We’re celebrating the New Year with an exclusive competition to win a copy of the spiffing new book 70s Style & Design.
The competition is in conjunction with the Barney Bubbles Blog; the fine folk at Thames & Hudson have supplied us with the prized copy which will go to the person who answers correctly the question at the bottom of this post.
We’ve already detailed the excellence of Kirsty Hislop and Dominic Lutyens’ book here; suffice to say that it is packed with such nuggets as the “Mondo Trasho” spread above, which treats us to views of Duggie Fields in his Earls Court apartment (which he once shared with Syd Barrett) in the mid-70s – that’s Duggie top left in a red cerise SEX t-shirt.
On the right is the 1977 interior of The Rocky Horror Show designer Brian Thomson‘s abode, where flying ducks are matched with a lampshade made from a Seditionaries‘ Anarchy In The UK tee.
For a chance to win a copy of this visual feast, send us your answer to the following question:
Which album by Ian Dury & The Blockheads featured 28 front cover variations of 1970s Crown wallpaper patterns?
THE LOOK has been granted a web exclusive we can’t wait to share with you – a couple of the amazing images from this year’s must-have fashion book, 70s Style & Design by Kirsty Hislop and Dominic Lutyens.
//Jim O’Connor and Pamla Motown, 1972. Photo: Steve Hiett//
Dominic and Kirsty have served up a feast in terms of the visuals and verbals, exploring the art, architecture, fashion and design of the decade that really delivered.
//Edwige, Maripol and Bianca Jagger. Photo: Edo Bertoglio//
With (appropriately enough) 430 eye-popping images, 70s Style & Design succeeds by steering clear of the cliches (platforms, polyester flares) and crisply presents the reality of the era: creative, iconoclastic and, in contrast to the elitist 60s, healthily democratic.
Saluting but avoiding entrapment in the better known aspects (Biba, punk), the book charts areas and movements not commonly identified as having an impact on visual culture at the time, such as eco and high-tech architecture, minimalism, the cult of androgyny, the proto-punk craze of kitsch and the impact on style of the black civil rights and women’s and gay liberation movements.
// 70s Style & Design cover. “All Weather” shoes by Thea Cadabra. Photo: Ian Murphy//
Above all, this book is enormous fun: simultaneously an education, entertainment and celebration.
THE LOOK will return to 70s Design & Style (with a chance to WIN a copy!) soon; in the meantime we urge you to seek it out.
Who would have thought this single article of clothing would contain such a legacy?
Maybe it speaks of the universal breast fixation, but the fact is that this design – at once simple and complex – continues its journey from art project to novelty item to radical fashion apparel and eventually to 21st century art object.
Along the way this tale absorbs such disparate elements as Rhode Island School Of Design, Oz magazine, Bourbon Street, the King’s Road, Alice Cooper, the LA Free Press and Forum in the 70s, The Face in the mid-80s, the late lamented model, boutique owner and novelist Pat Booth, the implosion of the New York Dolls and the rise of the Sex Pistols, the Met’s Anglomania exhibition of 2006 and much, much more.
//Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones keeps ’em hid in Seditionaries version, Sweden, 1977. Photo: Dennis Morris//
Imponderables abound; the stock of the first edition produced for a college yearbook in 1969 was stolen by persons unknown, which maybe account for the variations down the years.
The final mystery is that nobody can remember the name of the original model.
A room-mate of the students who came up with the concept, like the Mona Lisa she has receded into history leaving not an enigmatic smile but a pair of perfectly formed breasts to entrance forever.
This is THE LOOK’s three part three-part special, based on testimony supplied exclusively by the key protagonists, presenting rarely seen images and previously unpublished and updated interviews and information for the first time anywhere, ever.
The story of the tits tee starts in the late spring of 1969 with Janusz and Laura Gottwald, students at Rhode Island School of Design with their own studio Amperzand Design in the college’s town of Providence.
//Advert in Los Angeles Free Press, June 18, 1971//
Janusz came up with the concept of the trompe de l’oeil shirt – as well as another featuring a hairy male chest – and together the pair produced a limited edition RISD “yearbook” consisting of a corrugated box containing various editions of items, one of which was the t-shirt.
“But word got out and the closet storing the boxes was raided and the tit t-shirts were stolen.”
//Alice Cooper, Max’s Kansas City//
On leaving college the Gottwalds produced the shirt commercially via San Francisco-based Jizz Inc, the label run by Dick Lepre, Janusz’s best friend from Notre Dame, and his wife Judith Muller.
“We produced the tits t-shirt in our basement in San Francisco, selling them along with other Amperzand designs,” says Judith, who was Jizz production manager. “The original ideas came from Amperzand, but we branched out to include other designers. All our clothing was produced in and around San Francisco and presented at the Men’s Sportswear and Boutique shows in New York.”
