Archive for the 40s category

Fabulous new David Bowie book is crammed with delights

//David Bowie wears John Stephen on a modeling assignment with Jan De Souza in Kingly Street W1 for Fabulous 208, 1965. Photo: Fiona Adams//


//Up on the roof, central London 1967. Photo: Kenneth Pitt. //


//Ziggy Stardust’s first photo call, 1972. Photo: Brian Ward/David Bowie Archive.//

Any Day Now, the new book about David Bowie’s London life between 1947 and 1974, is hands-down the music book publishing sensation of the year.

Any Day Now Cover_smaller

And THE LOOK has been granted exclusive access to the new book, which has been written and compiled by Bowie expert Kevin Cann and is out next month.

Any Day Now’s 320-plus pages are crammed with delights both factual and visual, charting Bowie from his birth, background and childhood interests in music, design and art through to his beginnings in local beat groups and eventual world-beating success.


//In Paddington Street Gardens, central London, 1969. The bag was designed by Alan Mair of The Beatstalkers (and later The Only Ones). Photo: Kenneth Pitt.//


//Rocking the Keith Relf look with The Manish Boys, 1965. Photo: Bob Solly//

22. Wedding1 copy

//With Angie (Angela Barnett) outside Bromley register office on their wedding day, March 20, 1970. The couple wore clothes bought the previous day at Kensington Market. Bowie’s Courrèges belt was a gift from friend Calvin Mark Lee. Photo: Kentish Times.//

As a document of the most important image-maker of our times, it is unparalleled, reflecting Cann’s decades-long absorption in his subject and access to original sources and important material.


//In Mr Fish mandress on the cover of Curious magazine with Freddie Buretti, May 1971.//

Any Day Now is a must for fans of music and fashion, detailing Bowie’s stylistic development as he moved through r&b and mod via folkie and hippie to glam androgyny, drawing on such touchstones of THE LOOK as John Stephen, Dandie Fashions, Kensington Market, Mr Fish, Freddie Buretti, City Lights Studio and Kansai Yamamoto.

David Bowie. 1968

//At producer Tony Visconti’s apartment in Lexham Gardens, west London, 1968. Photo: Ray Stevenson.//

There is a fascinating foreword written by Kenneth Pitt, who managed Bowie between 1967 and 1970, and contributions from a cast of hundreds, including close friends and fellow musicians.


//Any Day Now Limited Edition.//

A special limited edition of 475 copies is also being published in hardback, numbered and signed in black cloth-bound clam-shell cases with reproductions of tickets, posters and memorabilia. Each also contains a print of a rare colour photo taken of Bowie in 1967 by Gerald Fearnley (who has signed them).


//Any Day Now Limited Edition with signed Gerard Fearnley photograph.//

To find out more and order copies of the limited edition, click here.

Goodbye Heart Vintage

On the heels of THE LOOK’s post about the Balenciaga and Urban Outfitters parrot jackets comes news of an East West original for sale at new vintage site Goodbye Heart.


Launched recently by collector David Watkins and his ad copywriter wife Amanda Hughes-Watkins, San Francisco-based Goodbye Heart majors in leather garments from such historic outlets as North Beach Leather,  Oshwahkon and Vanson as well as East West.


//Military boots with BF Goodrich soles: $95/East West parrot jacket: $2,750// 

The parrot jacket is in leather and suede in shades of pale blue, green and brown tan and of a typically small size for the period: the chest measurement armpit to armpit is 18″, as is the length from collar to bottom.

Goodbye Heart features clothes from the 1910s onward, including such brands as Levi’s Big E, Louis Vuitton and Schott, as well as homeware.

Visit Goodbye Heart here.   

Dial F For Fake? Punk clothes underperform at Christie’s

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// 

The next stop is Christie’s Punk/Rock sale in NYC on November 24.

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.

//Five ties: $2,000-$3,000/Cowboys shirt: $1,000-$1,500//

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.

LA Vintage: Six of the best

The shift from good, honest thrift, good will, charity, second-hand and dead-stock clothing into the catch-all “vintage” has to be one of the most depressing facets of contemporary style.  

//THE LOOK’s top six from LA//  

Formerly prime sources in London are too self-conscious while New York stores have become pretentious, overpriced and overly reverential.

$1500 for some nasty Rive Gauche or an Abigail’s Party Ossie Clark For Radley dress? 

We don’t think so.

It’s heartening to report that a few stores in Los Angeles, at least, have kept the faith, and to celebrate the publication of JB Taylor‘s excellent new book Vintage LA THE LOOK today digs out half a dozen of our top purchases from second-hand and thrift stores there.

1. 60s cardigan. Purchased 1991. Price: $25 from American Rag Cie, 150 S. La Brea, LA CA 90036.

