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.
Archive for the 90s category
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.
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.
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.
To coincide with the publication of the Anna Sui book, today THE LOOK publishes an exclusive interview with the New York designer.
Sui has also granted us access to these gems from deep in her archive: sketches which resulted in early 80s stagewear for Siouxsie Sioux.
Sui developed her fascination for the dynamics of music and style early.
“I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit dreaming about the British invasion, The Beatles and The Stones,” she says.
“My first concert was MC5 and The Stooges in a park, then along came Glam Rock and I was smitten. It wasn’t just the band that dressed up, but the audience too! Alice Cooper was my favourite. Todd Haynes captured that excitement at the beginning of Velvet Goldmine.”
//Todd Haynes captures the excitement at 4.20.//
Sui’s family visited New York every summer. One year they took in the Biba boutique in Bergdorf Goodman. “I was astounded by the colour selection of cosmetics, boots, t-shirts and beautiful clothes; I’d never seen colours like that: Dusty teal, plum, prune, rose…
“I bought a teal t-shirt with billowy sleeves – like the blouse I had seen on Jean Shrimpton when she came to Detroit for a Yardley cosmetics appearance – and teal eye shadow.”
Sui graduated via the NYC punk scene to create a small collection “for rock stars as well people that went to rock concerts”, selling through department stores and Patricia Field‘s boutique on 8th Street.
In the early 80s Sui brought her “Rock and Roll Cowboy” range to London, when Siouxsie acquired the fringe jacket and skirt with faux-cowhide yoke.
While in London Sui caught Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood‘s Pirates collection. “I went to the launch party and the next day bought an entire outfit from Worlds End,” she recalls. “At this time Gene Krell had a clothing boutique in the back of a record store, also on 8th, at MacDougal. Gene bought my collection, as did Trash & Vaudeville.”
Sui’s customers have run the rock & roll gamut, and she retains a fan’s enthusiasm for the artefacts of rock fashion, as regular readers will know from her recent contribution to this site.
As an addendum to that, here is a charming card for Betsy Bunky & Nini from Sui’s personal collection:
Among Sui’s most prized possessions is a complete run of the Hearst Corporation’s short-lived late 60s pop culture magazine Eye. “It covered fashion, music and film with a poster most issues,” she says.
//Eye magazine, clockwise from top left: Aug 68; Sept 68; Oct 68; March 69.//
“This was a very different time when information traveled in a much slower way. Any glimpse of what was going on in London or a story about a rock star was precious and went a long way in your imagination.”
Sui also collects vintage Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes. “I missed it the first time around so I’m making up for it now. I like their earlier pieces and wear them a lot. I’ve also collected the subsequent collections for various retailers recently and Zandra has made me a dress in my favorite feather print.”
It is this enthusiam for the keynotes of fashion history which propels Sui into making the smart choices, especially when it comes to fabric selection, palette control and photographic collaboration, from her good friend Steven Meisel to the fantastic(al) Sarah Moon.
Sui’s post-modern appeal is outlined by Jack White (whose wife Karen Elson is a favourite model of the designer’s) in his foreword to Sui’s fully illustrated 288-page tome (which is launched in the UK next week).
“It’s not retro or emulation or re-creation or even false modernity,” White writes of Sui’s aesthetic. “It is a beauty that can exist in any era – past, present or future – a beauty that does not fall prey to the wrath of novelty.”
Buy your copy of Anna Sui’s new book 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).
Bit late I know, but here are some exclusive photos (courtesy of Chelsea Space director Donald Smith) from the recently staged discussion between Mick Jones and I as part of the Shards Of Utopia evening at Tate Britain.
//Listening to the introduction from the evening’s moderator Jen Thatcher//
Donald is the key connector: Mick’s Rock & Roll Public Library made a return for a concentrated period to Chelsea Space as part of the gallery’s fifth birthday celebrations, while my Barney Bubbles exhibition will be held there in September – more details soon.
Clad in an Adam Of London chalk-stripe two-piece suit against a backdrop of some of the paperbacks from his collection, Mick revealed he has two copies of my Barney book Reasons To Be Cheerful. This was flattery indeed; my admiration for the man goes back to The Rainbow in May 1977 and flourished through his B.A.D. years onto Carbon/Silicon and the recent and rightly acclaimed collaboration with Gorillaz.
