For many individuals in the worlds of fashion, music and film, Christmas spirits will have been dampened by news of the death last week of James Lebon at the age of just 49.
//The original International Stussy Tribe; James Lebon centre//
THE LOOK didn’t know Lebon at all well, though a handful of encounters left the impression of a hugely affable and multi-talented person, one who occupies an important place in propelling streetwear from the concern of a couple of hundred music-mad youths in London, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo a quarter of a century ago into the central place it occupies in today’s global pop culture.
It was Lebon who brought back crucial news of the emerging New York rap scene which in turn sparked the establishment of the UK’s first and most significant hip-hop club, the Language Lab in the early 80s.
//James Lebon and friend, Cannes 1988. Pic: Ellen von Unwerth//
Cutting a swathe through London’s demi-monde with his photographer brother Mark, James Lebon was in his time a leading hairdresser (with his Cuts salon in west London), an accomplished promo and commercials director, a model and member of Ray Petri’s influential Buffalo collective, and also a recording artist.
//Montage of Lebon’s commercials work//
Lebon often worked in conjunction with his compadre, streetwear guru Michael Kopelman.
Interviewed at the Gimme 5 offices for THE LOOK, the friends chortled at the memory of paying repeated visits to Harlem to pick up a white leather tracksuit Lebon had ordered at Dapper Dan’s, the crucible of 80s urban fashion on 125th Street.On each occasion, they would make the trek uptown only to find that the article of clothing had been sold, because a procession of customers had seen the suit on display and persuaded the owner to sell it to them.
Kopelman and Lebon were among the first to pick up on the magical graphics being produced by surfer Shawn Stussy out of his Laguna Canyon studio in southern California in the mid-80s, and were part of the original International Stussy Tribe, as the image posted above and given to THE LOOK by Kopelman testifies.
//Fascinated by Lisa B. Directed by James Lebon//
Read about Lebon’s crucial role in communicating awareness of such labels as Stussy, BAPE, Neighborhood and Goodenough in a recent interview here.
A Facebook group, The Don And Not Forgotten, features many touching photographs and reminiscences of this charming man. You may join it here.