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Designer Caroline Charles celebrates 50 years in fashion

By Weekend  |  Posted: November 20, 2012

Caroline Charles outside her Cheltenham shop with branch manager Linda Atkinson

Caroline Charles outside her Cheltenham shop with branch manager Linda Atkinson

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From the swinging Sixties to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, fashion designer Caroline Charles has worked with everyone from royalty to rock stars.

The London designer, who also has a boutique in Cheltenham's Montpellier, is celebrating her amazing career with a new book – 50 Years in Fashion.

Based on her work diaries and scrapbooks, the coffee table hardback features photographs from across the decades as well as newspaper cuttings and front covers for Vogue and Elle.

Caroline's career started in 1963 when she set up a small dress design company following in the footsteps of Mary Quant. When she was in her early 20s she was already showing her collections in New York as part of the 'British Invasion'.

She dressed Cilla Black, Lulu, Marianne Faithfull, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

Caroline, who visited her shop in Montpellier this week to sign copies of her new book, said: "We thrived in that youth quake, all the stuff you read about, we were doing it."

The Seventies were just as exciting with Harrods, Liberty's and Fortnum & Mason all selling Caroline's clothes which had become softer and more romantic with fabrics arriving from the Middle East.

The designer embraced the Eighties too, with its shoulder pads and obsession with Dallas, working with Joan Collins and the Princess of Wales.

"Diana's mother had been a customer and liked what we were doing," Caroline said.  "She became a friend  and we remained friends for ages, although I pretended I didn't know her at all.

"She was a lovely girl and was always very professional. She knew exactly what to wear wherever she was going."

Caroline broke into the Japanese market in the Nineties when Emma Thompson famously wore one of her dresses to collect her Best Actress Oscar for Howards End.

She has also designed pieces for the Queen and received an OBE in 2002 for services to the British Fashion Industry.

"We've been doing  a perfectly nice job and then suddenly it's half a century," Caroline laughed.

"It's a very peculiar feeling, but I'm terribly pleased to be still standing here today."

Caroline previewed her spring-summer 2013 collection at London Fashion Week in September, which will soon be available to buy, and is busy working on her next collection for autumn-winter 2013 which will be revealed at London Fashion Week in February.

Caroline Charles – 50 Years in Fashion costs £45 and is available from the store at 14 The Courtyard, Cheltenham, or online at www.carolinecharles.co.uk

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