LONDON — Annette Worsley-Taylor, a former creative director of London Fashion Week who helped reignite global interest in British fashion, died this week at the age of 71. The cause of her death was lung cancer, a British Fashion Council spokesman said.
Worsley-Taylor was a driving force in establishing London Fashion Week. After launching the New Wave exhibition at London’s Ritz Hotel in 1974, in order to introduce young British designers to the international market, she went on to found London Designer Collections in 1975. After establishing the collections, the executive went on to win funding from the British government’s Department of Trade and Industry, to support a newly formed British Fashion Council. After that, Worsley-Taylor established the London Designer Show in 1990, which the BFC called a “prototype” for London Fashion Week in its current form.
A combination of the seemingly scatty yet surprisingly steely, the tireless Worsley-Taylor was an integral part of the renaissance of London fashion in the early Eighties when the likes of BodyMap, Katharine Hamnett, Betty Jackson and, later, Rifat Özbek and John Galliano put the British capital back on the global fashion map as their shows became must-sees for international retailers. She remained a champion of British fashion even as interest in it waned in the Nineties, until it surged again with the arrivals of the likes of Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Philip Treacy.
Worsley-Taylor went on to act as a creative and brand director and consultant to the British Fashion Council on London Fashion Week, and in 2002 was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services to British fashion.
Caroline Rush, chief executive officer of the British Fashion Council, described Worsley-Taylor as a “great personal mentor [who] will be missed immensely.” “Annette played a significant role in making British fashion a globally recognized industry. She was the go-to person for designers for many years and the interface between designers and the British Fashion Council,” said Rush in a statement. “Her impact and influence on the British Fashion industry was immeasurable and she made many significant strides forward in raising the profile of British fashion to the government as well as international media and retailers.”
London designer Bruce Oldfield commented that when Worsley-Taylor started the New Wave exhibition, “the British Fashion Council — in some form or other — existed then as a promoter of the ‘rag trade,’” he said. “Annette didn’t want to see young, exciting, forward-thinking designers bundled into a corner of the huge biannual trade fairs at [London exhibition space] Olympia. She saw that this talent needed to be showcased in a more sympathetic light,” said Oldfield, noting that the London Designer Collections that she established “almost single-handedly” paved the way for London Fashion Week today.
After her career at the BFC, Worsley-Taylor had been developing a charity called the Creative Eye, to raise awareness and funds to help cure eye diseases and blindness. She had also acted as a consultant and creative director on a book with Robert O’Byrne called “Style City – How London Became a Fashion Capital.”
Worsley-Taylor is survived by her husband, literary agent Anthony Sheil.