Thanks are due to Derek Harris of Lewis Leathers for scans from 80s Japanese magazine London Ni Ikitai (I Want To Go To London) featuring the Johnson’s stores in Kensington Market and at 406 King’s Road, World’s End.
Archive for the 80s category
Celia Birtwell’s discreet yet substantial contribution to British fashion, interiors and art has been overlooked for decades. This autumn’s publication of a book penned by the designer with Dominic Lutyens is a welcome addition to THE LOOK library, writes Mrs G.
Following their contribution of images of treasured clothes acquired from 80s London boutiques Demob and Modern Classics, Salv and Sue Macasil have dug out three more extraordinary garments by the key designer at both shops, Willie (these days Will) Brown.
Among them is a green and yellow donkey jacket bought at Jon Baker’s store Axiom. “It’s not labelled but is clearly a Willie Brown design; in fact I once saw the man himself wearing one,” says Salv.
Prompted by the appearance of Anello & Davide’s Winged Western boots in a recent post, Marco Pirroni has sent these photos of three pairs he acquired in the late 70s and early 80s.
“These are the boots as worn by Johnny Kidd, Charles Hawtrey in Carry On Cowboy and me,” says Pirroni. “I had my first pair – the pink and black ones – made for me by Anello’s in 1978 and the others in 1980/81.”
Thanks to THE LOOK follower Salv Macasil for sending us this visual feast: images of five key pieces of clothing from the historically important London boutiques Demob and Modern Classics.
In very good condition, the garments convey many stories about the development of the particularly British aesthetic which thrives today at Will Brown’s Old Town Clothing.
Demob’s most popular design was the much emulated plaid-lined, hooded checker-cab strip anorak, notably worn by Paul Weller in the promo clip for The Style Council’s 1984 hit Shout To The Top.
Vivienne Westwood has asserted her rights to the marks Let It Rock, Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die and Worlds End (the names of the shop at 430 King’s Road operated by Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in 1971-72, 1973-74 and 1980 to date respectively).
This is significant. While Worlds End has clearly been Westwood’s since she split with the late McLaren in 1984, they adopted a laissez-faire attitude to enforcing their intellectual property rights to the shop names and dozens of designs created during the 13-year partnership which also included the incarnations of 430 as SEX (1974-76) and Seditionaries (1976-80).
The first edition of THE LOOK was launched with a party at Astral, Soho, in March 2001.
It was packed to the gills with media, well-wishers and many of the contributors.
Cover stars Pippa + James performed as Shopgirl and the DJs represented different eras covered by the book: Jeff Dexter played his mid-60s Tiles set; Don Letts + Dan Donovan shook the walls with the sounds Don played at The Roxy in 77; Jay Strongman span the early 80s music from The Dirtbox; and Count Indigo the 90s loungecore scene centred on his Madame Jo-Jo’s club Indigo.
A pictorial tracking the incarnations of 430 King’s Road since the early 60s has been posted on my new blog.
Apologies for yesterday’s interregnum; normal service is resumed and, by way of making amends, here are a couple of incredible postcards from THE LOOK archive.
The Fiorucci postcard (credited to Eric Shemilt Design Ltd) was contributed by the world’s best gal Mrs G and looks as though it dates from the early to mid-80s, when the label was in its pomp.
This was officially unveiled at McLaren & Westwood’s first catwalk show, at Olympia on March 31 1981, though many elements had been on sale since Worlds End opened at 430 Kings Road the previous autumn, which is when Sui acquired her garments.
And just for THE LOOK, she has dug out a scrapbook with a photo resplendent in the ensemble – including silk jacket, “squiggle” top and scarf – at a Hallowe’en party held by actor Nicolas Cage.
Final preparations are being made to John Simons’ new shop at 46 Chiltern Street, in the simpa area of London’s West End wedged between Baker Street and Marylebone High Street.
The sign has yet to be erected and there are many finishing touches to be made but already the space is shaping up to present a unique offer. “I’m juxtaposing the clothes with my abiding interests in art and design over many years,” says Simons.
Simons has long been at the forefront of the field, with such rich associations as Cecil Gee in the 50s, The Ivy Shop in the 60s and 70s and J.Simons in Covent Garden for more than two decades up until February this year.
John Simons, Chiltern Street, London W1, November 30, 2010.
