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 interior design category
“The Look presents large amounts of new information, often first-hand from Paul Gorman’s personal archive, packed with fresh insights into a vast range of subjects,” writes Estel Vilaseca, who has run Itfashion since 1999.
Estel is a freelance fashion editor, consultant (having worked with the likes of Dresslab), and the author of a number of books; her latest is out next month: Runway Uncovered: The Making Of A Fashion Show.
Gracias Estel! Follow her and Itfashion on twitter here.
//Malcolm McLaren: “I hate anything chic – that’s terrible!” Photography Pennie Smith//
The publication of veteran music critic Nick Kent’s new memoir Apathy For The Devil brings to mind the first serious attempt by the UK music press to acknowledge the vital relationship between fashion and popular music.
//Page 20, NME, April 6, 1974//
Headed “The Politics Of Flash”, Kent’s article in the New Musical Express in the spring of 1974 is a crucial snapshot of a scene at an important transitionary stage: the theatrical costumery of such fol-de-rols as Gary Glitter, Elton John and Queen is about to give way to the shock of the new being rolled out by the likes of Malcolm McLaren and Antony Price.
Just six days prior to publication date Television played their first CBGBs gig, setting up a scene which would lure McLaren to New York and on return help focus his working relationship with young customers Steve Jones and his mates in The Strand.
//Page 21, NME, April 6, 1974//
The fetish gear was already in stock, though the pink rubber Sex sign was yet to be erected and the store awaited installation of the”gymnasium” interior by carpenter Vick Mead.
In fact McLaren told Kent he has just decided against an extremely long new name. This was to have been a quote from a pornographic magazine which turned up on a number of garment labels: “The dirty stripper who left her UNDIES on the railings to go hitchhiking said you don’t THINK I have stripped all these years just for MONEY do you?””
//Page 46, NME, April 6, 1974//
As Kent’s former girlfriend Chrissie Hynde said on Jonesy’s Jukebox a couple of years back, when she worked there around this time, the shop didn’t have a name, just 17th century clergyman Thomas Fuller‘s maxim “Craft must have clothes but Truth loves to go naked” sprayed across the lintel on the facade.
//Antony Price: “My ideal rock band would be four Amanda Lears.”//
Kent simultaneously ended the relationship and Hynde’s employment at the shop by attacking her on the premises over a perceived infidelity.
//Chrissie Hynde & Nick Kent in Sex threads, 1974. Photo: Joe Stevens//
He then wove the incident into a forlorn NME review of a solo album by Van der Graaf Generator’s frontman Peter Hammill.
//The Rock Taylor team: “The Sweet spend £1,000 a month on clothes.”//
The Politics Of Flash is thoroughgoing, taking in Freddie Burretti’s design relationship with David Bowie (though Burretti declined to be interviewed), Ossie Clark‘s with Mick Jagger and Annie Reavey‘s creation of flamboyant stagewear for Elton John.
//Annie Reavey: “Elton approaches garments as artworks.”//
Mr Freedom, City Lights Studio and Alkasura are all name-checked and the Rock Taylor quartet – Geoff Clark, ex-Alkasura Jean Seel (later Boy George’s landlady), Graham Springett and Keith Hartley – discuss their customers The Sweet. Meanwhile former Ruskin’s designer Julian Kraker says that he believes his clients Slade are “to the 70s what the Stones were to the 60s”.
//Gene Krell: “The kids have always started the rock fashion ball rolling.”//
At Granny Takes A Trip (where Kent has since acknowledged he regularly scored heroin), co-owner Gene Krell was forthright about the shop’s role for such regular clients as Keith Richards and Ron Wood. “We’re not dealing in fashion…that’s a bunch of crap!” he told Kent. “We have our own style which is nothing to do with good taste. Our clothes are very proletarian, very, very reactionary against English provincialism.”
Our partner in Priceless, Antony Price, sums up the inertia which gripped mid-70s London. The man who, within four years, would be operating amazing King’s Road outlet Plaza, told Kent: “We’re all so shrouded by this spectre of the swinging 60s. There’s no such thing as futuristic fashion in England. It’s all dead and there aren’t even any decent clubs for them to show off the extent of their decay.”
THANKS are due to the world’s greatest music journalism resource, rocksbackpages.com, for providing us with this vital item from their incredible archive. Visit it now.
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.
