Review: British Style Genius

October 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

BBC 2, Tuesdays, 9pm

British Style Genius comprehensively covers the biography of world beating British high street fashion over the last 50 years without ever dwelling on mundane chronology.

Instead, this first installment of a new landmark BBC series uses clever parallels between then and now as a device to encourage the viewer to fashion their own independent and often romantic journey from Twiggy to Kate.

This effect is achieved by celebrating the democratisation of cutting edge fashion from the previously untouchable catwalk to a high street on which “secretaries and society girls alike� could and would be seen in the latest designs.

Although the way in which garments are delivered to the high street hanger has altered so dramatically (from private sewing machine to Primark) the use of clever editing shows the continuity of fashion and its icons through such a substantial passage of time.

Indeed, with Twiggy now as much at the forefront of M&S as Kate Moss is of Topshop, it seems that nothing much has changed, apart from the fact that poor old Twiggy now looks like Kate with a melted face.

One refreshing side to this hour-long fashion testimonial is that it gives the so often still, emotionless face of Kate Moss a voice, a human side that moves and speaks in a way that suggests that she is actually a human being and not merely a weird cocaine sniffing mannequin.

However, the negative aspect of the choice of Twiggy and Kate as symbols of comparison between the Swinging Sixties and the Naughties is that although fashion tastes may have oscillated and returned to the status quo many times over, the female form has expanded over time.

As the timeless designer Celia Birtwell reminisces: “girls didn’t have bosoms in those days.� They do now, and although this programme is informative and well made it runs the risk of alienating the non size noughties out there, i.e. the majority of modern British women.

By Charlie Coffey