A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Katharine Hamnett launched her brand in 1979 with a range of eclectic women’s designs; menswear followed in 1981. That year also saw her release the first of her many slogan tees that are central to the Hamnett DNA of the provocative and political writ large.
Katharine, known to the British public as a “bad girl with integrity”, was the first person to win the British Fashion Council’s “British Fashion Designer of the Year” and signed her first international licenses.
Sustainability and ethical production became of prime importance, further shaking up what was expected of a global brand. Katharine’s 1989 research into the environmental and social impact of the clothing and textile industry horrified her as she discovered that the true cost of fashion was paid in environmental degradation and human suffering. She lobbied the industry to act for change, but with little success. She campaigned directly on issues such as the use of pesticides and the plight of cotton farmers and badgered her licensees to reduce the environmental and social impact of her collections.
Katharine took the decision to gradually wind down her brand until production methods could meet her environmental criteria. She moved out of the mainstream industry to concentrate on campaigning, political activism and collaborating with charities.
Katharine Hamnett London re-launched in 2017 with reissues of many classic archive unisex pieces that are as relevant today as they always were, along with a wide selection of new designs – now all sustainably and ethically produced in Italy.