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Nautical Chic by Amber Jane Butchart – A History of High Fashion on the High Seas

Nautical Chic by Amber Jane Butchart – A History of High Fashion on the High Seas

Fashion historian Amber Butchart’s inspirational new book Nautical Chic charts the origins and development of all things nautical, exploring how this perennial aesthetic has influenced the fashion world over the last 250 years.

Lavishly illustrated, Nautical Chic dives deep into the key influences on fashion, with each of its five chapters focusing on a particular maritime profession: The Officer, The Sailor, The Fisherman, The Sportsman and The Pirate. Weaving together politics, imperialism, war, leisure, trade, sport and seafaring adventure, Butchart eloquently describes the journey of the nautical aesthetic movement and the individual garments it has famously influenced, from the duffle coat to the ubiquitous Breton shirt; each example loaded with historical and cultural significance.

During her research for Nautical Chic in 2013, Butchart called on Trendstop founder Jaana Jatyri for an authoritative insight into how the nautical trend has influenced the fashion industry over the years. Discover the original exclusive interview here in full!


AB: How often do you see nautical trends cropping up on the catwalk/high street/in street fashion?

JJ:  The nautical look is a staple commercial ‘story’ for many mainstream retailers targeting customers with more classic tastes. It is often a lifestyle mindset rather than an age category. The look is a timeless French classic, and there tends to be some nautical pieces in every high street store every summer. High street retailers such as Next and M&S will provide nautical inspired products each summer season, while aspirational brands such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Henry Cotton’s incorporate the nautical aesthetic into their brand handwriting.

Paris S/S 2014 designer collections from Kenzo, Miu Miu, Julien David, Olympia Le Tan, Agnes B and Tsumori Chisato incorporate boat, fish, shell and anchor prints in blue, white, black and red colourways. Miu Miu has freshened up the classic navy look with a bright aquatic blue background.

S/S 2014 Paris menswear collections show the nautical look in a monochrome, and Cerruti, Hermes, Thom Browne and Kenzo use a mix of refined maritime rope prints, illustrated wave prints and chic leather and embellished anchors as decoration.

S/S 2014 Milan menswear collections recreated Breton stripes and Maritime blocking in bright oceanic blue hues.

Nautical Chic

Junya Watanabe Spring/Summer 2011

AB: Is it a global phenomenon – do you see certain items in trend stories the world over? And is it a style that retailers often pick up on?

JJ:  Yes. Chanel’s iconic adoption of the French Riviera separates has ensured an association with relaxed yet sophisticated Parisian style. I have seen this look very strongly in emerging economies such as South Africa and Brazil through to super cities such as Tokyo, New York, Shanghai, Seoul and of course Paris! The nautical look spells sun, sea & chic like no other look, and has global appeal as a smart holiday style. Many brands include it as one of their summer basics.

AB: What do you think are the most popular nautical items that are always reinvented on the catwalk or appropriated in street wear?

JJ: The Breton stripe jersey or knit and navy shorts. More recent recurring classics include Breton stripe swimwear, nautical hats and bags. Navy as a colour in itself is inspired by the nautical aesthetic, forever a wardrobe staple.”

Nautical Chic

Sonia Rykiel Autumn/Winter 2013

AB: Certain items – such as the Breton stripe top – have become classics. Does this restrict its appeal for a young audience, or do you find it has cross generational appeal across different fashion landscapes?

JJ: As a classic the nautical look is more of a mindset and lifestyle choice. It epitomises relaxed summer style. Younger and trend aware consumers would style the look in a current way, for example as an outfit consisting of a Breton top, skinny jeans and Ugg boots. The limiting aspect of nautical looks for the more forward consumer is that they are such classics; by definition the fashion forward consumer wants to wear something new and different.

To use the nautical look as a trend, it would be combined with the key elements of the season.

One example is the Acne S/S 2014 oversized and sheer take on the Breton sweater. In this collection Acne uses new materials, such as laser cut white leather, open weave knits, crumpled and crisp cottons, and play with the proportion of silhouette to breathe new life into the classic nautical look. By featuring oversized yellow webbed belts against a classic white shirt and baggy navy tailored shorts adds a completely new twist!

The nautical look can be used as the underlying theme for a whole collection. For example, the Kenzo S/S 2014 womenswear collection uses the nautical theme as a base but has adapted and moulded it into a concept relevant for today, e.g. by featuring thought-provoking planet and sea-life conscious slogans.

Nautical Chic

Jean Paul Gaultier Spring/Summer 2008

AB: Why do you think nautical style has such an enduring appeal?

JJ: The nautical look is timeless and easy to wear by almost anyone, regardless of age or gender. Both the colourway and stripe as a pattern are very easy to wear. Nautical items are casual and comfortable, and create a subtle statement without standing out of the crowd. It appeals to the Americans and Asians because it epitomises Paris casual chic.

Iconic figures such as Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso, Brigitte Bardot, and more recently Jean Paul Gaultier, have created an impression of Riviera chic and all the glamour associated with it – yachts, money, golden sun tans, art, interesting people – into the collective consciousness. Coco Chanel really was visionary in her ability to look at something like sailors’ clothing and translate it into a covetable high fashion item, back in 1917. Her vision for style combined with practicality has shaped much of what we wear today.

The nautical look is an extremely versatile basic to suit almost any audience and market.

Nautical Chic

Left: Jean-Charles Castelbajac 1996; Right: Yohji Yamamoto Spring/Summer 2007

Nautical Chic

Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 1996

Nautical Chic

Designs by Louis Feraud 1971

Nautical Chic by Amber Butchart is published on 30 March, Thames & Hudson

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