Kahn & Bell

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Kahn & Bell was a fashion label and boutique founded by Jane Kahn and Patti Bell in Hurst Street, Birmingham, England in 1976.[1] At the forefront of the emergence of the look of the New Romantic movement[2] they designed clothes for notable bands including Duran Duran[3] and Shock.[4]

Kahn and Bell's elaborate and theatrical style brought together a wide range of influences, including Egyptian, African and Far Eastern art, and combined them with elements of futurism and fantasy.[5]

The New Romantic magazine New Sounds New Styles commented in 1981 that while "Kahn & Bell were often one step ahead of the capital", they got little recognition for this, and "when similarities to London designers were spotted in their collections it was assumed that Birmingham had copied London".[1] Blueprint reviewed their importance in 1988:

Kahn and Bell had particular impact. Holding court at the Zanzibar, resplendent in leopardskin and padded shoulders, dripping diamonte with leather devils' tails hanging down between their legs, they looked on good nights like Egyptian Queens, like Ancient Babylonians. On not so good nights, they resembled Brassaï's Moma Bijou -"fugitives from Baudelaire's bad dreams", and even then they looked magnificent. For Kahn and Bell and those who followed their lead, identity wasn't something you nailed yourself into in late adolescence. It was a trick of the light, and if you were to avoid burning yourself out (a real risk this, when you sold clothes all day and promoted them all night), then you simply let the flames lick over you and turned the ashes into kohl.[6]

It has been argued over the years by many fashion magazines that Kahn and Bell never reached their true potential as London was always considered the capital of UK fashion. They perhaps missed their "window of opportunity" for global success as they, unlike many designers, never "licensed" their brand, never relocated, as Kahn and Bell, to London and would not compromise their unique "style".

Kahn and Bell eventually went their separate ways in the 1980s. Kahn relocated to London and enjoyed a measure of success alone but was never able to recreate the inspirational "look" that Kahn and Bell had achieved previously.

Bell has gone on to enjoy continued success with her outlandish, inspired and thought-provoking collections. With clients and customers from all over Europe, SE Asia and Japan, Bell still is very much a "grass roots" designer, and can be found every weekend at London's Camden Market. She is still a resident of Birmingham.


  1. ^ a b "Kahn and Bell Shop". New Sounds New Styles. 1981. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  2. ^ Rhodes, Nick (2006-04-22). "How we opened the door to the 1980s". Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  3. ^ Rotter, Josh (2008-05-06). "Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes talks!". No word left unturned. Josh Rotter. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  4. ^ "History". Tik + Tok. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  5. ^ "Bustier". Victoria & Albert Museum. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  6. ^ "Blueprint". Blueprint. Wordsearch Ltd (49–53). 1988. Retrieved 2011-12-04.