INSIDE JOHN SIMONS’ NEW STORE: “A MODERNIST’S DREAM”
[This was originally posted on December 7,2010]
Tomorrow see the opening of John Simons’ smart new retail outlet at 46 Chiltern Street, London W1.
These photographs were taken last week; much progress has been made since, but they should provide a flavour of the environment Simons and his team – including son Paul – are creating.
Formerly the site of a print shop, the premises have been transformed into a modernist’s dream, decorated with art, insignia, branding, furniture and design classics, some of which serve as fittings, such as the Penguin Donkey which will be used to display socks.
We wish Simons and his crew all the best in this new venture which returns this key figure to London’s style scene; next stop, apparently, is the online shop which follows soon.
Ahead of our exclusive on the fab Anna Sui book – written with Andrew Bolton of the NY Met’s Costume Institute featuring forewords by Jack White and Steven Meisel – here’s a tasty slice of rock design history Anna turned us on to a couple of months back.
This ad was shot in the legendary NYC boutique Betsy Bunky Nini, founded by Betsey Johnson, Anita Latour and Linda Mitchell in 1969 on 53rd Street, between Second and Third.
“The other fashion stores on this block included Norma Kamali, whose shop at the time was all patchwork velvet and snake skin, and Sweet Shop with clothing from London. For a while Johnny Thunders and Sylvain Sylvain (of the New York Dolls) sub-let Norma’s apartment on 53rd Street.”
As well as designing, BN&N imported European lines and also styled shoots: they “stage managed” the front cover of Dolls’ debut album.
When Johnson moved on to Alley Cat and then international success with her own label, Mitchell took over B&NN and shifted premises to 980 Lexington Avenue.
Read more about the original BN&N in Chapter 13 of THE LOOK – and look out for our exclusive on Anna’s new book: coming to this blog soon!
Demonised as the embodiment of indulged and out-of-control 80s youth, Ridley’s turn in the media spotlight was brief.
These days, it seems she runs a pole dancing school in LA.
View the “Wild Child” jacket on eBay here.
Participating in last weekend’s BBC Blast Fashion Festival at the V&A was… a blast. Along with workshops, makeovers and q&as and interviews with Lou Dalton, Hannah Marshall and Erin O’Connor, I gave a presentation based around The Look: Adventures In Rock & Pop Fashion.
In this I aimed to join the dots between Elvis in the early 50s, The Beatles, Biba and Granny Takes A Trip in the 60s, through Bowie and McLaren & Westwood in the 70s and 80s and the rise of MTV to the music/fashion link-ups of today, including Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green, Pixie Lott‘s ranges for Lipsy, and Lily Allen’s new venture Lucy In Disguise.
It seemed to go down well; I was really impressed with the number of teenagers who knew and owned copies of The Look.
The event also gave me an opportunity to plug faves such as Peggy Noland + Ssion and heartsrevolution. Who’s’s to know whether the audience members will take to heart the “Choose your own revolution” message but those I spoke to afterwards were certainly sussed to the fact that the high street is a dead-end.
Last year’s Youtube posting of this excerpt from Greg Macainsh’s 1974 film about sharpies coincided with a revival of interest in the tough and stylish Australian music/fashion youth cult which sprang from Melbourne’s blue collar suburbs.
Tadhg Taylor’s definitive book Top Fellas tracks the “two-fisted, two-decade” history of sharp from its emergence (parallel to mod in the UK) through successive and distinctive Oz responses to skinhead, glam and punk.
The roots of sharp lie in the influx of European immigrants in Australia in the early 60s. “Randy” says: “I came to Adelaide from England in 1959. I became a mod when I was in high school. I’d say in a class of thirty about twenty five would’ve been British, working class from the North and the Midlands. Every three weeks a new boatload of immigrants would arrive and the kids would tell us about the latest fashions and bands. Consequently we were never that far behind what was happening in England.”
Taylor adds: “British mod kids that quit Adelaide for Melbourne were a key influence on the birth of sharp.”
With first-hand testimony from former sharps and brushes (girls) linked by his lively text, Taylor’s book emphasises the importance of clothes to these hard-nuts.
Rod of The Oakleigh Boys (and son), Melbourne, 1969.