THE LOOK is proud to have made a contribution to this cool tome which covers the boutiques, designs and leading figures such as Lloyd Johnson, Pamla Motown and Jim O’Connor, Antony Price, Paul Reeves, Mr Freedom, SEX, Biba, Fiorucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler and many another.
//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.
70s Style & Design is published on November 2 by Thames & Hudson.
One of our most popular posts is also one of the earliest: The strange and intriguing story of the ‘tits tee’.
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.
Look upon the following and learn:
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.
“Janusz was yearbook editor and every student in the graduating class of 1970 was to receive a box,” says Laura, who these days heads her interior design company while Janusz operates an architectural practice.
“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//
“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.”
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.
Back in 1969, simultaneous to the Gottwald’s creation of the tits tee, another pair of former art students were working on a similar concept which was to propel this unlikely design classic further along its extraordinary journey.
Freddie Hornik, who died this week aged 65, was a significant figure in 60s and 70s fashion whose role in exporting the dandy elements of British tailoring around the world has been sorely undervalued.
Hornik carved a place for himself in rock and pop fashion history by taking on the ailing Granny Takes A Trip in 1969 and transforming the shop and its label into a trans Atlantic by-word for 70s rock star glamour with a red hot team of retail partners, A-list clientele and branches in New York and Los Angeles.
//Freddie Hornik, photographed at Granny Takes A Trip, Chelsea, 1970//
As the outlets opened under his direction spurred on America’s boutique explosion, Hornik became the first retailer to sell clothing and footwear in the US by the era’s most forward-thinking British fashion design talents, including Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood, Terry de Havilland and Tommy Roberts.
Having suffered considerable hardship as a child – born in Czechoslovakia in 1944, Hornik and his widowed mother were forced onto the post-war refugee “death marches” to Austria – he was brought up by relatives in south London and apprenticed as a tailor with Robert Taylor in Tooting before moving to Jackson’s The Tailor of Oxford Street, in London’s West End.
//488 King’s Road, Chelsea, 1972. Pic Topham Picturepoint//
Hornik told me last December – during a most enjoyable encounter in the company of Roger Klein, his former employee as manager of the LA Granny’s – that within six months he had been promoted from junior cutter to credit manager having “learnt to make a suit in 10 days for eight guineas”.
A chance mid-60s meet at London’s rock business club The Speakeasy with another young fashion player, Alan Holston, led to the pair combining forces with John Crittle and Tara Browne at Dandie Fashions. Another important association was forged during this period with the tailoring business Foster & Tara, which Browne had set up before his death in a car crash in west London in December 1966.
//Dandie Fashions, 161 King’s Road 1967 (c) Amazed Ltd//
First in Kensington Mews and then at 161 King’s Road, Dandie lived up to its name, providing for the sartorial needs of Swinging London’s young male peacocks. In 1969 Hornik visited Granny Takes A Trip, which was fast losing momentum; one of the original founders, John Pearse, had left, while the remaining Nigel Waymouth and Sheila Cohen were at loggerheads.
“I went in to buy the only dress in the place for my friend Pat Stebbings,” he recalled in December. “There was barely anything there. It was almost covered in cobwebs. Pat said: ‘You should take this over.’ So I did.”
Waymouth and Cohen signed the business over at their lawyer Louis Diamond’s offices, with Hornik taking a 51% controlling share and the remainder going to New Yorkers Gene Krell and Marty Breslau.
The new team reinvented Granny’s, taking their cue from Pearse’s fine tailoring and inspired by the work of Nudie “The Rodeo Tailor”, with customised embellishments on the Foster & Tara satin, silk and velvet suits.
“Freddie taught us how to take measurements like the old East End tailors, with more than a dozen for the jacket and five for the trews,” says Roger Klein.
//Joe Cocker in Granny’s boots at Woodstock//
Hornik also brought in the shoemaker Costas Of Tooting (who famously made the star boots worn by Joe Cocker during his breakthrough Woodstock performance), and in no time Granny’s clothes such as the Western-style jackets with contrasting yokes were being snapped up by old customers – such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards – and the new glam aristocracy: Marc Bolan, Queen, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Roxy Music.
//Mick Jagger in Granny’s tartan velvet jacket, Exile On Main Street, 1972//
On a trip to New York, Hornik met the Woodstock co-ordinator John Morris who put him in touch with two locals keen on opening a branch of Granny’s in Manhattan. The pair – John LiDonni and Richie Onigbene – turned out to be old friends of Krell’s and Breslau’s from Brooklyn.
