Game-Changing Londoners Through the Ages

Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen | © Mike Goldwater / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Cassam Looch
Film Editor23 October 2018

London is widely regarded as one of world’s major creative hubs. One of the reasons for this reputation is the city’s constant evolution and innovation. Here are some Londoners who have led the way in film, fashion and music over the years.

Alexander McQueen was a leading light in the world of fashion. The Lewisham-born designer, who was the subject of a 2018 documentary, had a rapid rise to the top before his tragic death, raising the bar for London as a fashion capital and leaving a legacy of memorable runway shows that were more theatrical than anything the city had seen before.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse took the music industry by storm, creating a sound that was all her own. She was known for her rich, unusual voice and her mixture of soul, rhythm, blues and jazz. Winehouse died in 2011 at the age of 27, but she continues to inspire the music industry today.

Amy Winehouse performs at Glastonbury 2007 | © Katie Collins / Alamy Stock Photo

Sir Michael Caine

This popular actor is synonymous with the Swinging ’60s and is often parodied for his look and sound. He defined the change in attitudes from the conservative post-war period to the more optimistic tone in the latter half of the 20th century. Caine remains a strong presence on screen and is the very definition of what most people think of when they are asked to describe a Londoner.

J36BNM Get Carter Year: 1971 UK Director: Mikel Hodges Geraldine Moffat, Michael Caine. It is forbidden to reproduce the photograph out of context of the promotion of the film. It must be credited to the Film Company and/or the photographer assigned by or authorized by/allowed on the set by the Film Company. Restricted to Editorial Use. Photo12 does not grant publicity rights of the persons represented. | © Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo

Charlie Chaplin

Although there is no official record of exactly where the diminutive comedian was born, it is believed Charlie Chaplin hailed from south of the River Thames. Both of Chaplin’s parents were music hall stars, so it wasn’t a surprise when he followed them to the stage at a young age. It was on a tour of America that Chaplin truly found fame and fortune, but his skills were honed treading the boards in London.

Photograph of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks laughing. | © Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo

David Bowie

David Bowie was one of the most significant and prominent musicians of the 20th century. His influence extended further than just the music industry as he inspired those in fashion, art and every other aspect of modern culture. His iconic influence lives on, inspiring many across the globe.

David Bowie | © ROPI / Alamy Stock Photo

Zadie Smith

The award-winning novelist shot to fame with her debut novel White Teeth. The bestseller, published while Smith was in her final year at the University of Cambridge, told the story of immigrant families from formerly colonised countries. A successful TV adaptation followed, and Smith now splits her time between London and New York.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Karl Schoendorfer/REX/Shutterstock (9772029f) Zadie Smith European Literature prizegiving, Salzburg, Austria - 27 Jul 2018 | © Karl Schoendorfer/REX/Shutterstock

Daniel Kaluuya

If we were to look for a modern-day counterpart to the personalities of the past that feature on this list, Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya would fit the bill perfectly. Born and raised in Kentish Town, the actor found global fame thanks to social-horror film Get Out (2017) and in the process became an inspiration to millions of young men and women across the city.

Daniel Kaluuya, Black Panther, European Premiere, Eventim Apollo, London. | © Rich Gold / Alamy Stock Photo

Vivienne Westwood

British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood broke free from the conventional style of the fashion industry, introducing a modern approach to fashion in the 1970s. At first she was mocked for her catwalk shows and the pieces she designed were ridiculed, but as she continued to develop her brand, others came to celebrate her style, which led to her winning the British Fashion Designer of the Year award in 1990 and 1991.

Vivienne Westwood in her Worlds End Shop in Chelsea, London 1981 | © Liba Taylor / Alamy Stock Photo

John Lydon

Punk was an era-defining movement in the late ’70s that marked a significant change in social attitudes. The rebelliousness of the time found a soundtrack in the form of Sex Pistols, an anti-establishment band fronted by John Lydon, who adopted the moniker Johnny Rotten. Sex Pistols were brash, confrontational and the perfect embodiment of what it meant to be a young Londoner. Lydon went on to further success with Public Image Ltd and remains a vocal critic of just about everything.

John Lydon | © Phil Rees / Alamy Stock Photo

Alfred Hitchcock

Celebrated filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock had humble beginnings. The film director and producer made his mark on Hollywood, becoming known as the ‘master of suspense’. Hitchcock’s career spanned six decades, during which he received 46 Oscar nominations and six wins. His masterpiece Rebecca (1940) was nominated for 11 Oscars alone, and won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Hitchcock received five lifetime achievement awards, including the AFI Life Achievement Award, and he was knighted four months before his death.

Alfred Hitchcock, Shooting picture,1969 | © Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo

Kate Moss

Born in Croydon, Kate Moss rose to fame in the mid ’90s. Taking the fashion and modelling worlds by storm, she reached iconic status thanks to her collaborations with Calvin Klein. Her career has led to many awards and accolades; in 2007, TIME magazine named her one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Kate Moss attends film premiere in Cannes | © Andrea Raffin / Alamy Stock Photo

Sir David Attenborough

Regularly topping polls as the greatest living Briton, David Attenborough was born in Isleworth in the London Borough of Hounslow. At a young age, Attenborough began studying fossils and other natural specimens, later joining the BBC as a producer. Following some concerns that his “teeth were too big” for presenting, Attenborough followed his older brother Richard onto the screen and the rest is history.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by DAVID HARTLEY/REX/Shutterstock (9916173k) Sir David Attenborough. The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, UK - 06 Oct 2018 | © DAVID HARTLEY/REX/Shutterstock

McQueen is available on DVD and Blu-ray formats from 22 October

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