During the 70s there was a stylistic inland invasion in the US; just as Carnaby Street gave rise to a wave of Dandyism among American individuals during the 60s, so eccentric little boutiques in England such as Granny Takes A Trip sparked a trend for wild clothing outlets across the States in the succeeding decade.
//Explosion and Lacy Lady, North Tonawanda NY 1971//
Investigated in Chapter 12 of THE LOOK, I’m developing this phenomenon as the subject of a new book, so imagine my delight when contact came out of the clear blue sky last week from Terry Slobodzian, who’s a fan of this blog.
//Terry Slobdzian inside Explosion, 1970//
Terry sent images of the most sought-after clothes of that or any other era. Turns out Terry, a top-notch 55-year-old who still wears his Granny’s panel suit with pride, was the brains behind clothing emporia Explosion and Lacy Lady, both situated in the the early to mid-70s in North Tonawanda (between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY).
Inspired by the British Invasion and having spent time with New York’s Now Theatre repertory company, Terry opened the flamboyant Explosion in autumn 1969 in the city’s downtown area.
//Terry with girlfriend Geri and mother Olga outside the first Explosion, 1969//
“I found a store, about 800sq ft and $175 a month. We painted the trim and metal-embossed ceiling purple and the walls a lighter shade. I bought sample squares of multi-coloured shag and glued them to the floor and we painted one wall with an outline map of the USA with silhouettes of rock stars, kinda like Mt. Rushmore!”
Explosion carried denim, including M. Hoffman & Co’s Landlubber jeans, which apparently sold like wildfire.
“They were made really well: a hip-hugger with a horizontal slit pocket and a slim fitted thigh with small bell bottom,” recalls Terry.
//Explosion interior, 1973//
The store also stocked tops, mainly crew-neck and button-up, in solid and two-tone colours. “Kids could come in and purchase a pair of jeans and a top for $15 bucks,” he points out.
“There were no stores like mine in the downtown area, and Buffalo had only one or two. I also made leather belts to order. You could pick a dye colour, design and buckle, and pick it up the next day.”
In January 1970, Terry and his girlfriend Geri made it across to London. Their first stop-off was Granny Takes A Trip at 488 King’s Road, by this time run by Marty Breslau and Gene Krell with Freddy Hornik.
“What a trip it was,” says Terry.“Every piece fit like a glove right off the rack. The craftmanship and choice of fabric was amazing.” //Granny Takes A Trip velvet panelled suit// Among the items Terry bought and still cherishes is a navy blue velvet suit with a three-quarter length jacket and a brown velvet jacket with white piping, as well as pants with a yoke in a lighter tone of brown.
//Granny’s brown velvet jacket and yoked pants//
Hornik confirmed to THE LOOK only last week that these suits were available to customers with matching yokes on the jackets if so required. Terry also acquired a white linen suit with appliqué-d roses (“the cut on this is killer”), as well as a shirts in pink and silver lurex and black and purple stripes and two pairs of shoes, one with a short stacked leather heel in orange canvas with tiny hippos in yellow and blue. The other pair were multi-coloured snakeskin patchwork platforms.
//Granny Takes A Trip white linen suit//
On his return to North Tonawanda, a larger retail site became available at 77 Webster. Here he re-established Explosion with Art Deco flourishes, and set off to acquire fresh inventory at the National Boutique Show in New York.
//Alkasura: Yellow/blue velvet jacket with matching pants and striped jacket//
“With exhibitors covering eight to 10 floors and displaying fashions in every room including the mezzanine maze, I was fucking blown away,” he confesses. “My only disappointment was the lack of any British companies or design houses, but that came the following year with the glorious arrival of Alkasura. I believe my order was one of the largest from the US.”
//Deco window display with Alkasura suits, 1973//
During the show, Terry visited the Granny’s outlet in New York operated by John LiDonni and Richie Onigbene. Here he purchased a burgundy and purple velvet suit which had been supplied out of England by Granny’s tailors Foster & Tara.
Another regular Granny’s customer was Tommy Hilfiger, then running The People’s Place boutique in his birthplace, Elmira NY.
//Terry in Granny’s suit, 2008//
The velvet panelled suit was a Granny’s staple. Rod Stewart wears a red and black version during his famous performance of Maggie May on British weekly chart show Top Of The Pops (featuring the sadly departed DJ John Peel miming on the mandolin).
//Rod The Mod in Granny’s panel suit//
“I wore the hell out of mine and it’s still like new,” says Terry. “Never have I felt or seen anything close to the quality of these fabrics – and I can still get into a couple of them!”
As a result of his trip to the show, Explosion expanded into lines from the likes of East West Musical Instrument Co.“I remember my best friend wearing a solid silver leather jacket from East West to a Lou Reed concert, a very cool piece,” says Terry.
//Store assistants John and Vickie outside Explosion, 1972//
“Those retailed for $300-$400 but were worth every penny. I wish I had one to show you. East West also made probably the best denim jeans at $35, which was also a little high for the time, yet once purchased, people loved ‘em. And, even if some couldn’t afford to buy an expensive piece, they still wanted to see some real high-end rock & roll fashion.”
//Shirts by John Wesley Harding//
Explosion also stocked shirts by John Wesley Harding, Scrooge, Bouncing Bertha’s Banana Blanket and Jizz Inc ( “the most beautiful satin embroidered western style shirts with contrast color piping and pearl snap buttons”), as well as shoes by Verde and Tannino Crisci.
In the spring of 1970, the store next door became vacant and Terry opened Lacy Lady, which, like Explosion, was to trade until 1974.
//Lacy Lady 1972//
These days Terry is penthouse butler at Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel in Niagara Falls, where he caters for VIP guests in pretty much the same manner as he handled the clientele of his boutiques; with great care and sensitivity.
“I prepare fine meals and classic pastry in my spare time and am addicted to film.
“I always wanted to direct. Maybe next time around. You know, you never lose that artistic ability whatever you do in life. And I am fortunate to still have the juice running through me.”