 people in the 1950s in-house and thousands more in ancillary trades. He was known for his opulent yet elegant designs, lavishly adorned embroidery, and use of intricate details. His career spanned six decades.

Hartnell designed many important gowns for the royal family including the wedding dresses of The Queen and Princess Margaret and the coronation dress and robes. His design for Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress in 1947 featured a fashionable sweetheart neckline and softly folding full skirt, embroidered with 10,000 seed-pearls and thousands of white beads. His summer 1953 collection of some 150 designs was named The Silver and Gold Collection.

Together with Hardy Amies, Hartnell shared the large task of creating wardrobes for The Queen’s many state visits, royal tours abroad and numerous events at home.

Hardy Amies

Sir Edwin Hardy Amies (1909–2003) established his own couture fashion house business in Savile Row in 1946. He became known for his classic and beautifully tailored clothes for both men and women.

During the Second World War, together with other leading designers including Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies designed for the CC41 scheme (Civilian Clothing 1941), a government-led initiative to produce elegant, fashionable designs which complied to rationing restrictions. Amies' association with the Queen began in 1950 and he was awarded a Royal Warrant as official dressmaker in 1955.

In 1977 he designed the gown for Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee portrait, which he said was "immortalised on a thousand biscuit tins." 

Zandra Rhodes dress, 1986. Photo: Historic Royal Palaces / Robin ForsterZandra Rhodes

Zandra Rhodes CBE (1940- ) graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1964 where her major area of study was printed textile design. Her early textile designs were considered too outrageous by the traditional British manufacturers so she manufactured dresses from her own fabrics. She was influenced by Emilio Pucci, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. She opened her first shop in 1967 with Sylvia Ayton.

Rhodes’ designs are considered clear, creative statements, dramatic but graceful, bold but feminine. Her inspiration comes from organic material and nature. She was Designer of the Year in 1972 and in 1974 Royal Designer for Industry. In 1977 she launched the pink and black jersey collection with holes and beaded safety pins that earned her the nickname “Princess of Punk”. She set up the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London which officially opened in May 2003. 

Bruce Oldfield

Bruce Oldfield OBE (1950- ) launched his couture line in 1978. He opened his first London boutique in 1984 to sell both his ready-to-wear and couture designs. In 1986 and 1988 he organised the Bruce Oldfield for Barnardo's gala evenings, at London's Grosvenor House ballroom, which were attended by Diana, Princess of Wales. 

His 10-year fashion relationship with Diana, Princess of Wales started in 1980 when he started creating couture gowns for her. He once described designing for the princess as "dressing a young woman who, to an extent, was relying on us to steer her straight, knowing we wouldn't let her down." Oldfield uses sumptuous fabrics like crushed velvets, taffeta, mink, printed sequins, crêpe, chiffon and lame to design traditional sculpted shapes that are exquisitely manufactured.

Particularly distinctive is Oldfield's use of color blocking; simple jersey dresses are slashed asymmetrically and blocked in various vivid colour combinations. His tailoring is always curvaceous and womanly, with seams and darts placed to flatter the feminine physique.

Catherine Walker dress worn by Diana, Princess of Wales. Photo: Tim Graham / Getty ImagesCatherine Walker

Catherine Walker (1945–2010) was a French-born, self-taught fashion designer based in London. She was noted for having supplied over 1,000 outfits for Diana, Princess of Wales. As her reputation grew by word of mouth, she attracted press attention, and British Vogue first photographed one of her dresses in January 1982.

Walker was renowned for her dislike of publicity and never held a catwalk show. It is her tailoring, use of plain colours such as black, navy, cream, and red, and applied decoration such as hand-embroidery, heavy beading, and frogging (military style embroidery) that have become the hallmarks of Walker's designs. There is always an emphasis on the midriff, which Walker attributes to her French background.

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