2. 40s Georgette printed dress. Purchased 2008. Price: $30 from Ozzie Dots 4637 Hollywood Blvd LA CA 90027.

3. 60s shoes. Purchased: 1995. Price: $45 from Re-Mix 7065 1/2, Beverly Blvd, LA CA 90036.

4. Brown 60s quilted leather jacket. Purchased: 2002. Price: $65 from Ozzie Dots.

5. 70s scarf. Purchased 2008. Price: $10 from Aardvark’s,  85 Market Street, LA CA 90291.

6. Waisted 50s jacket. Purchased 2008. Price: $16 from Ozzie Dots.  

Keeping it contemporary

Last night’s event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Contemporary Wardrobe proved a massive success.

 //Hayley in Mary Quant and Robbie in Mark Powell sharkskin suit// 

With an exhibition of rebel style from down the ages and young models decked out in fantastic items from the 15,000-strong archive, owner Roger K. Burton kept the house agog with his adventures in music and fashion.

//Alice in Woodstock print trouser suit and Ashley in three piece Miss Mouse//  

//Neo-Edwardian and Teddy Boy style//

The catwalk show was MC-ed by CW associate Guy Sangster Adams using his mellifluous tones in full BBC announcer mode.

//Watching the show: Liz and Terry De Havilland, Marian Buckley, Gordon Richardson//

The audience made for a wonderfully wild and varied assortment, from fellow fashion bloggers Marian Buckley and Disney Roller Girl to shoe legends Terry and Liz De Havilland, by way of pink-locked Johnny Deluxe, Topman creative director Gordon Richardson.

//Sarah Lee, Jasmine Cabrera and (far left) Johnny Deluxe Pic: Lektrogirl//

And that’s not all: also paying attention were a stellar cast of retailers and designers Lloyd JohnsonJohn and Molly DovePeter GoldingMax Karie, Mark Powell, Jasmine Cabrera, Derek Harris of Lewis Leathers, photographer Sarah Lee, performer El Vez, mod/soul/hippie legend Jeff Dexter, DJ/gal about town Lektrogirl and many many more.

//Roger informs and enlightens. Pic: Lektrogirl// 

//Mark Powell with Robbie// 

//Early 60s Beat Girl skeleton Sloppy Joe// 

//Getting it on: Jeff Dexter and Paul Gorman//

You are invited: Join us on May 22

If you’re in London or thereabouts on May 22 please be our guests and come along to THE LOOK’s latest event: author Paul Gorman in conversation with fashion archivist, boutique designer, director and all-round rockin’ and rollin’ Renaissance man Roger K Burton.


Taking place at the wonderful Horse Hospital, kick-off is at 7.30pm, and the event will comprise:

• This month’s Contemporary Wardrobe exhibition featuring an unrivalled selection of original rebel style, including neo-Edwardian, Beatnik and Teddy boy and girl suits from the 50s, hippie, mod and rocker gear from the 60s and the finest collection of original punk clothes from the 70s – as picked out by Roger from his archive of 15,000 individual items. 

• A fashion show – featuring real live young people! And be warned: they’ll be wearing some crazy and out-there fashions from down the years! 

//Kate Moss in CW by Craig McDean// 

• A soundtrack of the greatest rebel sounds from down the years. Listen out for My Monster In Black Tights!! 

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//David Bowie in Contemporary Wardrobe in Jazzin’ For Blue Jean 1984//  

• Roger and Paul talking through Roger’s adventures in rock and pop fashion, from Midlands Mod in the 60s, Acme Attractions, SEX, PX and Quadrophenia in the 70s, World’s End, Nostalgia Of Mud, videos and Absolute Beginners in the 80s, high end commercials, fashion shoots with the likes of Kate Moss, and more videos in the 90s, to the present day position of the Horse Hospital as London’s greatest centre for alternative and cutting edge arts. 

//Westwood and McLaren (centre): In Burton’s must-see Vive Le Punk// 

• We’ll also be discussing this month’s screening of Roger’s  startling new movie Vive le Punk which features the only filmed interview with Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood about their respective roles in one of the key creative partnerships of the 20th Century.

It’s being shown repeatedly throughout May; we urge you to catch it while you can.Do come along on the 22 – it’s gonna be fun.

Already we know of many faces and movers and shakers from rock and pop fashion who are going to rock up, so, as Kenneth Williams might say,  stop messing about and book now at: or drop us a line here. 

See you on the night. 

Anarchy to Kanye: 30 years of Contemporary Wardrobe

In May THE LOOK is taking part in Be Reasonable Demand The Impossible! – Contemporary Wardrobe’s 30th anniversary celebration of events which includes the world premiere of the only known footage of designers Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood discussing their ground-breaking work together.