“A lot of blokes dressed real fancy, suits with short European jackets and velvet collars, but they weren’t mods and they were rough as guts working class,” says “Martin” about the styles of the mid 60s.
According to Taylor, the “killer elite” were the Top Fellas: “To be a Top Fella you had to be handy in a blue (fight), hell on the dance floor, cocksure with a brush and dapper as all get-out.”
Angry Anderson, later of Rose Tattoo, recalls “twin-sets were huge, the matching Crest knit (jersey knit) and cardigan – maroon, silver-grey, royal blue or chocolate brown. I remember guys who’d only wear one colour or had complete outfits in one colour. In recent years I’ve tried to re-adopt the look but it’s very hard to find a twin-set for a guy! I went into storage and the only items of clothing I had left was my Bokka coat, three-quarter length, flap pockets, hound’s-tooth black, white and grey. I can barely get it on.”
Oak Park Boot Boys, Middle Brighton Station, 1973.
Sharp boy and girl, central Melbourne, 1967.
By the early 70s tattoos and earrings (left ear only) were de rigeur, as were Staggers jeans (flared but snug on the hip), singlets, fluffy moccasins, treads (sandals with bright-coloured suede uppers with soles cut from car tyres) and the short-on-top, rat’s-tails-at-the-back haircut.
The most significant garment was the Conny – a tight-fit cardigan designed by Mr Conti, a Greek clothier in Thornbury (just across the street from the site of Taylor and his wife’s second-hand bookshop Fully Booked).
“Connys came in a variety of styles, some had thin pocket flaps on each side of the chest, most had five buttons and stripes,” writes Taylor. “They always had a small belt buttoned at the base of the back, same size as the pocket flaps, about three inches long and one inch wide. Pretty soon kids started bringing in their own designs, sparing no expense to wow their mates with new patterns and colour combinations.”
“Chris”, one of The Camberwell Junction Boys in 1970 , says: “We got Cuban-heeled shoes made at Venus, Kosmanos and Acropolis. The cardigan thing carried on…we mostly wore jeans, with a Crest knit or a Penguin. The girls wore pastel coloured ‘Elta’ cardigans made by an old lady with buttons shaped like bunnies. They also wore strap-on school shoes and later clogs.”
While Slade and Bowie were accepted by the early 70s sharps, they revered the homegrown hard-rock played by Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, Skyhooks (formed by Macainsh), Rose Tattoo, and in particular, The Coloured Balls.
That band’s charismatic leader was the late lamented Lobby Loyd. His 60s band The Purple Hearts had attracted the first wave of sharpies: “I started noticing all these strange people. I’d never seen anything like them, a distinct style. They had short hair and wore baggy trousers and cardigans. The girls wore knee-length pleated skirts, twin-sets and pearls. They were incredible to play to and had their own way of dancing.”
The MC5-inspired The Coloured Balls played long work-outs such as God (the soundtrack in the clip from Macainsh’s film). “The sharps would do dance routines and to watch it you’d think you were at the New York Metropolitan watching some bizarre modern ballet,” said Loyd.
Chris O’Hooligan and The Camberwell Junction Boys, 1970.
West Side and Melbourne sharps, St Kilda football match, 1978.
Sharp fizzled out in the early 80s due to a variety of factors, not least the increasing usage of guns to settle scores. The last big shout is adjudged to have been AC/DC’s homecoming concert at Melbourne’s Myer Music Bowl on the Back In Black 1981 tour.
By all accounts it was mayhem. “Every sharp in Melbourne would’ve been there, they went berserk, smashed all the trains and trams, pulled the cops off their horses, a riot,” says “Chris”. “I got smacked in the mouth and ran for my life. By this stage I was into punk, the ballroom, speed, to me these kids with their moccasins and Bon Scott RIP t-shirts, they weren’t sharpies, they were just headbangers.”
Now sharp is back.
This summer an exhibition dedicated to the cult was held at Melbourne’s Kustom Lane Gallery, while Chane Chane – a contributor to Taylor’s book whose glam-punk band La Femme is seen as the great lost sharpie act – leads the City Sharps.
Copies of Top Fellas: The Story Of Melbourne’s Sharpie Cult are available here – the Custom Book Centre says that they’ll do a deal for international cost postage to be equal to Australia-only mail (so approximately half the usual freight charges).