destination styleMonday, April 3, 2017

Packing for your London holiday: coming to grips with the British weather


How to go about packing for your London holiday? It’s a question surely being entertained by many more Australians following Qantas’ announcement of Australia’s very first direct flight to the UK.

And it's a huge leap from the dark days of 1947 when Qantas launched its first flight to London, the Kangaroo Route, traveling from Darwin via Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo and Tripoli before arriving in London a mere four days later! From Savile Row, the world centre of bespoke tailoring, to Carnaby Street where Ben Sherman and Paul Smith defined mod style (and where, some years later, Vivienne Westwood tore up the rulebook with her audacious punk style), London has always been a global fashion capital. 


That said, London fashion, is distinctly different from the style of its ‘Big Four’ peers: New York, Paris, and Milan. To begin with, London didn’t have a proper fashion week until 1983, nearly four decades after the other three. This spurred an immense rupture in London street-style, between the elegant, old-world influence of houses like Burberry and the couture anarchy of Stella McCartney. So packing for your London holiday means choosing the right style for you – or deciding to playfully toggle between them. The only rule of London style is to remember to plan for the weather! 


Savile Row and Mayfair 


In the heart of plush Mayfair, Saville Row has for centuries been at the core of British tailoring and today, epitomises old-school British style. Since the early 1800s, the classic tailors on the Row have dictated what to wear in London, and everyone from Winston Churchill to James Bond has been suited and booted by the celebrated tailors there. The street is worth a visit for the sartorially inclined, not least because of its immense contribution to the history of fashion. Henry Poole & Co., for instance, located at No. 15, is the birthplace of the dinner (or tuxedo) jacket; a jacket that was first designed as a casual smoking jacket for King Edward VII. Another fun fact? The name tuxedo comes from Tuxedo Park in Orange County, New York where globetrotting Americans often wore their English dinner jackets. 


The Savile Row tradition continues to inspire London fashion and its influence crops up in the most unlikely places. Take Alexander McQueen for example. Though often thought of as the enfant terrible of British style, McQueen actually cut his teeth as a tailor working with Anderson & Sheppard and Gieves & Hawkes, two of the Row’s best-regarded. McQueen then brought his prowess to his eponymous label, which developed a reputation for classic tailoring of anarchic and urbane designs — a reputation which survives today. Other classic British houses like Burberry have turned to the Row’s bespoke heritage for inspiration. Under creative director Christopher Bailey, Burberry began showing range after range of men’s suits, resurfacing classic bespoke tailoring and showing it to the world. Best known for its outwear, Londoners would recommend Burberry’s trench coats for surviving the British capital’s infamously changeable weather. Pssst! That’s a hot tip if you ever read one.


Carnaby Street 


Just ten minutes away from Savile Row, across the busy thoroughfare of Regent Street lies Carnaby Street. Once the heart of swinging London and the playground of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix, Carnaby Street was the birthplace of the mod movement, a heritage it proudly celebrates with several mod boutiques, sleek street decorations and outrageous window displays. In the 1970s, Paul Smith, began selling his trademark striped shirts and razor-thin cut suits – a classic London street-style that Smith continues to experiment with. 


Womenswear on Carnaby Street was always about colour. As a result of Italy’s emergence as a centre of world fashion in the 1960s, experimental Londoners flocked to try the wares of Italian houses with their radical shapeless cuts and bold colour-blocking. Today, labels like Love Moschino continue this style legacy, their lyrical t-shirts playing on the popularity of colour and humour in London fashion. London’s contemporary rebellious style icons are regularly seen in the label, with Bella Hadid in 2016 wearing an oversize Moschino sweater to Kate Upton’s birthday party in London. 




Camden is the site of some of London’s more recent style breakthroughs and a long-time haunt for London’s musicians. In fact, it was in the clubs of Camden that the punk style that would go on to revolutionise global fashion was hatched. A great deal of the credit also belongs to Vivienne Westwood for radicalising the fashion world in the 1970s. The designer has never abandoned her punk roots – even as recent collections have branched into knitwear. Not exactly known as the archetypal punk material, the house maintained its avant-garde brand by using an eclectic mish-mash of knitted swatches, artfully cobbled together to form army cardigans. Consider these ideal additional outfits for your London holiday, given the city’s reputation for the cold! 


The hub of London’s thriving music scene, artists like Adele, Amy Winehouse and the Arctic Monkeys have all gigged in Camden. The best holiday outfit for London nightlife might then be one that honours the city’s radical music heritage, whilst being warm enough for those chilly English nights. Saint Laurent jackets – namely those in leather – are elegant enough for an evening meal whilst also being perfect for a night in one of London’s many eminent clubs. 


Don’t leave it ’til the last minute – packing for your London holiday is as difficult as deciding what to do in the vast city. Full of culture, art history and fashion, London is one of the world’s liveliest destinations. Boot up your laptop and pack a good book (17 hours is a long flight!) – London is calling.


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