Stocked with supplies from London, Granny’s at 304 East 62nd Street spread the message across the Atlantic, with custom from Lou Reed, Todd Rundgren and Alice Cooper as well as the small boutique operators springing up in their wake, such as Terry Slobodzian and Tommy Hilfiger.
//Lou Reed in Granny’s black velvet and rhinestone suit, Transformer 1972//
The Stateside significance of Granny’s was sealed when Hornik and his partner Jenny Dugan-Chapman opened the LA branch, first at 468 N. Doheny in West Hollywood and later in the 8000 block of Sunset Strip.
//Roger Klein (in Let It Rock glitter creepers) outside 468 N.Doheny, Beverly Hills//
With business cards in the form of “Granny’s pound notes” (Hornik received a visit from a British consulate official accusing him of circulating counterfeit currency), Granny’s LA became a hive for resident and visiting film and rock stars, while Hornik astutely peppered the Granny’s stock with select items from the UK’s most cutting edge designers.
//Elton John in Granny’s tiger-stripe jacket and sunglasses, Caribou 1974//
Driving around LA in his jet-black 1955 Ford Ranchero, he also sourced vintage materials and garments locally, customising Vans shoes in lurex and leopard-print and utilising the talents of such LA-based designers as Chance Wayne.
A July 1972 LA Times article notes the store’s black and gold leopard-patterned facade and pink ceiling, as well as such clients as Led Zeppelin, Graham Nash, Ricky Nelson and Paul Getty Jr.
//Todd Rundgren in sequined bolero jacket, Something/Anything? 1972//
Within a few years, however, disagreements and rivalries brewed between the three Granny’s outlets, with Hornik not alone in succumbing to drug problems.
Hornik returned to the UK in the late 70s and foreswore fashion. After a spell in the taxi business, ill-health forced him into retirement in south London.
Lean, tall at 6ft 5in and apparently permanently shod in his favourite sneakers (Chuck Taylor All Stars), Hornik struck me as the charming possessor of a lightning memory and a dark sense of humour.
Roger Klein recounts how Hornik once tried to pay his weekly wages in cans of Heinz Baked Beans, arguing valiantly that, at the mid- 70s rate of inflation, they were intrinsically worth more than hard cash.
//Top: Roger’s version. Bottom: the real deal.//
Klein was also required to learn how to write Hornik’s signature should creditors come calling. On that grey pre-Christmas morning in The Groucho a matter of weeks ago, the pair signed my notebook to test Roger’s graphological skills after more than 30 years.
“See,” Hornik pronounced grimly to Roger, before cackling loudly, “don’t say I never taught you anything!”
The contribution to 20th century commercial design by pioneering Shoreditch art collective Electric Colour Company has been overlooked for far too long; among their achievements was the realisation of fabulous frontages and retail environments for a clutch of the most important boutiques in fashion history, not least Mr Freedom, Paradise Garage and City Lights Studio.
//Trevor Myles receives a parking ticket outside 430 Kings Road, spring 1971. Pic: David Parkinson//
Now THE LOOK presents for the first time a selection of the photographs taken by the group and the late photographer David Parkinson to document their commissions, which included trade show displays, nightclubs, accessories, custom cars, furniture and signage.
Among the images are never-seen-before exterior and interior shots of 430 King’s Road in its Paradise Garage incarnation, prior to the takeover by Malcolm McLaren in November 1971.
Electric Colour Co was formed in 1969 by artists Andrew Greaves, Jeffrey Pine, David Smith and Roderic Stokes. “It was originally supposed to support our fine art practice but became so involving that it took up all our time, ” says Andrew.
//The premises in Phipp Street, Shoreditch. Pic: David Smith//
ECC also proved geographical pioneers, settling in Phipp Street, Shoreditch. “There wasn’t a particular ethic or collective aesthetic, except perhaps a reaction to the conservatism of the existing fine art establishment,” says Andrew. “We had an amount of conceptual freedom which, when coupled with a vaguely maverick attitude, could have given us a broader working platform than more design-focused groups.”
Rod Stokes emphasises the importance of music. “We’d meet in the evenings to compare favorites, or attend gigs, from Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Captain Beefheart to Albert Ayler, The Incredible String Band, Varese and others.”
