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01.03.2012- The Luella Legacy

The demise of any fashion label is always a sad occasion, but is something which, in recent years at least, has become a fairly common phenomenon. Christian Lacroix Haute Couture was put into administration in 2009 and many high street favourites have also fallen victim to the downturn in the economy, proving that it’s not only premium prices which can spell an untimely end for a brand. Most missed of the labels to cease trading in recent years, however, has to be Luella- the eponymous design house founded by Luella Bartley which revolutionised the face of young British fashion and which continues to provide a legacy of inspiration for designers and style savvy consumers alike.

Spring 2007
Where McQueen presented a portrait of the harsh, gritty and sometimes unforgiving myths and folktales which continue to form a compendium of British culture, Luella gave us a light, exuberant and accessible take on what the heritage of a distinctly English style could mean to the modern woman. Where Westwood showcased a rebel-punk indifference, Luella’s collections spoke of a changing sartorial zeitgeist. She gave us looks which were inspired by specific fashion moments rather than entire cultural movements (such as her Fall 2009 utilitarian collection), elements of which her style savvy customers could incorporate seamlessly into their wardrobes. Each collection was imbibed with a distinct sense of character, whether this be the comic book mad, glasses wearing girl of Spring 2008, or the pallid mystery of her pagan twin from the autumn of that year- where Luella went, a sense of English quirk was never far behind.

At a time when London Fashion Week was very much seen as the poorer, less talented cousin of New York, Paris and Milan, Luella made the bold decision to return her catwalk presentations to their English roots, defecting to the capital at a time when it was in desperate need of a sartorial boost. Where Luella led, other brands followed, and the fact that London is now host to fashion shows from some of the biggest brands in the world, including Burberry, Matthew Williamson and Mulberry is testament to her vision and faith in British fashion. Her collaboration with Mulberry, which saw her create the sell-out, heart-adorned Gisele bag, is widely credited for helping to transform the fortunes of the brand, which has since become the natural inheritor of Luella’s quintessentially English approach under the leadership of creative director Emma Hill.

Spring 2007
Whilst it would be easy to assume that the now defunct label has nothing to offer the fast-moving world of fashion as it stands today, you only have to look at the current crop of British-based design talent to see Luella’s legacy alive and well. Whether it be Erdem’s unashamedly feminine garden prints, Mary Katrantzou’s bold theming or Meadham Kirchoff’s outlandish approach, the brand set the bar for much of the work we now see emerging in London from season to season. Most significantly of all, however, Luella's designs, and the subsequent resurgence of ‘Cool Britannia’ attuned a whole generation of young women to the possibilities of pursuing a distinctly personal style. I can’t personally remember having much of an interest in fashion before seeing the catwalk shots of her Spring 2007 collection, but from the moment I saw that iconic Geek! Tee, those rock-star sunglasses and blazing silver winklepickers, I knew I’d found something special. I suppose I was just amazed at how cool the whole collection was- modelled with devil may care nonchalance by women including Freja Beha Erichsen, Jessica Stam and Agyness Deyn, who have now gone on to become style icons in their own right. Crucially though, I didn’t feel in the least intimidated by what I’d seen- more inspired to research more of Luella’s work, and, by extension, the work of other designers. It was this inclusive, youthful philosophy which set the brand apart from its contemporaries; the sense that there were no rigid, pre-defined rules about how any of the looks should be put together, that pieces should be functional, and, most importantly, fit in with your existing style identity proved a refreshing departure from the stiff, prescriptive styles which had previously proved dominant.

Luella Bartley encouraged us to be proud of our style heritage, and in so doing cemented her place as one of the most visionary designers of her generation. Making a high fashion ethos accessible to a whole generation of young women whilst simultaneously recognising the need to invest in home-grown design set Luella apart from her contemporaries. Put simply, she was responsible for engineering a revolution in British style which continues to have a lasting impact, both on the street and in the studio, and for proving that fashion can mean so much more far than a catwalk presentation.

Do you miss Luella? And do you think her work has had an impact on fashion today?

(Image credit: and Google Images.)


  1. I'm still sad about the demise of Luella. I have a Luella handbag which I love and always looked forward to the day when I could afford more of the label. x

  2. I miss Luella so much! The pieces of hers I've been lucky enough to collect are treasures in my wardrobe. I'm so happy to read such a lovely Luella blog post :)

    Florrie x

  3. I was just getting into high end fashion as Luella was in trouble. I remember reading Selina's blog posts about Luella (here, here and here!) and falling in love!
    I tagged you for the 11 questions tag on my blog, I'd love to read your answers! The post is here :)

  4. I love Luella so much, I'm always looking for peces of hers on ebay (I missed out on a beautiful bag a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still bitter). Meadham Kirchhoff always remind me of her too, if only she were to come back!

  5. I love Luella - so different yet very wearable. Have found some great Luella pieces on eBay. x


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