Among the boutiques which stocked the tits tee was San Francisco’s Water Brothers. The Rolling Stones played their fateful gig at the Altamont Speedway in nearby Livermore on December 6 and it is at Water Brothers that Charlie Watts is believed to have bought the one he sports in the David Bailey photograph on the cover of the Rolling Stones’ live album Get Your Ya-Yas Out!.
Watts also wore the t-shirt for performances recorded for the BBC back in England on December 12 1969, and the group’s chronicler Stanley Booth recounts how the Ya-Yas cover shoot took place near Birmingham towards the end of that month.
//Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!, The Rolling Stones, released September 10 1970//
On September 8 1970 the Alice Cooper band played New York’s hallowed Max’s Kansas City. According to alicecooper.co.uk, the singer was arrested that night for uttering the word “tits”; maybe it was actually for the perceived obscenity of his t-shirt.
Just the day before, Time magazine featured the tits tee in a report on the growing popularity of printed tops headlined: The Breakout Of The Undershirt: “Exhibitionists will love the startling model imprinted with a properly located life-size photo of a pair of breasts…”
//From Time, September 7, 1970. Courtesy Ben Cooney collection//
“We also produced NASA photograph moon and saturn shirts, several Jesus ones (Catholic and Protestant versions) and a gorgeous snake shirt,” says Laura.
Meanwhile, Judith points out how deals with other 70s fashion companies such as Smiling Crow, and designs by the likes of Norman Stubbs of East West Musical Instruments Company and Bruce Smith of Rainbow Cobblers enabled Jizz to expand into a full range of shirts and jackets which were sold through independent outlets across the US.
“I designed men’s smoking jackets and satin cowboy shirts with embroidered yokes which were featured in Playboy and Esquire,” says Laura. “Actually, I won a designer of the year award from Esquire for the robes.”
//Honky Tonk Women, Top Of The Pops, BBC, 1969//
One of Jizz’s most avid customers was Goods Department Store on Harvard Square in Cambridge MA, described by Laura as “Biba-like”. The owner/founders were entrepreneurs Daryl and Don Levy, who now run the Deluxe Town Diner in nearby Watertown.
“It carried merchandise ranging from charming conceptual kitsch like our t-shirts to divine Brit fashion from Mulberry and Margaret Howell,” adds Laura, who believes that the enduring appeal of the tits tee is rooted in the care and attention originally lavished upon it.
“Quality was the key,” she says. “Ours were silk-screened, using a very fine dot screen, as you’d expect from an art object created by RISD students.”
The Jizz team is still smarting that the design was later picked up by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood for their shop SEX. While Dick Lepre has said that he has been tempted to contact the San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art over it’s attribution of the design to Westwood, Laura Gottwald has also expressed her annoyance.
“Vivienne Westwood ripped us off; we had the shirt out first,” is Judith Muller’s succinct summation.
Yet, as we shall see, it was actually McLaren who brought the design to England where it was positioned in a very different context. Judging by the difference in proportion and size of print, this may have been taken from a copy of the original.
But such dissection of the garment lay far in the future.
//Slow Death: Let It Rock drape and studded leather 1972//
THE LOOK witnessed the San Franciscans supported by The Ramones at the legendary (and sweltering) Roundhouse gig on The Fourth Of July 1976, apparently in the company of the punk-rock cognoscenti. The only encounter which sticks in the memory is a bout of speed-fuelled aggression from an out-of-control Shane MacGowan.
But The Roundhouse show was not to herald the much-deserved commercial breakthrough; as their manager at the time, the late lamented Greg Shaw, told me years later for In Their Own Write, the oncoming punk storm overshadowed the headline act that night.
Which is a great shame, because the Groovies were armed with fantastic tunes, attitude to spare, and, as worn by Cyril Jordan that night, this amazing velvet jacket.
Cyril had it made the previous year by tailors Foster & Tara, who usually serviced Granny Takes A Trip, though the King’s Road store was at that time in disarray following the departures of Gene Krell and Marty Breslau.
//Back: Martin Cook, Tara Browne, Gary White. Front: David Vaughn, Dudley Edwards, Douglas Binder//
Foster & Tara was operated by the father-and-son team of Pops and Cliff Foster, and had been set up with Guinness heir Tara Browne, whose tragic death at the age of 21 in a car accident on December 18 1966 inspired The Beatles’ A Day In The Life.
//Tara Browne + Paul McCartney//
There is a completely wild conspiracy website claiming that Paul McCartney actually died in the crash; the current ex-Beatle and former husband of Heather Mills, is, apparently, none other than Tara Browne!
