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