Life & Culture

Recognise her? Yes, Chelsea Girl is back


River Island's raid on its own fashion back catalogue to create their heritage Chelsea Girl collection was perfectly timed. With all things 1970s as one of the strongest trends for this season, the slogan T-shirts, floral maxis, wide-leg trousers, floaty florals and A-line skirts which were mainstays of the Chelsea Girl vibe are now totally topical.

The UK's first fashion boutique chain, River Island is part of the Lewis Trading Group which also owns the Isrotel hotel chain. Its origins are in East London, where current chairman of the family-owned company, Bernard Lewis, and three brothers, opened Lewis's. It evolved into Lewis Separates, and by the late 60s, had become the iconic Chelsea Girl, with a flagship store on King's Road.

By the time Chelsea Girl metamorphosed into River Island in 1988, the company was being run by Bernard and one brother, David, better known in the UK Jewish community for creating Isrotel. David's son, Ben, is the current chief executive of River Island, and the man behind the Chelsea Girl collection. Now 43, the Cambridge graduate has worked in the company for 20 years, starting in the shops and working his way to the boardroom where the retail experience combined with the Lewis business gene has helped River Island steal the fashion laurels from high street names such as Topshop, New Look, Warehouse and Oasis. It has become the go-to shop for on-trend, well-made clothes and accessories as well as, notably, bags and shoes.

The Chelsea Girl collection is a capsule range of 40 pieces for spring/summer, inspired by, but not copied from, the Chelsea Girl heritage.

The collection includes mini-skirts, shorts, cropped T-shirts, wide-leg trousers, boldly printed maxis and A-line shifts, all of which require soaring platforms and flowers pinned into the kind of cascading Farrah Fawcett locks or curly perms as seen on Marc Jacobs' S/S 11 catwalk. And in Kings Road circa 1972.

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