The Evolution of the English Rose

“English rose” is a limiting concept—a term used to describe a classically attractive woman, zoning in on her femininity, fairness, beauty, and sweetness. For Spring/Summer 2017, however, Topshop Unique decided to reclaim the trope, turning it into something much more modern and suited to the British brand.

There are some literal nods to the concept in the collection, which debuted at London Fashion Week on Sunday. A rose motif comes in black-and-white on silky ruffled shirtdresses and blouses, and in a confetti pink pattern on a long-sleeved gray knit dress, juxtaposed with an oversized, light-wash denim jacket. Traditional British tweed also made an appearance on the runway, inspired by men’s heavy tailored suits of the 1950s. Each tweed piece was complemented by an edgy element to give the look a fresher, sexier appeal, such as the high slit on a tweed pencil skirt, paired with a white oxford and a black vinyl jacket. “The starting point for every Unique collection is the celebration of British style and its rich heritage, which is defined predominantly by individuality and street style,” says Topshop’s Global Design Director Jacqui Markham.

There are many facets to the Topshop Unique woman. “She’s a tomboy, a pretty, feminine girl and a very glamorous, sexy girl,” explains Markham. “We never feel restricted by who she is because she’s always changing and evolving,” she continues. The design team’s sources of inspiration reflect this fluidity: Markham listed the work of artist Linder Sterling of the ’70s and ’80s, as well as the zebra patterns associated with 20th-
century film and style icon Lauren Bacall. The contrast of the different decades appeared in several looks, with rounded shapes, high necklines, and neutral tones of navy, sandstone, gray, pink, and chambray blue juxtaposed against New Wave and punk-inspired pops of acid yellow and shocking fuchsia, slashed knits, bra tops, sheer lingerie, leather, and shiny vinyl.

As the runway transcended into the evening wear portion of the collection, the English rose transcended as well. The floral motif that was once on light and silky pieces became lace appliqué on a black mesh top, paired with high-waisted pleated leather pants. The English rose evolves from day to night and season-to-season, just like the Topshop Unique woman.