//With Tate curator Cecilia Wee//
Shards Of Utopia was curated by writer/academic Cecilia Wee; Mick and I were down to natter about the sci-fi and conspiracy theory books in his library but we couldn’t let the opportunity go without discussing the importance of Malcolm McLaren.
My fascination for McLaren’s creation of brave new worlds, alternate spaces and artificial environments (see Let It Rock, Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die, SEX, Seditionaries, Worlds End and Nostalgia Of Mud) was enlarged upon by Mick’s formative memories of not only frequenting those shops but also witnessing the Sex Pistols live for the first time.
“You came away a different person from all those experiences,” he said. “Without Malcolm, none of us would be doing what we’re doing today. It’s so sad we won’t hear any more of his great ideas; not just the Pistols and the shops but things like Waltz Darling, the Surf Nazis film, Duck Rock…it was just endless with him.”
For a select few the evening ended with Mick accompanying himself at Chelsea Space on acoustic for a rendition of Should I Stay Or Should I Go?. Amid rumours of a B.A.D. reformation, the success with Gorillaz and the acceptance of the Rock & Roll Public Library as a living, breathing and evolving creative environment, the answer is a very definite: don’t be going anywhere soon, Mick. We loves ya.
Since the genius Shawn Stussy has recently re-entered the game with a great new blog and new label S/Double Studio (thanks for hipping us, Disney Rollergirl) it seems fitting we should play out with a fave of THE LOOK and one which inextricably links Mick to the International Stussy Tribe – B.A.D.’s The Globe:
The publication of this year’s best autobiography – Jah Wobble’s intriguing and inspirational Memoirs Of A Geezer – has coincided with John Lydon‘s decision to take Public Image Ltd on the road for the first time in 17 years (bassman Wobble and fellow founder members guitarist Keith Levene and drummer Jim Walker are not taking part).
What with Undercover’s recent PiL-inspired clothing range, it seems timely to celebrate the fantastic visuals delivered by Wobble to match the towering music he has created over the last three decades.
In this exclusive interview with Wobble, we also explore the importance of PiL photographer/design director Dennis Morris and a figure who has remained in the sartorial shadows for far too long: Kenny MacDonald.
//Jah Wobble, east London, 1981//
We also have a copy of Wobble’s book to give away; details below.
It’s well documented that Wobble – real name John Wardle – knew Lydon long before he joined the Sex Pistols when they were part of the teenage gang the Four Johns (including John Beverley aka Sid Vicious and John Gray) knocking around east and north London, following football and voraciously consuming music from Can to Hawkwind to Big Youth and beyond.
//Public Image Limited, summer 1978. Photos: Dennis Morris//
In 1974, the Johns paid a visit to hairdresser to the rock elite Keith Wainwright at his Chelsea salon Smile and had matching haircuts. “Round about that period me and my mate Ronny were wearing pleated Army trousers from Laurence Corner, the ones American GIs would wear,” says Wobble.
“It was a soul boy look, very smart with cap sleeve t-shirts and those half sandals/half shoes, not the plastic beach sandals which some people wore. They were horrible.”
With The Great Gatsby influence merging with the Glenn Miller revival, the teenage Wobble scoured the second hand clothes shops of Brick Lane on Sunday, picking up drape jacketed 30s and 40s suits.
//Jah Wobble, 80s//
Although he was at the epicentre of the punk storm, Wobble avoided adopting the fashions of the era. “It just wasn’t my cup of tea,” he says. “I’m from the East End. It’s in our DNA to sport the Terry Venables look: smart grey jackets with black polos, loafers and well-pressed trousers.”
When he was recruited into PiL, the original line-up jibbed at the punk uniform with an absurdist appearance. Lydon, for example, wore hand-painted shirts supplied by Mark Gray.
//Front and back cover, both sides of inner, First Issue, Public Image, Virgin Records, 1978. Photography and design concept: Dennis Morris//
For the sleeve of debut album First Issue, photographer Dennis Morris – who also created the band’s enduring logo and was responsible for the packaging for second album Metal Box – conceived a plan to present the four members as cover stars of various magazines.
Wobble is depicted as a Ronald Coleman-moustached matinee idol in a Vogue pastiche, wearing a blue pinstripe suit he’d had made for himself the previous year. “You didn’t get many 18-year-olds doing that,” he says. “It was perfect for that shoot. Dennis was very important to PiL. He understood the humour and chemistry of the band and bought in Terry Jones from Vogue to help style it, which made it proper.”
