Hyper-local and global: how Belgravia hijacked London street fashion

Heavy thunderstorms failed to dampen the community spirit in Belgravia as businesses gathered to celebrate the neighbourhood’s eclectic style at a fashion show.

Hot on the heels of London Fashion Week, designers and shoppers in the upmarket London district gathered in Eccleston Yard to watch some of the finest creations from the area displayed on the runway.

The area, close to Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park, is a popular haunt for tourists and Londoners alike due to its vast array of independent outlets offering unique wares.

Tomasz Starzewski, who designed dresses for Princess Diana, and Philip Treacy, the milliner whose hats were a favourite of the late Queen Elizabeth II, were among the brands represented.

The royal-imbued looks appeared alongside traditional Afghan kaftans, quintessential English gowns and timeless statement pieces.

The National was on hand to speak to some of the local businesses hoping to show off their products to a wider audience.

Afghan-inspired attire

Sobia Hamid, manager of the Turkmen Gallery in Eccleston Street, said the show was a fun way of promoting the age-old traditions kept thriving by the business.

She and her colleagues work with village women in Pakistan’s Swat Valley to sell hand-embroidered fabrics at its London shop, which helps the women earn a living.

A model wears an Afghan kaftan at a fashion show in Belgravia, London. Amy McConaghy / The National

They also source dresses from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and India.

“We are showcasing some of our kaftans from Afghanistan,” she said.

“Embroidery from these countries is exquisite. These people have amazing talent.

“We are keeping these traditions alive. We are promoting these traditions in the West and around the world for people to be able to own a piece of this history. It is important especially in a day and age where everything is becoming automated and machine made.

“Even in very remote areas like the villages around the Swat Valley, where it can take a day of walking to get there, you have the women who make the wedding shawls. It’s what the bride will wear on her wedding. They take years to make and we sell them here.”

Ms Hamid said the fashion show was a way to strengthen the “sense of community” among Belgravia’s businesses and offered them a chance to connect.

“It’s a difficult time in this area right now because more places are closing down so it’s nice to meet the other local businesses here,” she said.

The event was organised by Angela Hay, chairwoman of the Belgravia Traders Association, as a way to help shops collaborate and increase visibility.

Ms Hay said such gatherings are vital to help businesses thrive in the post-Covid era.

“Retail needs a bit of a boost and bringing fashion out on to the street can really help,” she said.

“What’s coming through loud and clear is we need to do things to bring people together in the area.

“We want to go further and take these types of shows all over London.”

Vickie Sarge, a luxury costume jewellers’ shop on Elizabeth Street, is among the businesses that downsized after the coronavirus crisis.

But Louis Circe-Mehra, the showroom manager, said the team is nevertheless looking on the bright side.

The brand has been featured in Vogue and one of its headdresses was worn by Beyonce.

Ms Sarge and her team are known for creating statement jewellery that appeals to the more daring customer.

“Over time, customers from the Middle East have become some of our most adventurous with their taste,” Mr Circe-Mehra said. “They tend to have fun with pieces and be bold.”

Anna Mason, founder and creative director of Anna Mason London, was another designer watching from the sidelines as models strutted the runway wearing her outfits.

Models strut the runway at a fashion show in Eccleston Yards, Belgravia.  Amy McConaghy / The National

Her shop on the edge of Hyde Park is frequented by visitors to London as well as regulars and is built on sustainability.

“We order fabric to make the dress a person orders. Nothing is wasted,” she said.

“I think what’s great about Belgravia is the sort of people who are browsing here understand the level of product, but it’s also got a really nice village feel to it.

“It isn’t just lots of bigger, run-of-the-mill brands, it’s about discovering character.

“All of us are quite special and unique brands and a lot of people don’t know about us, like hidden gems.

“We can’t promise the weather but what we can promise in this country is amazing things to buy and unusual, beautiful brands that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Updated: September 22, 2023, 1:00 PM

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