//The Horse Hospital: “Shaking up pop culture”//

Based at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, London, the Contemporary Wardrobe Collection consists of more than 15,000 pieces featuring some of the most important and rarest clothing items since the 40s.

//Roger K. Burton and Jack English, 1978. Pic: Roger K. Burton//

Contemporary Wardrobe mainman Roger K.Burton will be interviewed on May 22 by THE LOOK author Paul Gorman as part of a special night at the Horse Hospital – the event is a must for all fans of style and pop culture as well as fashion, art and design students.

As detailed in THE LOOK, Roger is a significant figure in post-war fashion: he started at the cutting edge of the Midlands mod scene in the 60s and pioneered collecting and dealing in the early 70s to the likes of Acme Attractions and SEX.

It was Roger, for example, who discovered the cache of Wemblex shirts which became the canvas onto which McLaren & Westwood created their notorious Anarchy shirts.

//1976: Simon Barker in Anarchy shirt with Marco Pirroni and Sue Catwoman. Pic: Sheila Rock//

He and his partner Rick Rogers teamed with BOY’s Steph Raynor and Helen Robinson in autumn 1978 to open PX in James Street, Covent Garden, the shop which set the agenda for military and futuristic style among the New Romantic movement: those who worked there include Steve StrangeJay Strongman and Princess Julia.

//PX interior, 1978. Pic: Roger K. Burton//

That same year Burton and Jack English formed Contemporary Wardrobe by retaining the giant collection of clothing they had supplied to The Who’s movie Quadrophenia.

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//Quadrophenia: “We are the mods!”//

In 1980 Burton designed McLaren & Westwood’s shop World’s End, which retains his work to this day, and a couple of years later realised the duo’s “primitive, paganistic” brief for the deliciously deranged Nostalgia Of Mud, which opened in premises in St Christopher’s Place, just off Oxford Street, in March 1982. This closed the following year after complaints over the scaffolding, tarpaulin and bubbling “lava” pit (as well as the behaviour of the staff).

//Nostalgia Of Mud exterior 1982. Pic: Roger K. Burton//

Under Burton – who also operated vintage menswear outlet Dobbs & Partners in South Molton Street – Contemporary Wardrobe supplied and styled such movies as Chariots Of Fire, Absolute Beginners and Sid & Nancy.

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//Bowie et al in Contemporary Wardrobe,  Absolute Beginners 1985//

And it’s been non-stop ever since, with Contemporary Wardrobe fashions from such stores as Mr FreedomBiba and Seditionaries and lines from Yves Saint Laurent, Dior and Givenchy featuring in videos by the likes of Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams and Kanye West.

//Poster from the 1993 exhibition//

The opening at the Horse Hospital in 1993 was inaugurated by the exhibition Vive Le Punk with unbelievably rare items from the design partnership of McLaren & Westwood, who both turned up for the opening night.This, their first meeting in 10 years, was caught on film and will be screened in May as part of a fascinating and previously unseen documentary also called Vive Le Punk.

//Westwood & McLaren 1971. Pic: David Parkinson//

“To the best of our knowledge this is the only time that they have been filmed together discussing their legacy,” says Roger.

With a private view on May 2 Be Reasonable Demand The Impossible! runs from May 3 to May 31.

Roger will be in conversation with Paul Gorman from 7.30pm on Thursday May 22 as part of THE LOOK’s night which includes music, rare footage, images and original clothing from the CW archive.

Tickets and more details are available from or on +44 (0)20 833 3644.

Exclusive unpublished extract: “We wanted to shock people”

With the V&A’s Golden Age Of Couture exhibition set to close this weekend, we felt it timely to feature this extract which didn’t appear in THE LOOK. It examines Christian Dior’s extraordinary post-war achievements and how they in turn sparked Mary Quant’s founding of the world’s first independent fashion boutique.

Aristocratic aesthetes and East End dandies; modernists reacting against the goofy trad boom and the homogenisation of rock ‘n’ roll; Mary Quant and her mini-skirt; Anello & Davide and their Chelsea boots – all these and many more played their part in the pop and fashion revolution which became Swinging London.

And revolution it was, as the snooty fashion business was rocked on its heels just as the global entertainment industry had been by Beatlemania and the British Invasion.

Yet the seeds had been sewn a decade before Vogue editor Diana Vreeland uttered the words in the Telegraph Weekend magazine in the spring of 1965 which gave name to the phenomenon: “London is the most swinging city in the world at the moment.”

By the mid 50s the traditional fashion trade had assimilated the effects of the upheaval wrought in the immediate post-war years by Christian Dior and the hour-glass silhouette of his New Look for such clients as Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth.

