Fashion designer Caroline Charles, whose eponymous label first arrived on the style scene in the Sixties, has gotten between the sheets to celebrate her 50th anniversary in the industry with a commemorative book documenting her remarkable career.
Taking an artistic route into fashion by way of a couture apprenticeship following her education, Charles spent a brief period working as a photographer’s assistant before landing beneath the iconic wing of designer Mary Quant. Interweaving her knowledge of haute couture with the Sixties fashion trends parading up and down London’s streets, Charles set about crafting her own take on womenswear. With a kooky edge that at one point involved fabricating her bedspread into a dress, the designer took her unique vision and reinvented the ideal of dress-up into something fresh and fun.
One of the original designers to ever show at London Fashion Week, Charles garnered attention from all directions designing for Princess Diana, Lulu and actress Emma Thompson – who collected an Oscar in one of Charles’ designs – and adding Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Marianne Faithful and Rolling Stone front-man Mick Jagger to her roster of celebrity fans. Her knack for classic feminine tailoring and pared-back elegance also led to invitations to be a design consultant on acclaimed British brands including Burberry and Marks & Spencer.
Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman extolled the sartorial virtues of this stalwart of British fashion, saying: “Caroline has been one of the success stories of British fashion. Unafraid to stick to her original, clear vision, her tailored and feminine style has been an international export for several decades, popular for being elegant, wearable and flattering to most women.” Most women, including the Queen of England herself, as Charles lent her creative talents to designing the official 40th anniversary scarf to mark the monarch’s accession in 1992. The designer received an OBE at Buckingham Palace in 2002 to mark her own 40 years at the helm of the British Fashion Industry with ensuing celebrations held at the V&A museum in South Kensington where she was awarded a further accolade by the British Fashion Council.
Caroline Charles: 50 Years In Fashion provides a literary record of the label’s success, including sketches, diary extracts penned by Charles as she paved her sartorial path, photographs and personal portraits. The tome also incorporates quotes from fashion industry insiders and supporters of the brand, including Shulman and Condé Nast International president Nicholas Coleridge. Speaking to Vogue, the designer said of her literary venture: “It came as a surprise to notice that it has been 50 years since I launched my first collection, and the work diaries do record everything. The press books are full of great pictures from 1963 onwards, so the scrapbook diary came together. I felt it was interesting and good to view people and clothes from five decades.”
Caroline Charles: 50 Years In Fashion is available from the label’s Beauchamp Place store and at carolinecharles.co.uk.