//Electric Colour’s work in Design magazine, February and April 1971//
David Smith says they responded to “music that ‘took it to the next level’, whether it was the Beatles, King Crimson, Soft Machine, Velvet Underground or Mothers Of Invention”. He adds: “This now sounds like a playlist for the average American oldies station, but at the time it was a continuous stream of innovative music and our own affirmative soundtrack.”
An important factor is that, like McLaren, they sprang out of the 60s art scene rather than pop or fashion. “We tended towards what was happening with Fraser, Waddington or Kasmin rather than Twiggy or Jagger,” says David.
//Mr Freedom, 430 Kings Road 1969. Pic: David Parkinson//
This was evident from the get-go. EEC’s first project was the shop front for Trevor Myles and Tommy Robert’s Mr Freedom at 430 Kings Road in the former Hung On You premises operated by Michael Rainey – you can read the full Mr Freedom story in Chapter 16 of THE LOOK.
As with their other commissions, the team were given a brief description of the concept, for which they produced non-technical drawings and illustrations.
//Exterior of Blueberry Hill, 89 King’s Road 1970. Pic: David Smith//
Late in 1970 ECC fitted out the mysterious and short-lived King’s Road fashion outlet Blueberry Hill, which lasted all of six weeks before the landlords closed in and converted it into a betting shop. None of the Electric crowd nor Trevor Myles can recall who operated or designed the clothes for this unusual and forward-looking shop; can anyone out there be of assistance?
//Andrew Greaves, Paradise Garage, 430 King’s Road, 1971. Pic: David Parkinson//
Better known is Paradise Garage, the outlet Trevor Myles opened at 430 King’s Road in the spring of 1971 after splitting from Tommy Roberts (see Chapter 18 of THE LOOK). These and a number of other images supplied by the ECC team provide intriguing interior aspects to the premises which have subsequently housed Let It Rock (1971-72), Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die (1973-74), Sex (1974-76), Seditionaries (1976-79) and World’s End (1980 to date).
//Interior, City Lights Studio, Covent Garden 1972. Pic: Jeffrey Pine //
As well as customising Myles’ Mustang, complete with tiger-stripe flock covering, ECC designed City Lights Studio, Tommy Roberts’ darkly glam reaction to the failure of the Mr Freedom Kensington store. The first fashion outlet to open in Covent Garden, City Lights was a powerful influence on the Japanese designers then making an impact in the West.
In the mid-70s the members went their separate ways: Andrew into teaching and fine art, which he continues to practice to this day while Rod is also a working artist with a riverside studio in Cadiz.
Jeffrey Pine designed such shops as Trevor Myles’ Secret Ingredient, Howie in the Fulham Road and the third version of Mr Freedom (opened in the middle of the Kings Road in 1973 by Roberts’ former partner John Paul). He also created stage sets for Roxy Music gigs, and went on to work with his partner Katharine Hamnett. Jeffery has since returned to sculpting and painting.
David returned to art teaching briefly and now lives in California where he also continues to paint. “By coincidence I’ve resumed contact with my ex-art school tutor Derek Boshier,” he says.
In David’s words, Electric Colour Co “helped shape and fulfill our ideology”.
And what was that?
“To produce work which freely crossed between the worlds of fine and applied art.”
Largely forgotten these days, Palisades was notable among Swinging London boutiques because its roots lay not only in style and music but more significantly in the British pop art explosion of the early 60s.
As featured in THE LOOK, Palisades was opened by Pauline Fordham in the spring of 1965 with backing from theatrical impresario Michael White, artist David Hockney and actor/writer/literary agent Clive Goodwin.
//The Evening Standard May 3 1965//
Fordham promised “all the usual way out designers (including Quorum, Caroline Charles and Tuffin & Foale, for whom she had previously worked), and the Palisades sign and interior was the creation of Derek Boshier, one of Britain’s foremost artists who had featured in Ken Russell’s groundbreaking BBC documentary Pop Goes The Easel alongside Peter Phillips, Peter Blake and Pauline Boty.
//Stills from Pop Goes The Easel//
Broadcast on March 25 1962, Pop Goes The Easel is both a delicious period piece and an important document of the British pop art movement. The lives and interests of the gang of four are examined with trademark Russell flourishes: the gifted Boty (who was to die of leukemia in 1966) is seen in a dream sequence, while others enjoy a typical Saturday, looking through American comics in Portobello market, watching a wrestling match and twisting to Chubby Checker at their friend Dick Smith’s new warehouse studio in Old Street (also frugging furiously are Celia Birtwell, Mo McDermott, Roddy Maude-Roxby, and the newly-blond David Hockney).
