Sunday, June 20

Striped stars… why the classic Breton top is back in fashion | fashion

Once favored by stars ranging from Pablo Picasso to Audrey Hepburn, from Marlon Brando to Madonna, Breton blouses, with their bold stripes and easy shape, are about to enjoy a new moment in fashion.

Considered by stylish connoisseurs to be one of the transitional elements to take us from working from home to emerging into the world, familiar stripes have recently been seen on the Duchess of Cambridge, Anna Wintour and actress Jennifer Garner.

Affordable brands such as Boden and Seasalt are among the best sellers, while haute couture brands Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Celine also included Bretons in their latest collections.

The Duchess of Cambridge wears the Breton look during a visit to the University of St Andrews
The Duchess of Cambridge wears the Breton look during a visit to the University of St Andrews last week. Photograph: WPA / Getty Images

Meanwhile, a marine-themed Jean-Paul Gaultier collection has just been launched. Gaultier, a once-enfant terrible of the fashion industry, is indelibly linked to the striped blouse he wore, often with a kilt, while hosting the late-night 1990s TV show. Eurotrash. It was also photographed on top by the French masters of kitsch Pierre et Gilles.

Although Gaultier retired last year, his brand is still going strong. The brand’s new 75-piece collection, created by young talents like Paloma Spain, Ottolinger and Marvin M’Toumo, is likely to appeal to a Gen Z audience, with cropped and mesh side-paneled versions of the classic.

As the name suggests, Breton, sometimes also called the striped, is essentially French.

In 1858, the striped shirt became the official uniform of the French navy. The design featured 21 stripes, which were said to make it easier to spot sailors who had fallen overboard.

The first shirts were made by the Saint James brand, named after the town in the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, on the border of Normandy and Brittany, which has provided knitted and dyed wool to hosiery shops for centuries. Coco Chanel is credited with elevating the Breton from a uniform to a fashion item.

However, Amber Butchart, author of Nautical Chic, a maritime fashion story, says that Chanel’s role “tends to be greatly exaggerated in this story.” The author traces his fashionable status to Sara and Gerald Murphy, bohemian friends of F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald who lived on the Côte d’Azur in the 1920s.

Audrey Hepburn about 1955
Audrey Hepburn around 1955. Photograph: Phil Burchman / Getty Images

“Gerald Murphy, an American artist, took a shopping trip to Marseille to get supplies for his ship,” says Butchart. “He came back with stripes striped the best for him and his guests, starting a trend that continues to this day. “Butchart says Breton is different because” it has become a marker of classic French elegance, but it can still accumulate countercultural associations.

“It’s still one of the few fashion staples that can look both bourgeois and bohemian, depending on how it’s worn or who’s wearing it.”

In the mid-nineties, Kate Moss and Alexa Chung made them part of their wardrobe, with Saint James being the preferred brand.

The announcement, earlier this month, that the Arthur Beale candle shop in London’s Covent Garden would be closing after 500 years sparked a duel on Instagram.

A leading outlet for Saint James Breton caps and accessories, it made a name for itself supplying products to sailors and adventurers. It is famous that he provided ropes to Tenzing Norgay and Eric Shipton for their first Everest expedition in 1935; a letter signed by the latter is part of the Beale file.

Purists, however, will be delighted to know that they will soon be able to buy the top of the French navy itself, which will sell its clothes as a brand for the first time through its own line, Marine National 1626, referring to the year of Cardinal Richelieu. . , Prime Minister of King Louis XIII, established the French Navy.

In addition to the classic Breton caps, the collection will feature a range of “young, elegant and dynamic” bags made from recycled sails, according to Admiral Pierre Vandier, Chief of Staff of the French Navy. The profits will be used to improve the working conditions of the sailors.

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