The Beatles’ connection to Cyril’s jacket is more verifiable. “I’d seen a photo of Ringo wearing one of the coats in purple or burgundy in an issue of Beatles Monthly,” says Cyril, who these days pours his musical energies into his band Magic Christian.
//David Wright (far left) in his F&T jacket 1976//
“I took the magazine photo to Foster & Tara and Pops told me he still had fabric which Paul McCartney had brought back from Paris years earlier for clothes for all The Beatles. There were rolls of water silk, sharkskin and velvet in various colours. We got such a kick having jackets made from the same material and designs.”
The coats weren’t cheap, coming in at £600 apiece. “The day we picked up ours, these guys from Showaddywaddy came in to fetch their drapes,” recalls Cyril, who points out that the back and front cover photos of the Shake Some Action sleeve were taken across the street from Foster & Tara.
//Roll Over Beethoven on French TV//
The band members wore their red coats on stage for years, all around the world. Now Cyril is clearing space in his archive and is willing to sell his, an extremely rare piece and one imbued with pure rock & roll provenance.
Interested parties should direct inquiries inquiries via: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass them on.
During the 70s there was a stylistic inland invasion in the US; just as Carnaby Street gave rise to a wave of Dandyism among American individuals during the 60s, so eccentric little boutiques in England such as Granny Takes A Trip sparked a trend for wild clothing outlets across the States in the succeeding decade.
//Explosion and Lacy Lady, North Tonawanda NY 1971//
Investigated in Chapter 12 of THE LOOK, I’m developing this phenomenon as the subject of a new book, so imagine my delight when contact came out of the clear blue sky last week from Terry Slobodzian, who’s a fan of this blog.
“I was in the boutique business 1969-74,” he explained, “and was in London in 70….Granny’s…Let It Rock…Biba…the Hard Rock…etc…thought you might enjoy some photos of originals I still have.”
//Terry Slobdzian inside Explosion, 1970//
Terry sent images of the most sought-after clothes of that or any other era. Turns out Terry, a top-notch 55-year-old who still wears his Granny’s panel suit with pride, was the brains behind clothing emporia Explosion and Lacy Lady, both situated in the the early to mid-70s in North Tonawanda (between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY).
Inspired by the British Invasion and having spent time with New York’s Now Theatre repertory company, Terry opened the flamboyant Explosion in autumn 1969 in the city’s downtown area.
//Terry with girlfriend Geri and mother Olga outside the first Explosion, 1969//
“I found a store, about 800sq ft and $175 a month. We painted the trim and metal-embossed ceiling purple and the walls a lighter shade. I bought sample squares of multi-coloured shag and glued them to the floor and we painted one wall with an outline map of the USA with silhouettes of rock stars, kinda like Mt. Rushmore!”
Explosion carried denim, including M. Hoffman & Co’s Landlubber jeans, which apparently sold like wildfire.
“They were made really well: a hip-hugger with a horizontal slit pocket and a slim fitted thigh with small bell bottom,” recalls Terry.
//Explosion interior, 1973//
The store also stocked tops, mainly crew-neck and button-up, in solid and two-tone colours. “Kids could come in and purchase a pair of jeans and a top for $15 bucks,” he points out.
“There were no stores like mine in the downtown area, and Buffalo had only one or two. I also made leather belts to order. You could pick a dye colour, design and buckle, and pick it up the next day.”
In January 1970, Terry and his girlfriend Geri made it across to London. Their first stop-off was Granny Takes A Trip at 488 King’s Road, by this time run by Marty Breslau and Gene Krell with Freddy Hornik.
“What a trip it was,” says Terry.“Every piece fit like a glove right off the rack. The craftmanship and choice of fabric was amazing.” //Granny Takes A Trip velvet panelled suit// Among the items Terry bought and still cherishes is a navy blue velvet suit with a three-quarter length jacket and a brown velvet jacket with white piping, as well as pants with a yoke in a lighter tone of brown.
//Granny’s brown velvet jacket and yoked pants//
Hornik confirmed to THE LOOK only last week that these suits were available to customers with matching yokes on the jackets if so required. Terry also acquired a white linen suit with appliqué-d roses (“the cut on this is killer”), as well as a shirts in pink and silver lurex and black and purple stripes and two pairs of shoes, one with a short stacked leather heel in orange canvas with tiny hippos in yellow and blue. The other pair were multi-coloured snakeskin patchwork platforms.
//Granny Takes A Trip white linen suit//
On his return to North Tonawanda, a larger retail site became available at 77 Webster. Here he re-established Explosion with Art Deco flourishes, and set off to acquire fresh inventory at the National Boutique Show in New York.