//From the invite to Boshier’s 1966 show at the Robert Fraser Gallery//
According to interior designer David Mlinaric “Palisades had incredibly beautiful things, but didn’t last very long. Pauline Fordham was a colourful character. The journalist Erica Crome used to refer to that kind of thing as fancy dress.”At Palisades, Fordham also sold jewellery while Moya Bowler – the woman some credit with reviving the platform sole – designed “some very hip shoes – mauve and yellow suede and all that”.
Fordham features in Time magazine’s Swinging London special of April 1966 spotted wearing a silver metallic coat at a cocktail party at Robert Fraser‘s Duke Street gallery for the opening of Boshier’s show at Groovy Bob’s that year, just one of the stepping stones on the path to the international recognition he enjoys today.
//Boshier set designs for David Bowie’s 1978 world tour//
Along the way he has worked with David Bowie, collaborating with photographer Duffy on the sleeve for 1979 album Lodger and also designing sets for the singer’s 1978 tour. The Let’s Dance album also includes a Boshier projection and line drawings.
In 1979 Boshier bumped into a former student, The Clash frontman Joe Strummer. A week later the band’s manager Caroline Coon – another former student of Boshier’s – called and commissioned a songbook which remains one of the group’s greatest visual documents.
//Pages from The Clash 2nd Songbook//
Some time after Palisades closed Pauline Fordham was to feature among the names on Malcolm McLaren’s SEX shop manifesto t-shirt You’re Gonna Wake Up One Morning And Know What Side Of The Bed You’ve Been Lying On.
The failure earlier this month of the most recent attempt to breathe fresh life into Biba was not in the least surprising, blighted as it was by a series of poor market judgments but also weighed down by the history of the brand.
Potential customers were deterred by licensee Michael Pearce‘s ill-conceived positioning of the original High Street fashion label in the luxury bracket, while the departure of head designer Bella Freud after just three seasons rang alarm bells throughout the industry.
//Freud talks about her Biba launch collection, A/W 06//
Such events, however, were overshadowed by the non-involvement of visionary founder Barbara Hulanicki, who maintained a dignified distance aside from commenting that she found the revival “painful”.
//Marc Bolan in Biba jacket with ziggurat sequins 1973//
//Evening Standard advert April 1974//
Biba expert Alwyn Turner has pointed out in The First Post that the crash of the original company in 1975 was seen as symptomatic of the general economic malaise in the dog days of Ted Heath’s Government, and that this latest collapse can be viewed in similar terms: “As belts are tightened, it is possibly time to say farewell to Biba. Finally.”
//One of 12 customised windows at Big Biba, 1973 //
Whatever, it’s all a long way from the joie de vivre expressed by the original Biba in all it’s incarnations. As detailed in Chapter 14 of THE LOOK, the boutique and label brought affordable high fashion to the High Street and came to symbolise not only Swinging London in the 60s but also the glam era of the early 70s, serving along the way such customers as Cathy McGowan, Twiggy, Marc Bolan and Roxy Music.
//Invite to early 90s retrospective//
Since then Hulanicki has engaged in all manner of creative endeavours, not least designing boutique hotels in association with Island Records boss Chris Blackwell. The opening shot of Mike Nichols’ movie The Birdcage has a sweeping view of four of them: the Leslie, the Cardozo, the Cavalier and the Netherlands.
//Look out for four Hulanicki-designed hotels in Palm Beach//
Among her many achievements, Hulanicki has also created a bar for Rolling Stone Ron Wood , illustrated a yoga book, and worked with Graham & Brown and Habitat on wallpaper ranges. Last year the eight-foot Great Dane she designed for Big Biba’s pet department even made an appearance in plant form at the Chelsea Flower Show.
//Hulanicki on Biba’s history and her approach to design//
Earlier this year the former fashion illustrator held an exhibition of her work at a London gallery and is currently working on a collection for the V&A. “I don’t mind that people still want to reinvent Biba,” she said earlier this month. “I just try to grin and bear it.”
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!!
//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: firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a line here.
See you on the night.
THE LOOK’S pal Trevor Myles has unearthed for us an amazing slice of rock and pop fashion history: a previously unseen and unpublished photograph of his shop Paradise Garage taken in 1971.