Launched in 1947, the New Look celebrated the female form after the long years of the Second World War. However, it didn’t so much liberate women as set them back on the pre-war pedastal.

Dior’s innovation was not just in design; in business terms he shook up the fashion trade by going head-to-head with the ancien regime of Paris couture, which had consisted for more than a century of tiny ateliers supplying private clients.

Backed by the deep pockets of entrepreneur Marcel Boussac, Dior’s luxuriant new style appealed first to war-torn France and then the rest of the western world. It is said King George V forbade his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret from wearing the New Look because it would set a bad example during rationing.

New Look

With 85 employees, Dior snapped up huge US accounts for his diverse range which extended beyond clothing into fragrances and hosiery. All the while he made bold statements such as naming a suit after philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (though it should be noted that this didn’t sell).

By the mid-50s, Dior accounted for 50% of France’s international couture sales, and he and the rest of the French fashion new wave – such as his former assistant Pierre Cardin, Pierre Balmain, Cristobal Balenciaga, Gabrielle Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent – constituted a new fashion hierarchy ripe for overthrow. Apart from Dior, who launched his Young Collection in the US in 1957, the fashion rulers had by and large failed to address the needs of the booming – and popular music-infused – teenage market.

There were, however, some forward thinkers. In 1955, the year after Jacques Fath’s death, his couture house opened a boutique on the ground floor of its premises.

“Gallerie Lafayette’s top fashion buyer Catherine de Poulignac was brought in to give the business a revamp,” says Vanessa Denza, who worked at the Fath boutique as a salesgirl for a spell.

“We only had one fitting per day in contrast to the couture house where it was all about fittings. There everyone had to queue up and the press would be fighting to find out what was new as the manufacturers paid for the privilege of attending shows.”

The interior of the Jacques Fath boutique was not painted in the usual creamy hues of the ateliers, but grey with modern lighting fixtures illuminating off-the-peg separates. Yet Fath’s store was a lone voice in Paris, and, by the time of Dior’s sudden death in 1957 – suffering a fatal heart attack after choking on a fishbone at a health spa – there was a grass-roots rebellion already being nurtured across the English Channel in, of all places, down-at-heel, Bohemian Chelsea.

Here a colourful group of upper class dandies emerged from the ashes of what had been dubbed “The Chelsea Set”: bright young things who descended on London from colleges at Oxford and Cambridge in pursuit of pleasure.

The Chelsea Set’s highest-profile couple were Mary Quant and her husband Alexander Plunket Green. They met in the early 50s at Goldsmith’s College Of Art in south east London, where Plunket (as he was known) became notorious for his style of dress: shantung pyjama tops and his mother’s slim-fit trousers. In her book Quant by Quant, the designer recalls how she would dress in an equally sensational fashion: a very short gingham skirt, black poplin shirt, knee socks and sandals. So outlandish was their dress sense that they would provoke cries in the streets of: “God this modern youth!”.

Mary Quant paperback

With their lawyer partner Archie McNair, the pair opened what is reckoned to be the world’s first independent boutique, Bazaar, at 138a King’s Road, in November 1955. On the ground floor of the premises next door to the Markham, with their jazz club/restaurant Alexander’s in the basement, the shop became an immediate hit, selling out its initial run of stock within a matter of days.

“Mary Quant would give the New Workers their cockney-Chanel non-uniform uniform at a price the suddenly eager shoppers thronging the high street couldn’t resist,” wrote one-time Quant assistant Andrew Loog Oldham.

Quant was open to new ideas and used unusual methods of window dressing, included long-legged mannequins in gawky poses, while the shop assistants, including George Melly’s wife Diana, were glamorous and liberated young females. Another employee of Quant’s was Kiki Byrne, who went on to open the influential Glass & Black along the King’s Road, selling simple black shift dresses.

“We wanted to shock people,” said Quant. “The King’s Road is different, and we wanted Bazaar to become a sort of Chelsea establishment. We wanted everyone to like the shop…and appeal to husbands and boyfriends, as well as to the birds.”

Bazaar shop in Chelsea

Yet there was purpose behind the frippery. “For the first time fashion came from below,” said Quant years later. “Stylish, sharp and disposable, to show that you earned it all yourself.”

In 1958 Quant raised the hemline of her skirts above the knee, continuing the trend initiated by Balenciaga seven years earlier, when the Spanish iconoclast had created the semi-fitted free-form dress by loosening the waist. In 1955 he came up with a looser tunic and in 1957 with the so-called “sack”. It was a masterstroke: by allowing the dress to fall loosely from the shoulder, hemlines could be raised without affecting the proportion of the line.

Find out more about The Golden Age Of Couture.