//Alkasura: Yellow/blue velvet jacket with matching pants and striped jacket//
“With exhibitors covering eight to 10 floors and displaying fashions in every room including the mezzanine maze, I was fucking blown away,” he confesses. “My only disappointment was the lack of any British companies or design houses, but that came the following year with the glorious arrival of Alkasura. I believe my order was one of the largest from the US.”
//Deco window display with Alkasura suits, 1973//
During the show, Terry visited the Granny’s outlet in New York operated by John LiDonni and Richie Onigbene. Here he purchased a burgundy and purple velvet suit which had been supplied out of England by Granny’s tailors Foster & Tara.
Another regular Granny’s customer was Tommy Hilfiger, then running The People’s Place boutique in his birthplace, Elmira NY.
//Terry in Granny’s suit, 2008//
The velvet panelled suit was a Granny’s staple. Rod Stewart wears a red and black version during his famous performance of Maggie May on British weekly chart show Top Of The Pops (featuring the sadly departed DJ John Peel miming on the mandolin).
//Rod The Mod in Granny’s panel suit//
“I wore the hell out of mine and it’s still like new,” says Terry. “Never have I felt or seen anything close to the quality of these fabrics – and I can still get into a couple of them!”
As a result of his trip to the show, Explosion expanded into lines from the likes of East West Musical Instrument Co.“I remember my best friend wearing a solid silver leather jacket from East West to a Lou Reed concert, a very cool piece,” says Terry.
//Store assistants John and Vickie outside Explosion, 1972//
“Those retailed for $300-$400 but were worth every penny. I wish I had one to show you. East West also made probably the best denim jeans at $35, which was also a little high for the time, yet once purchased, people loved ‘em. And, even if some couldn’t afford to buy an expensive piece, they still wanted to see some real high-end rock & roll fashion.”
//Shirts by John Wesley Harding//
Explosion also stocked shirts by John Wesley Harding, Scrooge, Bouncing Bertha’s Banana Blanket and Jizz Inc ( “the most beautiful satin embroidered western style shirts with contrast color piping and pearl snap buttons”), as well as shoes by Verde and Tannino Crisci.
In the spring of 1970, the store next door became vacant and Terry opened Lacy Lady, which, like Explosion, was to trade until 1974.
//Lacy Lady 1972//
These days Terry is penthouse butler at Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel in Niagara Falls, where he caters for VIP guests in pretty much the same manner as he handled the clientele of his boutiques; with great care and sensitivity.
And, of course, his eye for style is unstinting. “We have some great Art Deco architecture in the area,”says Terry, who can be contacted here.
“I prepare fine meals and classic pastry in my spare time and am addicted to film.
“I always wanted to direct. Maybe next time around. You know, you never lose that artistic ability whatever you do in life. And I am fortunate to still have the juice running through me.”
Christie’s much ballyhoo-ed sale of “the finest collection of 20th Century fashion in private hands” last week achieved a respectable total of £270,000, with sales secured for 165 of the 225 items.
//Paco Rabanne dress: £15,000/YSL suit: £10,000//
Highlights for vendors Mark Haddawy and Katy Rodriguez, co-owners of US retailer Resurrection, included Paco Rabanne’s aluminium panelled dress fetching three times the estimate at £15,000 and a YSL safari suit achieving nearly 10 times the predicted price at £10,000.
//Pierre Cardin cape: £5,000//
With such one-offs as the red vinyl Cardin bubble cape attracting £5,000, the vintage business is using the sale to steady the buffs during this stormy economic period. Hence this week’s claim by Cameron Silver of LA retailer Decades that “many people are turning to vintage as a guilt-free way to shop.”
//Nostalgia Of Mud and Witches dresses: £1,000 each//
Although many World’s End items attracted buyers, the Christie’s website does not record sales for more than a third of the 47 items from 430 King’s Road.
This, combined with the withdrawal of four before the sale began, underscores the increasing nervousness over authenticity of pieces purported to emanate from the shop between 1974 and 1980 in its guises as Sex and Seditionaries.
//Unsold: Estimate £2,000-£4,000//
Among the 18 not present in Christie’s sale results are a number previously flagged as fake by Malcolm McLaren (whose name is omitted from the design partnership he conducted with Vivienne Westwood in the online auction results).
//Unsold: Estimate £1,500-£2,500//
These include a “Destroy waistcoat” and “No Future jacket” as well as three muslin tops, a “No Future jumper” and pairs of red corduroy, serge/satin and fringed bondage trousers.
//Unsold: Estimate £2,000-£4,000//
Two challenged by McLaren were authenticated by New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and sold: a gilt leather hood went for £1,250 and a pink sleeveless Peter Pan shirt made £1,125.