//Pic: Trevor Myles collection//
And, as if to take up the challenge, we are responding with a scan of a long-forgotten piece on the shop in Design magazine from the same year.
//Top left: The Paradise Garage Mustang, Design 1971//
Paradise Garage had already undergone some changes by the time Trevor took sole control of 430 King’s Road early in 1971, having been an unnamed clothes shop run by couple Bill Fuller and Carol Derry in 1966, Hung On You in 67/68 and Mr Freedom from 1968-70. And that was just the start. Under the command of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood from November 1971 it was to evolve consecutively into Let It Rock, Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die, SEX, Seditionaries, and, to this day, World’s End.
//SEX 1976 and World’s End 1984//
The snap of the shop at the top of this story was taken by one of Trevor’s friends in the early summer of 1971. The familiar landmarks of this cultural crucible – which measures no more than a few hundred square feet – are all in place: the phone box outside of which Westwood, Jordan and others were to pose for a Seditionaries fashion shoot in 1977, the forbidding brickwork of Chelsea Conservative Club next door, the ever-changing restaurant which shares the street number on the other side.
In 1971 Trevor had split from Mr Freedom partner Tommy Roberts and opened up this new establishment which sold Osh Kosh B’Gosh and used denim, Hawaiian shirts and other retro and rock & roll styles.
//Trevor Myles, King’s Road 1971. Pic: Michael Roberts//
As revealed in Chapter 17 of THE LOOK, Trevor directed interiors team Electric Colour Co to cross South Seas charm with American authenticity. The bamboo sign was erected onto painted corrugated iron, a 50s petrol pump was placed outside (sometimes with Trevor’s tiger-striped Mustang parked nearby) while inside there were caged lovebirds, a jukebox and and even a tiny dance-floor.
And Design magazine quickly picked up on these radical moves being made down the wrong end of the King’s Road. In the Things Seen section of the September 1971 issue, it printed a photograph of the car alongside this copy: “Paradise Garage is not, as might be expected, the home of this flock-finish Ford Mustang – but the name of a shop doing brisk trade in second hand US boiler suits and dungarees. The proprietor of the shop, Trevor Miles (sic), also owns the Mustang: its tiger-striped finish, now looking a little grubby from King’s Road exhausts, was created by the Electric Colour Company.”
Paradise Garage became a focal point for creativity that year. New York Doll Sylvain Sylvain recalls hanging out at the store on a trip to London with his knitwear brand Truth & Soul, while the design team there included John & Molly Dove. While using the premises as an impromptu studio they created the infamous Wild Thing t-shirt which is reissued next month by our own new label The Look Presents.
//The NY club Paradise Garage and its logo//
The Paradise Garage name was snaffled in the mid-70s by the gay disco crowd who launched the historic nightclub at 84 King Street in Greenwich Village which spawned such giants of the dance scene as the late uber-DJ Larry Levan.
//New wave band The Perfectors outside Paradise Garage Cardiff 1980//
And by the late 70s it was also adopted by ex-Amen Corner member Alan Jones for his punk shop in Cardiff, which became a magnet for the burgeoning Welsh new wave and new romantic crowd, including Chris Sullivan and Steve Strange.
//New LaRocka styles from Myles’ company Secret Ingredient//
Trevor, meanwhile, moved on to to such brands as Million Dollar in the 80s and recently his company Secret Ingredient has been working with King’s Road legends Lloyd and Jill Johnson on reinventing their LaRocka brand for the Noughties.
//World’s End today//
The World’s End shop has become the home for the clothes which express Westwood’s Active Resistance manifesto, as discussed in her book Opus. In these post-globalisation times, it is staggering to conceive that, apart from a brief spell of financial insecurity in 1986-6, 430 Kings Road has now continuously traded in cutting edge ideas and adventures in rock and pop fashion for more than 40 years.
Long may it continue.
These stunning images from an August 73 Nova fashion spread provide an rare opportunity to celebrate two great London fashion labels: Swanky Modes and City Lights Studio.
//Swanky Modes 73: A-line raincoat with “debris” sealed in the pockets – £8, bag – £9//
Styled by the influential Caroline Baker and shot by Helmut Newton, the sassy, sexy spread underlines both labels’ disavowal of the prevailing post-hippie mood in favour of retro/kitsch designs and use of synthetic materials.
