Katharine Hamnett is a British designer and an activist who has inspired Kanye West. She has 35 years of fighting ethical and environmental injustices in the fashion industry. Hamnett is a pioneer of modern British fashion. She created many slogan t-shirts and championed organic cotton long before many were aware of the damage caused by conventional production to the environment.


Katharine Hamnett, especially in the 1980s, influenced both British popular culture and politics through the power of her work. She was also the first designer to win the “Designer of the Year” award from the British Fashion Council in 1984.


Early Career of Katharine Hamnett

Katharine Hamnett was born in 1947. Her father was a diplomat and she grew up throughout Europe. She moved to 10 schools including Cheltenham Ladies College. She studied fashion at the Saint Martin Art School and at the time of graduation went into business with her college friend Anne Buck under the label Tuttabankem and this business lasted for 5 years.


After that, she worked freelance in London, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, and New York before launching her own label, Katherine Hamnett London, in 1979. Hamnett was most famous for the invention of t-shirt slogans and she printed political messages in large blocks into simple t-shirts and created a sensation in the 1980s. This shirt is designed to be easily copied so that as many people as possible will see the message. The most famous of the slogan t-shirts is the CHOOSE LIFE version worn by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley from the band Wham! Over time, the message of Katharine Hamnett became more concerned with Africa’s suffering and environmental sustainability.


Hamnett met with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984. ‘Finally! An original document ‘was the Prime Minister’s response to Katharine Hamnett’s anti-missile message when the two met at a government reception.


Hamnett participated in the Fashion Aid program which was from the Band-Aid to raise money for victims of hunger in Africa. It was a star-studded event that took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London. She made a series of t-shirt slogans for the event including PROTEST AND SURVIVE messages and  SAVE THE WORLD. The show featured some famous fashion designers in the world including Armani and Yves Saint Laurent, with designs presented by top models including Grace Jones, Jerry Hall, and Boy George.


Hamnett has been deeply affected and touched since her 2003 visit to Mali in West Africa with the Oxfam charity. Here she sees not only the impact of AIDS on the local population but also the damage caused by conventional cotton farming in the wider environment. After a visit to Mali, she is committed to only working with products that are produced ethically and care about the environment.


Katharine Hamnett Story

Hamnett for more than three decades made a big impact on fashion. She has been campaigning endlessly to transform the fashion industry from within, involved in many eco-friendly initiatives and lectured on sustainability throughout the world. She was appointed as CBE on the Honors List in 2010 for her service in the fashion industry.


Since 2017 she brought her brand back to the market. Everything will be produced sustainably in Europe in accordance with EU labor laws and sold through certain retailers internationally and directly to consumers from her own online stores.


She reminds all of us that the clothing industry is one of the largest industries in the world because it employs one billion people, which means one in six of the world’s population. This is one of the biggest pollutants in the effects of climate change and global warming. Katharine Hamnett stressed out that she would be committed to changing the way she works, only making clothes ethically, preserving traditional skills, and showing how that could be done.


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