//12″ Metal container sleeve, Metal Box, PiL, Virgin Records, 1979//
Kenny MacDonald was another integral figure, producing tailored traditional style menswear with a twist long before it became the High Street norm. He was introduced into the circle by sometime PiL member Jeanette Lee, who had managed King’s Road store Acme Attractions with her then-boyfriend Don Letts.
//Letts and Lee, Acme Attractions, Kings Road, London, 1976. Photo: Sheila Rock//
“Kenny was very quietly spoken and thoughtful, a real London bloke,” says Wobble. “You would not get someone like him anywhere else in the world at that time. He was absolutely London.”
MacDonald was such a fan of classic movies that he put on screenings himself at the Kings Cross cinema The Scala.
“It was interesting because he was a black bloke into the public school look, making fake Jockey Club ties and talking in a upper-class accent,” says Wobble.
//Jah Wobble, 90s and 80s.//
“That was strange and somehow great. And he’d always do the unexpected. When everyone else was producing pegged trousers, he did a straight-legged, conservative cut. When everyone was wearing low, long thin lapels down to one button, quite 50s, he made a higher cut jacket, slightly uptight, very English.”
MacDonald’s flamboyant masterstroke may well have been the giant and brightly coloured Teddy Bear fur coats he made for the band; John Lydon sported the red version for a performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test.
Wobble’s was in green and yellow “like something worn by Flanagan & Allen. Oh man. I wore it with a Homburg from a local Jewish outfitter, a Daniel Hechter suit and walked into The Globe public house; they all started singing Underneath The Arches!”
Through the 80s Wobble checked for Daniel Hechter, buying suits two at a time from his Bond street shop, and into the 90s had a wide variety of suits made in the Far East, one in Versace logo material.
“It had this Roman element with the beautiful dark blues and gold,” he says. “And it was mixed with the East, which is very sensual; I love silk.
//Jah Wobble 2001//
These days he still has bespoke suits made in the Far East and persists in hunting down quality second hand clothes.”I’m like those older guys who chase young women: I play the percentage game. They’ll keep knocking on the door until they get one, though of course the law of diminishing returns kicks in.
“I keep going into second-hand shops and about one in every hundred visits pays off: you come across a fantastic, hardly-worn Armani suit or something.”
He is also a great fan of Missoni. “I have quite a few jackets; there’s something wonderful about their interwoven material, it’s kind of like the stuff Kenny was doing. Not predictable grey and black.”
//Chinese Dub tour, 2008.//
For last year’s acclaimed Chinese Dub live extravaganza, Wobble and his wife, the ghuzeng player Zi Lan Liao,blended authentic eastern styles and artistry into a visual tour-de-force to match the spectacular nature of the music.
And what about the stubble? Some might argue that Wobble’s refusal to shave was his most radical visual contribution of the post-punk era, given the silent new wave “no facial hair” diktat of the times. By doing so he predicted the 80s “designer stubble” fad by a good few years.
“Initially it came about through laziness, but then I started to use a trimmer,” he says. “In those days it was akin to luxuriant prairie grass. Now it’s like bramble. If you try and carry it off you look like old man Steptoe!”
To win a copy of Wobble’s most excellent book, mail your answer to the question below to : the email@example.com.
We’ll pick the lucky winner from a Homburg on November 24. Best of luck!
Q: Which item of clothing is also the title of a track on PiL’s album Metal Box?
Here are a selection of shots relating to the garment designers John and Moly Dove describe as “the Turin Shroud of punk rock fashion”.
//Back, Iggy Pop’s Wild Thing jacket,Wonder Workshop, 1972. Photo 2009: Long Gone John//
And here’s their story.
//Back cover, Raw Power, Iggy & The Stooges, CBS Records, 1973. Photography: Mick Rock//
We’ve featured elements here before about the design; John and Molly say they only five of these jackets.
//Front, Iggy Pop’s Wild Thing jacket, Wonder Workshop, 1973. Photo 2009: Long Gone John.
We hooked them up with Long Gone John, the current owner of the jacket worn by Iggy on the back cover of the magnificent Raw Power, and received chapter-and-verse on how he added it to his stunning collection of esoterica, strangeness & charm.
//Long Gone John. Photo: Orange County Weekly//
All that and running the greatest record label in the world – not bad, eh?
