The real British Women of the Future

...clothing for 2080, when the world is a very different place

by Nathalie Olah
Thanks to 2012's Royal Wedding and Jubilee, the term ‘Britishness’ seems to have clawed its way back from the outlying regions of what’s socially acceptable. But while the term enjoys a leisurely loll in the tabloid lexicon, the rest of us are left wondering if it’s meaning has really evolved. Does ‘Britain’ now encompass the eclectic people that make up its rich landscape, and have its tired associations been successfully shaken off?

For artist Margot Bowman - whose capsule collection pays homage to great British women of the future - the answer to that question is a ruddy great “Yah!” Seeking to redefine ‘Britishness’ and embrace sustainable methods, the long-awaited designs from London’s brightest young thing arrive at NJAL HQ with formidable clout. As patriotic as they are universal and as rooted as they are futuristic, these clothes are paving a bold new way for British fashion.

Worn by British model of Dutch-Japanese descent, Naomi Shimada, British/Australian model Harmony Boucher and the face of young British Fashion, Daisy Lowe, the campaign showcases the designs in all their daring beauty. Reclaiming red, white and blue and setting it against a silver backdrop, the colour-arrangement is transformed into a symbol for future style.

“I wanted to create something that referenced tradition, but applied it in a way that was relevant and new,” explains Bowman. “Sportswear achieves this because it has to follow conventional colour-schemes, but innovations in functionality are still a priority. I wanted to apply this principle and use it to create something that was more inherently feminine than conventional sportswear.”

The result is both playful and durable. “I love the denim halters!” Exclaims Shimada. “You can put them over the top of a dress or shirt and they immediately brighten up an outfit.”

Shimada, who defines her style as “eccentric Japanese lady crossed with Betty Page and an extra from Clueless,” believes the collection caters to all her needs. “Like a comfy high heel”, she jokes, “Margot’s created something that’s wearable and feminine. If I could invent one thing for women it would be a comfy high heel, and Margot has basically done that.”

Likewise Boucher, who defines herself as “polite punk crossed with Sunday best” praises Bowman’s refusal to conform. “I like fashion that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is no such thing as a perfect woman and there is no point ever trying to be one. This collection is all about enjoying who you are and becoming part of something that is celebratory and fun.”

Up-cycling is an intrinsic part of Bowman’s approach and in-keeping with Shimada’s hopes for sustainable fashion: “It would be great if women could start to trade clothes and share the things they love in order to combat the crazy shopping, 'must have' epidemic that has taken over. The consequences of our consumerism will show in the destruction of the environment,” she explains.

So is trading ideas and becoming part of a shared identity at the heart of Bowman’s collection?

“I chose the models for the campaign based on what they were doing.” She explains. “Harmony is in a band, The Vuvuvultures, Naomi is forging the way for plus-size models and Daisy is making a brave transition from modelling into acting. I chose cool people, doing cool things that originated from different parts of the world and happened to be living in London. I wanted the clothes to be a symbol of that shared identity; of the collective, creative spirit that defines this country.”

British Women of the Future will unite in a shared, ‘can-do’ attitude, Bowman believes. “The line was initially inspired by PJ Harvey, who is both a strong woman and an advocate for redefining the term ‘British’. Her Mercury Prize-winning album, ‘Let England Shake’, showed me that national identity can be an exciting force that unites people, as opposed to separating them.”