//Sylvain’s hood: Sold for £1,250//
McLaren remains sceptical, describing Sylvain’s assertion that he supplied the guitarist with the hood as stage gear as “outrageous”.
Withdrawn items from the catalogue included a Chaos armband with an estimate of £100-£150 and muslin shirts which went on display in New York but did not make the journey across the Atlantic.
These were also rejected as fake by McLaren when he viewed them at the company’s starry presale which was one of the events kicking off New York Fashion Week and was attended by Agyness Dean, Chloe Sevigny and Henry Holland.
//Christie’s NY: Muslins withdrawn from the Avant Garde sale//
“We thought there were simply too many muslins for the balance of the sale and for the current market,” says Christie’s textiles specialist Pat Frost, who was quoted in the Financial Times 10 days ago claiming McLaren hadn’t “handled the pieces”.
//Malcolm McLaren at Christie’s presale show NY September 2008//
Centred on artefacts from the New York, SF and English punk scenes, the heading is something of a misnomer since the sale also features a catch-all from a 60s poster for Barbra Streisand to Frank Kozik skateboards and Kidrobot vinyl toys.
Punk/Rock has nine lots claimed to be designs from 430 King’s Road, including a number of ties ($2,000-$3,000), two Cowboys t-shirts ($1,000 – $1,500 each) and a pair of Seditionaries bondage trousers ($300-$400).
//Seditionaries bondage trousers?//
Since the latter appear to THE LOOK to be dubious, there is little doubt that the punk-rock fakes furore ain’t going away any time soon.
Visit here for the auction results from the Avant Garde Fashion sale.
Granny Takes A Trip was the radical boutique which changed fashion – and the way clothes are sold – forever.
//John Pearse, Sheila Cohen and Nigel Waymouth (in Granny’s print jacket)//
As presented in the definitive account in Chapter 10 of THE LOOK , Granny’s was created in late 1965 at 488 King’s Road by three young friends: artist Nigel Waymouth, his girlfriend Sheila Cohen and Saville Row-trained tailor John Pearse.
//Early 1966: Waymouth (right) with friend Michael Chaplin. Pic: Rex Features//
Opened early in 1966, everything about Granny’s was fashion forward; rather than following the prevailing Carnaby Street trend in pop disposability, the trio pioneered “vintage” and authenticity by trading in the original Victorian and Edwardian garments collected by Cohen.
//Mid 66: Low Dog//
These were supplemented by Pearse contributing fine tailoring in interesting fabrics, with Waymouth handling designs for long-collared shirts and tight trousers and the ever-changing retail environment.
Among the first customers were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, who wore Granny’s on the album sleeves for Revolver and Between The Buttons that year.
//Granny’s guys: The Floyd and Ossie//
Within three months the shop was featured in the famous Time magazine feature which signalled the arrival of Swinging London, and a few weeks later the team rang the changes with the first overhaul.
//Late 66: Kicking Bear. Pic Topfoto//
Out went fin-de-siecle and Art Nouveau references and in succession came two giant and forbidding psychedelicised portraits of Native American chiefs: Low Dog and then Kicking Bear.
//Newsreel footage featuring Nigel and Granny’s from 1.00min//
The most familiar frontage was, of course, Waymouth’s pop rendition of 30s movie star Jean Harlow.
//1967: Pop art Jean Harlow//
This attracted the media from all over the world and featured in the George Melly-scripted movie Smashing Time. But the innocence of that image was far removed form the reality; with the Velvet Underground’s first album droning in the background amid the murk, Granny’s was actually a hip and heavy place.
//1968: Black and gold Dodge. Pic: Rex Features//
The vibe was reflected in the coup-de-grace delivered when the owners bolted the front-half of Pearse’s decrepit Dodge onto the shop window so that it jutted surreally onto the street. The car itself underwent a few makeovers – memorably in black and gold with glittering stars and also canary yellow – while Waymouth’s graphic design venture with Michael English, Hapshash & The Coloured Coat, dominated the poster and sleeve art of the Summer Of Love.
//1968: Canary yellow. Pic: Pictorial Press//
Hapshash mutated into a band which recorded two albums, and the original Granny’s team went their separate ways in 1969, leaving the business in the care of manager Freddie de Hornick.
//Granny’s in the early 70s//
He drafted in the New York hipsters Gene Krell and Marty Breslau who presided over the store’s next incarnation as provider of velvet suits and other fine accoutrements to the rock crowd into the early 70s with branches in LA and New York.
//488 King’s Road autumn 2007//
The premises became a greengrocer’s and then a restaurant before closing for a period. A couple of years back they were acquired by property developer/art dealer Tim Morel who is refurbishing the site to reopen as a gallery/coffee house and fashion store in tribute to the important place it occupies in British pop culture.