//Iggy Pop, 1972. Photo: Mick Rock//
Of course we are proud to have played our part. The short sleeved Wild Things produced by our label The Look Presents Wonder Workshop sold out via Topman in double quick time last year.
And we’re continuing to supply orders of the limited edition long-sleeved versions tailored to the original design with full and signed provenance, packaged in a hand-stamped and numbered box and the all-important “Fuck art let’s do the t-shirt” wrapping paper.
//Junior in Wild Thing Special Edition 2009//
These are priced £99 and available to order from: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meantime, get the lowdown on Iggy Pop’s jacket here.
The deceptively simple format – a photograph of the item faced by a brief description by Fujiwara – delivers a substantial amount of information about this retiring major domo of international street fashion and style; his likes and dislikes, his abiding fascination for, and deep knowledge of, design and product innovation, his interests in both tradition and adaptation.
Wrapped in a charming tracing paper slip cover, the book delivers a personal design odyssey, taking in such apparently disparate objects as Dayna Decker candles, Louis Vuitton teddy bears, Highwayman leather jackets as worn by Sid Vicious, the Kangol caps with which Fujiwara is strongly associated, a 100-year-old Hermes haute a croire bag, 80s Adidas Campus sneakers (as worn by the Beastie Boys) and Apple‘s AirMac Express base station.
“They’re selected because I’m using or wearing them currently,” says Fujiwara.
Many are customised not only with Fujiwara’s trademark double-lightning flash but also accoutrements: his Goyard Saint Louis tote bag is strung with a couple of pendants and the heels of the Visvim FBT moccasins are decorated with appropriate Native American-inspired badges created by jeweller and silversmith Goro Takahashi.
Such was my absorption that within minutes of being given the book I was snapped by Facehunter Yvan Rodic poring over it…
Personal Effects is available here.
Just a couple of snaps which illustrate the sense of occasion created by Pam Hogg at last night’s showcase of her S/S 10 collection in the On/Off space occupying the car park underneath Somerset House during London Fashion Week.
//Alice Dellal models, Duggie Fields watches//
With Pam’s signature geometric patterned Lycra designs being worn by everybody from Kanye West’s muse Amber Rose to Katie White of the Ting Tings, her deep musical roots and connections were underscored by the presence of Boy George, Roisin Murphy, Siouxsie Sue, Paul Simonon, and Bobby Gillespie along with such friends and fans from Duggie Fields and Philip Sallon to Kate Moross.
//Anouck Lepere in Pam Hogg bodysuit//
These photos – taken by Mrs G using her phone, she insists you know – hopefully convey the flavour of the event, which was accompanied by dry ice and a suitably bombastic soundtrack provided by the peerless Andrew Weatherall.
Viva La Hogg!
//Anita Pallenberg on the set of Barbarella, 1967//
One of THE LOOK’s most popular posts is based on an exclusive interview conducted a couple of years back with the high priestess of rock chic Anita Pallenberg.
The last month or so has seen an influx of new visitors and subscribers to our site, so here’s a refreshed and re-edited chance to appreciate this bewitching figure whose combination of innate style, fashion-savviness and earthy sexuality brought Continental sophistication to Swinging London and turned it on its head.
//German press coverage of her appearance in Mord Und Totschlag//
Gawky gamins and dolly-birds melted into insignificance in the presence of the impressive 21-year-old who arrived on the scene in 1965 having already studied graphic design in her native Rome, assisted Vogue photographer Gianni Penati and modelled in Paris.
All the while Pallenberg’s natural grace was accentuated by effortless merging of vintage pieces with the work of such giants as Ossie Clark and the crowd around Emmerton & Lambert and Granny Takes A Trip.
Through the 70s to this day, Pallenberg has embodied rock & roll chic – much emulated, never bettered.
The conversation below focused on the King’s Road in 1967 for a piece for Mojo magazine.Not that Anita was remotely interested in dwelling on the past; she was buzzed about visiting Karl Lagerfeld in Paris the next day, her interest in photography, the bargains to be found in charity shops, how the High Street chains are Carnaby Street reincarnated, and her thoughts on launching a new collection based on the MA show from her studies at Saint Martins in the 90s.
//Anita and I at THE LOOK’s event at Port Elio LitFest 2007//
With her friend Anna Sui Pallenberg also participated in THE LOOK’s rock & roll event at the Port Eliot LitFest; it was an honour to give her a vintage Vive Le Rock tee, which she wore with customary élan.