Swanky Modes was set up in 1972 by Willie Walters, latterly Central Saint Martins fashion course director, and her sister Mel, wife of pop producer Clive Langer, who also both lived above the premises in Camden Town.
//Petal-leaf collar trenchcoat £8 from Swanky Modes 73//
Co-owner Judy Dewsbery was a major design force at the company, while other designers included Racheal Fleming and Sue Foulston, who went on to collaborate with Jasper Conran when he launched his fashion career from the notorious house in Regents Park which provided shelter for members of The Clash and their designer Alex Michon.
For the first few years Swanky designs were available via mail order and from outlets such as Kensington shops Che Guevara.
Then, in the mid-70s as their vision rode the zeitgeist, the retail outlet opened on the ground floor of 201 Royal College Street, which was shared for a while with Jane Norris’ long-forgotten label Ace Notions.
The address became one of the hubs for like-minded trendsetters; Malcolm McLaren’s friend Fred Vermorel recalls the first time he met the Sex Pistols was at a party above Swanky Modes (the label’s designers had appeared at a London fashion forum at the ICA along with McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, Miss Mouse and Howie a couple of years previously).
//Bette Bright in Swanky Modes dress on the cover of her 1979 single//
Such was it’s drawing power, that, in 1980, the label was the subject of a BBC2 Arena documentary about the launch of a new collection.In 1993, however, Swanky Modes finally shut up shop. Still, up until the early Noughties, there was a single display mannequin bearing a glam dress in the bow window, through which passers-by could gaze into the vacated premises (subsequently annexed by the expansion of the pub next door).
The saucily playful and fetishistic Swanky ethic appealed to many a siren, from Bette Bright of Langer’s 70s glam/cabaret group Deaf School (she also lived above the shop with her other half, Suggs of Madness) to Siouxsie Sue.
In his punk memoir, Bromley Contingent member Bertie “Berlin” Marshall clearly recalls Siouxsie wearing a Swanky Fifties-style polka dot “Betty Boop” dress on their first visit to legendary Poland Street hangout Louise’s.
City Lights Studio was an equally pioneering proposition – as detailed in Chapter 16 of THE LOOK, following the closure of Mr Freedom owner Tommy Roberts scored a fashion first by opening his new store in Covent Garden, then a flourishing fruit and flower market – see contemporaneous footage of the area in this trailer from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 movie Frenzy:
City Lights was established in a disused banana warehouse at 54 Shorts Gardens a full half-a-decade ahead of the pack of media and fashion businesses which began to flood into the area following the shift of the market south of the river to Vauxhall in the late 70s.
//City Lights clear plastic sandals priced £32 in 73//
Roberts also veered away from the pop-art themes of his previous outlet and created a muted feel with dim lighting, dark colours, hard surfaces and thick chains. The floor was polished black and sprinkled with gold. Bones and skulls were displayed in a medicine cabinet and the gloomy strains of Schoenberg filled the air.
“It was all so heavy nobody understood it!” cackles Roberts, who commissioned clear plastic sandals so that the wearer appeared to be walking on air.
Belts were supplied by Claude Montana and a pair of City Lights glittering Boston creepers were worn by Andy Mackay on the inner sleeve of Roxy Music’s 1973 album For Your Pleasure with a boiler suit designed by Robert’s former designers Pamla Motown and Jim O’Connor.
Although City Lights only lasted a couple of years it had a significant impact on the first wave of Japanese designers then making their mark in the west, while the most enduring design was the box-jacketed suit worn by David Bowie on the back cover of 1973’s Pin-Ups and the front cover of the following year’s’s David Live.
“Bowie just wore it and wore it,” says Tommy.”We had to have that suit copied in his size about 50 times he loved it so much.”
//Geoff Deane wears City Lights trousers on TOTP//
Former pop-star and screenwriter Geoff Deane remembers City Lights fondly, and dug out the blue pegs he bought from there for a performance with his band the Leyton Buzzards on Top Of The Pops at the end of the 70s.
The jacket, by the way, is by Wendy Dagworthy, but that’s a whole other story.
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.
//Inside Big Biba: Pic Alwyn Turner//
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!”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Among Trevor Myles’ current activities is the reinvention of the Johnsons’ label LaRocka! as a t-shirt brand.
The Best Of British Design exhibition is from March 14-20 with the sale on the final day.