The work of artist Peter Saville lingers at the crossroads where art and design meet music and fashion.
Responsible for some of the strongest artwork and graphics in popular music from his days as Factory Records in-house designer for Joy Division and New Order to working with the likes of Pulp and Suede, Saville has a fashion CV which includes launching SHOWstudio with Nick Knight and collaborations with Yohji Yamamoto in the 80s and John Galliano at Dior in the 90s (where he was tipped to become creative director before famously falling out with LVMH’s Bernard Arnault).
In conversation with THE LOOK, Saville reveals how the juxtapositions presented by London clothing store Crolla were a key inspiration for one of his most famous sleeves.
//Power Corruption and Lies 1983//
Saville says of New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies – which incorporates the 1890 still-life A Basket Of Roses by Henri Fantin-Latour with high-tech colour coding and a label based on a Diatronic typesetting disc: “I was given the confidence to put that together by what Scott Crolla and Georgina Godley were doing with their store at 35 Dover Street.”
//The album included an insert of the National Gallery postcard which inspired the cover//
Crolla and Godley opened their shop in London’s Mayfair in 1981, selling luxurious and colourful prints ands fabrics such as tapestries, brocades and damasks for waistcoats, pyjamas, dressing gowns, slippers and Nehru-jacketed suits.
“The Crolla interior contrasted and juxtaposed Sanderson fabric with things like a shelving unit by Le Corbusier,” recalls Saville. “When I came across the Fantin-Latour on a postcard at the National Gallery I knew it was OK to like it, because Scott and Georgina’s use of reference points had taught me not to feel embarrassed by my appreciation of such art. In a way it was a contemporary means of understanding flower power.”
Saville describes Crolla as “a laboratory of post-modernist ideas, truly the first post-modern clothing shop. They weren’t presenting English eccentricism in an irritating or twee way. I read Crolla as a juxtaposition of opulence of imagery up against the Corb shelving unit or steel and glass fittings. The shop seemed to me to embody the post-modern principle: that there is the past, the present and the possible.”
//Georgina Godley white 80s dress//
By the mid-80s Godley had formed her own label and was pursuing her line in structured, contour-revealing womenswear while Crolla kept the shop until 1991 before moving on to Italian knitwear company Callaghan and collaborating with Vivienne Tam, most recently on her New York outlet in Soho’s Mercer Street.
Godley has acted as a consultant to Missoni, Paul Smith and Jasper Conran (she is the partner of his brother, Sebastian, who designed t-shirts for The Clash in their early days) and latterly developed her interest in ceramics as head of home accessories and style director at Habitat and creative director at Wedgwood.
In June Zune is producing a limited edition digital media player featuring his design for Unknown Pleasures to commemorate the release of Joy Division The Documentary, which will be pre-loaded onto the custom player.
A significant crossover area for rock and pop fashion has long been the expansion into other areas of design, from art, artefacts and antiques to furniture, home-ware and interiors.
The operation of eye-popping boutiques and creation of eye-catching gear has enabled many to make the leap from clothing and apply the same set of aesthetics to objects and collectibles, thus making them fashion items.
Tommy Roberts was probably the pioneer. As we’ve seen, his four-floor Kensington shop Mr Freedom was launched in 1970 with specially-commissioned furniture, lighting and other homeware items, two years ahead of Barbara Hulanicki’s ambitious and ultimately disastrous decision to recreate Biba down the road as a huge department store on the former site of Derry & Tom’s, selling everything from bed linen to baked beans.
//Site of Big Biba, Kensington High Street//
By the time Big Biba opened Roberts had moved on to source antiques for the likes of Rod Stewart and Jimmy Page, and later set up the stores Practical Styling in the 80s, retro outlet Tom-Tom in the 90s and today’s Two Columbia Road.
From Acme Attractions/BOY founder Steph Raynor‘s Lifestyle Co in Spitalfields to Lloyd Johnson’s sorely-missed Tiki-themed store in Portobello Road (which also sold lounge records, South Seas artefacts and Spaceman watches), many other individuals in THE LOOK caste their nets wider than fashion – and long before every Tom, Dick or Harriet branched into perfumery, handbags and eye-wear.
//Paul Smith in his first Nottingham store, early 70s. Pic: Paul Smith//
Paul Smith’s first store in Nottingham included an art gallery in the basement named after pioneering graphic design group Pushpin, for example, while his first London store (opened 1979) set the template for his world-beating “lifestyle” formula, retailing all manner of era-defining goods including the Filofax and James Dyson’s G-Force vacuum-cleaners.