Pallenberg is said to have suggested not only the samba beat for Sympathy For the Devil but also the “woo-hoo” backing chorus; in the clip above from Jean Luc-Godard’s movie of the same name she’s joining in dressed in a long cape. Pallenberg said that one of these nights she’ll DJ at a LOOK club-night. Having seen her move in person (after all it was she who taught Mick Jagger to salsa and mambo) we can’t wait!
So, where were you in 67?
I was living all over the place, sometimes in hotels with Keith, but I was hardly in London, because I was working a lot. That was my big year as an actress. I was making Barbarella in Rome, and then my German film (Volker Schlondorff’s Mord Und Totschlag aka A Degree Of Murder, for which Pallenberg’s former partner Brian Jones contributed the score).
Where did you shop for clothes?
We’d go to places like Emmerton & Lambert in the Antiques Market, Hung On You and Granny’s. I wasn’t into Mary Quant; she was too middle of the road, and that mod, op-art thing wasn’t really for me. And Biba was too big. I wasn’t into that very English look. In Italy we’d always had salsa, the mamba, all those Latin dances which gave me a different feel for things, so my style was fedoras, belts, little 20s jackets, lace that I’d collected. If I wore mini-skirts I’d have them made by Granny’s. We’d try on clothes and have a joint in the back. Granny’s was very small, just two rooms, so everyone knew each other.
//Anita, Keith Richards, Gram Parsons, and Gretchen Burrell, Villa Nellcote, 1971. Photo: Dominique Tarle//
How did you feel when the “peasant look” (the rock & roll gypsy style created by Pallenberg’s combination of antique clothing and scarves with handmade belts and boots) was revived a couple of years ago by Sienna Miller et al?
I just felt: ‘Where we you were all those year ago?!’ It all seemed a little late. I was always obsessed with clothes, but of a particular sort. I’d modelled in Paris in 63, 64 and the first time I was paid I went straight out and bought a snakeskin Marlon Brando-style motorcycle jacket in the Champs-Elysees. The second time I bought the second-hand red fox fur coat which is in Performance. I’d wear that to modelling jobs with just my underwear, boots and a bag because you couldn’t leave your clothes lying around. The other models would steal them!
//Early 60s modelling assignment//
You didn’t mind wearing fur?
I had a ratty fake mink coat I wore to a gig by Hendrix somewhere on Chelsea Embankment. I went with (art dealer and member of the Stones inner circle) Robert Fraser. I couldn’t tell Keith; he wouldn’t have liked it at all. As we left Robert, gentleman that he was, picked up my coat from the cloakroom. I wore it for a couple of days and thought it was a bit tight before I realised he’d picked up the wrong coat, a real mink!
What was it like going back to college (Pallenberg studied textiles at Central Saint Martins in the early 90s)?
I loved it. One of my favourite fabrics is devore (printed velvet and satin) and so I did my collection for my finals in that. It’s really hard work because the process is so intense but I loved it. There’s a Michael Cooper photograph of Marianne (Faithfull) in a devore dress, which she probably nicked from me! We used to nick from each other all the time because they were all one-off pieces.
//Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg, 1975. Photo: Getty Images//
What was Ossie Clark like?
He was a nasty piece of work, a trouble-maker. If he came to Cheyne Walk, he’d be so unbearable we had to throw him out. And he was like that till the end. He was backstage at a Stones concert a couple of years before he died (in 1996, murdered by his psychotic lover Diego Cogolato) and he was so loud, unpleasant and arrogant we had to throw him out again!
//Shoot for Italian Glamour magazine, 1994//
What didn’t you like about the scene?
I remember walking down the Kings Road one time and everybody seemed to be on acid. There were kids running around with no shoes on their feet. I’m Italian; the last thing you’d do is go barefoot. Shoes are a status symbol, the first thing you get. Everybody in Rome walks around discussing shoes. I had my boots made for me back home, so I thought it was very weird.
//At Vivienne Westwood’s London Fashion Week show, 1998. Daughter-in-law Lucie de la Falaise far left//
You weren’t really a hippie then?
No. Definitely not. Even though I was away in America for much of the 70s, when punk came along and Vivienne (Westwood) and Malcolm (McLaren) were making those wonderful rubber clothes I felt much more in tune with them.
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