Flashing Back to ’84

Katharine Hamnett 1984 Peter Lindberg

We’re flashing back to 1984, the year Katharine Hamnett was the first recipient of the BFC’s Designer of the Year Award at the British Fashion Awards.

It was the year that Katharine famously met Margaret Thatcher at Downing Street, wearing the now infamous ‘58% Don’t want pershing‘ slogan across her chest and according to The Guardian, it was the ”week the British fashion industry finally shed its image of cautious provincialism, laced with endearing eccentricity and earned the applause of those members of the international fashion community in London for the show of the top ready-to-wear designers.

Katharine Hamnett Margaret Thatcher

“Katharine Hamnett, probably this country’s most copied designer, launched Fashion Week with a specially written song called Acid Rain Rap and voluminous T-shirts demanding a World-wide Nuclear Ban Now. For the foreigners, coming straight from the establishment-cosy, luxurious Milan shows, it must have been both a shock and a revelation. With the T-shirts, Hamnett showed padded white silk decontamination suits, generously cut, beautifully detailed parkas and trench coats, cropped jackets in heavy cotton, skirts that were straight and short or long, narrow and flared from round about knee level, unisex baggy slept-in trouser suits in dark denim.” – The Guardian, March 22nd 1984.

The New York Times,  credited the show as “one of a handful here that most accurately reflect the giant step forward London fashion has taken in the past two years.

While many English designers continue to make ladylike clothes, including everything from quiet, tweedy suits to charmingly corny evening wear, Miss Hamnett… designs clothing that is completely stripped of nostalgic decoration, romance or conservatism.

At the show, the runway was full of the shapes that have become her trademark. She heavily favours clothing inspired by either work clothes or military gear, such as fatigues and battle jackets. There was much of that to be seen this time, including loose trousers made of industrial- weight cotton.

Even though the collection is for fall, white figured importantly in it. There were, for example, white bomber jackets, given extra dash by waist belts that are to be cinched in tightly;  and a number of white tank tops and oversized T-shirts, printed with political slogans, that were worn several at a time.

The other new looks in her clothes included silk saris, which were worn over parkas. Miss Hamnett’s expertise is perhaps best exhibited in the parkas. Made of white, red or black cotton, they are covered with silk that is padded, giving an unusual luxury to what are basic, casual clothes.

Katharine Hamnett jumpsuit and parka Harpes Bazaar 1984

”The best way to describe my clothes,” she said after her show, ”is that they are like a clean slate, ready for the person who wears them to imbue them with his or her own personality.” – The New York Times, 21st March 1984.


Lead Picture: Kathaine Hamnettt Advertising Campaign, shot by Peter Lindberg, 1984.

Final Picture: Katharine Hamnett Boiler suit and parka, photographed by Dustin Pittman for Harper’s Bazaar, August 1984.

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