Smith has placed his trademark stripe on HP Sauce bottles, Bonneville bikes and bicycles and collaborated with leading architects and interior designers to keep his retail offer fresh; among the stores designed by Sophie Hicks is his “shop within a house” in Notting Hill.
More recently Eley Kishimoto have earned themselves the nickname “the patron saints of print” by effortlessly moving between print design, high fashion, interiors and architecture. Their famous “red flash” print graces clothing, Converse trainers, a Bearbrick and a G-wizz which can be seen buzzing to and from their South London studio.
//Eley Kishimoto’s red flash Bearbrick//
Among the exemplars in this field is Paul Reeves. His labels Sam Pig In Love and Alkasura Wholesale and Fulham Road store The Universal Witness proved a magnet for stars such as The Beatles, The Stones, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and David Bowie in the late 60s and early 70s.
//From Ideal Home magazine 1976//
Reeves – whose The Best Of British Design auction and exhibition opens at Sotheby’s next week – made his break from fashion retailing in 1973 with a very unusual money-no-object commission; the awesome Led Zep manager Peter Grant invited him to refurbish his new Kensington mews house from top-to-bottom.
//From The Observer magazine 1975//
The job took nearly two years, at a time when the 6ft 5in Grant (who died in 1995) was travelling the world with the biggest-selling rock group of all time.”I told him I’d only do it if he didn’t come near,” Reeves says in THE LOOK. “I involved friends from the Royal College and we did everything from cutlery to textiles.”
Prominent among Reeves’ collaborators was architect and artist Jon Wealleans; when the job was finished the pair were featured in The Observer and Ideal Home magazines, excerpts from which THE LOOK exclusively features today after more than three decades.
The scale of the undertaking is impressive; every detail of every room has been addressed, often to dizzying effect. Wealleans created a plaster-covered spiral staircase and furniture which drew on Ettore Sotsass’ Memphis design collective. One of the tables was supported by cylindrical legs made of Lalique glass.
Both Wealleans and Reeves recall the trepidation they felt when Grant – whose fearsome reputation was backed up by his hulking frame (he was 23 stone by the time he was 23 and had been a wrestler and bouncer in his time) – finally viewed the job.
//Peter Grant on the road with Led Zep 1974. Pic: Bob Gruen//
“I opened the door and it may be a cliché, but he literally blotted out the sun,” laughs Wealleans. Reeves, meanwhile, had prudently put some champagne on ice. “He spent around five minutes looking around, not saying a word,” says Reeves.”Then he pronounced. ‘I gotta say Paul…it’s fucking amazing!’ We got the champagne out and a couple of grams of coke and everything was alright!”
//Interior, Mr Freedom, 20 Kensington Church Street, London W8, 1971. Photo: Rex.//
A fascinating insight into the creation of Mr Freedom in Kensington – the most innovative boutique in rock fashion history – is afforded by a folio featured in Paul Reeves’ forthcoming The Best of British Design at Sotheby’s, which also includes contributions from Jimmy Page and Gary Kemp.
Created by interiors architect Jon Wealleans, the working drawings – which date from late 1970 – are populated with designs for giant chrome coat hangers (on which were positioned regular size wire coat hangers), a large set of upholstered false teeth which opened into an armchair, interlocking seats shaped as jigsaw puzzle pieces which interlocked as seats, winged shoes designed by Jim O’Connor and Pamla Motown which were worn by Elton John and are now part of the V&A permanent collection, and a huge fibre glass Statue Of Liberty light fitting made by John Dove.
//Interior, Mr Freedom, 20 Kensington Church Street, London W8, 1971. Photo: Rex.//
//Working drawings + commission letter, 1970, Jon Wealleans.//
With seats and cushions in the shapes of over-sized Licorice Allsorts, there was much, much more besides – including the bordering-on-insane companion restaurant Mr Feed’em in the basement which featured food dyed in unusual colours: green mashed potatoes with mauve sausages and orange ketchup, anybody?
The folio, which has a reserve of £5,000-£8,000, also underlines the headline-grabbing ambition and sheer chutzpah of Mr Freedom’s brilliant boss Tommy Roberts, his partner Trevor Myles and backer John Paul of I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet.
Roberts and Myles had spent the previous18 months turning British fashion away from hippie in favour of a pop-art aesthetic at 430 King’s Road, emphasising playfulness and Americana with repeated Disney prints, stars and glitter on colourful dungarees, knitwear, tees and separates. They had also assembled around them the cream of young British design talent, including Motown and O’Connor, Diane Crawshaw and Dinah Adams, the Doves and others, with custom from Mick Jagger, Elton John, Twiggy and Peter Sellers.
