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 Fashion design 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.
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).
This photograph of designer Diana Crawshaw from the Daily Express Wiliam Hickey column was taken the day after a momentous event in post-war style; on Wednesday May 12 1971, Kansai Yamamoto showed his new collection at Tom Salter‘s Great Gear Trading Company at 85 King’s Road, inaugurating appreciation of Japanese fashion design in the West.
Two years after we found a good home for Ossie Clark’s own snakeskin jacket, THE LOOK is pleased to feature another rare garment made from the snakeskin rolls the designer famously uncovered in a warehouse in 1966.
According to the owner – who is now prepared to part company with it – this is one of only three python coats produced by Clark; one of the others was apparently retained by his business partner Alice Pollock.
On the new blog I’ve posted a piece based on exclusive interviews with writer Len Richmond and photographer David Dagley about the article on SEX in Forum magazine in the mid-70s.
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.
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.
Wish You Were There, the new retrospective guide to the shops, clubs “and sundry diversions” on offer in central London between 1960 and 1966, may be pocket-sized but it’s packed with exhaustive info and fabulously-researched detail.
Produced by Herb Lester Associates (writer/DJ/60s expert Ben Olins and broadcast/publishing creative Jane Smillie), the simple, stylish map/listings format also makes for a delightful artefact.
This is the third map from HLA, whose aim is to create “attractive and interesting publications for companies and organisations”, extending to books, quarterly magazines, journals and one-offs.
“Some years ago I planned to write a book on London clubs of the pre-psychedelic rock & roll period, approximately 1958-66, and did quite a bit of research but couldn’t allocate the time and energy to do it right,” explains Olins. “When we started to produce the maps, I decided to merge the research and interviews into a more easily digestible and manageable package.”
“Jeff’s like Zelig meets the Memory Man,” says Olins. “He’s just incredible and also enormously generous. Jeff, Lloyd and I spent one long day this summer pounding West End pavements, with the two of them pointing out locations and describing what they were like.
“We ate lunch in the premises occupied by (John Michael’s groundbreaking Old Compton Street store) Sportique. ‘At last I can afford to buy something at Sportique!’ said Lloyd, who generously paid for us all. Then, in a moment of circle-closing, we bumped into John Pearse in Wardour Street.”
Wish You Were There is an absolute steal at £4 a copy, available here.
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!
Within hours of mentioning Granny Takes A Trip and Lucy in Disguise (the new label from Lily Allen and her half-sister Sarah Owen) in the BBC Blast presentation, this beauty arrived in my in-tray – a poster for LID by Granny’s founder Nigel Waymouth with Tim Watkins.
As detailed in Chapter 10 of THE LOOK, while he operated Granny’s in the 60s, Nigel joined forces with the late Michael English as Britain’s foremost psychedelic art/design team Hapshash And The Coloured Coat.
These days a prominent portraitist, Nigel collaborated with us on a fabulous line of t-shirts for THE LOOK PRESENTS a couple of years back. Congrats to him on invoking the spirit of Hapshash for the 21st century.
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.