KATHARINE HAMNETT - The Activist Designer
Katharine Hamnett founded her label in 1979 but it wasn't until she started creating her iconic t-shirts with political slogans on that her career really took off. Worn by huge celebrities of the day, including Wham! Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Naomi Campbell, her sloganed tees were printed with powerful statements like 'Worldwide Nuclear Ban Now', 'Use a Condom' and 'Choose Life' (which is often mistaken for being an anti-abortion slogan but was really intended as an anti-war sentiment). These timeless statements are still so relevant today and because of the classic colouring and simple cut they were much copied, something which is often a big problem for designers, but it actually helped further Hamnett's goals and bring attention to the issues she cared about to the masses.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood wearing an anti-war t-shirt // Wikimedia Commons
Because of her timeless appeal, Hamnett has recently brought back her label with printing tees with modern political statements like 'Cancel Brexit', 'Save Life on Earth' and 'Choose Love'.
However, vintage Katharine Hamnett clothing is so much more than her iconic tees, she was also a fantastic designer ahead of her time. Her clothes which were often a mix of sexy and unusual attracted the British club scene of the 1980s and 1990s. We've had so many pieces sold in our store that I really loved, her Katharine Hamnett Denim line (which sold way more than just denim) had some incredible velvet mini dresses, oversized denim jackets and boldly patterned shirts. Her vintage clothes are such great quality too, nearly always made in Italy or the UK.
Check out this video above from the Fashion Channel's youtube.
For me though, one of the reasons why vintage Katharine Hamnett clothing is so great, is down to her brilliant menswear. This can be so hard to find, it is no wonder she had, and still has, such a fierce cult following. I adore the flamboyant, almost androgynous menswear of Hamnett's more famous contemporaries like Jean Paul Gaultier and Gianni Versace but what sets her designs apart is that they all retain more of a laid back masculinity, which is great for different clients or different moods. For example, she was great at taking a traditionally masculine silhouette like a denim trucker jacket and making it more interesting by completely studding it or cutting it from a fine black corduroy. My favourite item of hers we have in stock at the minute is a blue denim jacket which takes a military pea coat shape but elevates it by extending the lapels adding an interesting flair and making it out of an unexpected denim.
To see some of our favourite Katharine Hamnett clothes and advertising campaigns, check out our pinterest board below.