//Left: At Mr Freedom Kensington, 1971. Rex. Right: Rebecca Ward in trompe de l'oeil outfit by the jukebox. Topham Picturepoint.//
//Media coverage of the shop opening, December 1970.//
Then the opportunity came to take over the entirety of 20 Kensington Church Street, a dilapidated building containing four floors and a basement next door to Dino’s coffee bar in the west London neighbourhood.
As Roberts notes in THE LOOK, their imaginations went into overdrive at this point (the fit out cost a then-staggering £35,000).
“It was totally different, like comic land,” he says. “The bones of the idea had been in Chelsea so we just worked them up because I had a bigger canvas. I had wonderful Catholic bikers’ jackets with the saints embroidered into the leather on the front and St Francis Of Assissi on the back, a rock & roll suit with semi-quavers stitched all over it. Real mad ideas.”And Wealleans was the perfect choice to realise the dream, having studied architecture and worked in the offices of Building Design Partnership with Norman Foster and Max Glendinning before spending three years in America.
“I’d written a thesis called Dolce Vita Design & The Super Sensualists; the big three were Ettorre Sottsass (who died last month), Joe Colombo and the architectural group Archizoom,” he says. “This Italian influence colliding with Captain Marvel was to provide the prevailing aesthetic for Mr Freedom.”
Wealleans’ wife Jane had already designed for Roberts, whose influence on British retailing isn’t to be underestimated. “It was always the intention that Mr Freedom would offer a whole range of merchandise including furniture, so it effectively became the first ‘lifestyle’ fashion shop, thanks entirely to the foresight and vision of Tommy Roberts,” confirms Wealleans.
“The idea was quickly emulated by Biba and, among others, Fiorucci.My role was to design the environment and provide a high-speed production range of objects and furniture, often working alongside the fashion designers who occupied a chaotic rabbit warren of rooms above the main shop area.
“Cost control was a neglected issue. Practical and management issues were entirely overlooked. The shop was an immediate and enormous success and we quickly followed it up with Mr Feed’em.”
//Design magazine feature on Mr Feed'Em, May 1971. Photos: Tim Street-Porter.//
Mr Feed’em waiters wore US gas-station boiler suits and the waitresses sported hamburger-printed mini skirts and 40s head scarves. Fake flies featured in the soup, while cakes were baked in the shape of pairs of Levi’s. The napkins depicted Mae West as the Statue Of Liberty.
The walls of the shop were decorated by Mediocre Murals (Les Coleman and Jeff Edwards), George Hardie of Nicholas Thirkell Associates was the principal graphic designer, and a steady stream of ideas came from Roberts himself.
“Tommy’s boardroom table was a pinball machine. As a fashion statement, Mr Freedom provided an interesting punctuation mark between the demise of the Hippie/Dandy look exemplified by Hung On You and Granny Takes A Trip and the emergence of Glam Rock/Androgynous.”
Yet the shop lasted just over a year; Myles exited quickly and moved back to 430 King’s Road to open Paradise Garage (which was later taken over by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood) and Roberts was forced to call in the receivers in March 1972; the cost of running a factory in south London proved too much.
Undaunted, he continued pioneering, becoming the first fashion retailer to open in Covent Garden with his shop City Lights Studio where he served customers such as David Bowie with the suit he wears on the back cover of Pin-Ups.
“The increased use of glitter, sequins and fake fur effectively morphed Mr Freedom into glam rock,” says Wealleans, who believes City Lights “entirely and prematurely predicted punk fashion”.
Given the drab nature of contemporary fashion retailing in most Western cities – in THE LOOK’s opinion only a handful of stores, such as Pokit , Shop At Maison Bertaux and Colette, are carrying the torch – the very idea of Mr Freedom seems extraordinary.Still, as Wealleans says: “There were giants in those days.”
Tommy Roberts has remained at the cultural cutting-edge since City Lights Studio; his shops Practical Styling and Tom-Tom were era-defining in the 70s, 80s and 90s and though largely retired he can still sometimes be found at Two Columbia Road, which is run by son Keith.
A consultant architect and designer, Jon Wealleans is an active artist represented by Francis Kyle Gallery and is occasionally mentioned by his friend Will Self.
Among Trevor Myles’ current activities is the reinvention of the Johnsons’ label LaRocka! as a t-shirt brand.
Until recently 20 Kensington Church Street was bar/nightclub Dunes; this month it took the name of its street address as part of a relaunch.
COPYRIGHT: Text: All text copyright Paul Gorman/THE LOOK. Images: Reasonable effort has been made to trace copyright holders. If there are omissions please alert us. Powered by WordPress and the QPwilm! theme. Design by Caz Facey. Images hosted by Flickr.