Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brit Grit: Iconic British Designs

There's a British icon in my family. My brother is a proud owner of an original 1960s Austin Mini Cooper. He treats it like his first-born and spoils it like a baby. It is so tiny even in the small and crowded streets of Manila, and when he drives it around children on the street shriek at him, "Mr. Bean!!!" This iconic car is so small that when my brother takes it for a ride to somewhere more than 30 miles away, my mom would say a prayer. She is deathly afraid a bus will fall on him, car and all. Well, this car is a celebrity. It is quite rare, especially in a city like Manila, and when you drive it around people in other cars and on the street stop and stare. My mom is afraid that left in the parking lot, somebody could literally carry it away.
Above: My brother's Mini Cooper at a car show.

Made by the British Motor Corporation and its successors from 1959 to 2000, the original Mini, is truly a British icon. There is so much personality and a sort of dignified quaintness about this small car. It ranks right up there with Julie Andrews, Kate Beckinsale, Emily Blunt and ofcourse, Daniel Craig.

When I think British in design, I don't quite think in terms of British colonial. That theme is so overused that there is nothing foreign nor exotic about it anymore.  There is so much more to UK design. Victoria Beckham's (tight), pleated, folded and draped minimalist dresses are so classy and elegant. Celebrities wearing them are utterly transformed and Posh-ed up.
 Above: Drape Front Fitted Dress from the Victoria Beckham Autumn/Winter 2010 collection. (

Brits are also good with designs that are slightly off-kilter. Refined yet with just the right touch of eccentricity (Rod Stewart?) For those really into punk eccentricity, British designer Vivienne Westwood interprets her creations for the home. She designs rugs and wallpapers in collaboration with top companies.
 Above: 'Squiggle' collection wallpaper by Vivienne Westwood for Cole & Son (

For a more sedate modern look, Paul Smith is my favorite. I once passed up on a wildly colorful scarf, and regret it to this day. Then I discovered this pattern used on an area rug--even better! The trademark curved lines in different colors makes such a statement piece underfoot. Who says art is just for the walls?

Above, top to bottom: Multi Original Swirl Long Scarf by Paul Smith (, Paul Smith Swirl Rug (

For other British finds, online store MyDeco ( brings goodies by up and coming British designers stateside. The styles are lightly modern and contemporary and just a touch offbeat. All items below from

1 comment:

Kyle Schmidt said...

A 1960s Austin Mini Cooper? Your brother sure is lucky! If I have one cute Cooper, I would also treat it like a baby. A lot of people love the Mini because of its adorable qualities and optimum performance. And it certainly reminds me of Austin Powers!