Sayonara Freddie Hornik, undervalued fashion innovator

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 WestwoodTerry 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// 

Thus it was Hornik who was responsible for the first US sales of shoes and clothes from Let It Rock, Terry de Havilland and City Lights Studio. 

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!”

Sayonara Freddie. 

Roger Klein said,

February 20, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

~GOODBYE BABY AND AMEN.

darragh said,

February 22, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

what a cool guy. what a shame such an great inspiration had to leave. happens to the best of us, i suppose.

rockpopfashion said,

February 23, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

This in from Tom Salter (Gear, Great Gear Market, Tom Salter’s Cafe, etc):

You mention John Morris, who was my partner in London. Our company Jumpin Jack brought over American bands including The Grateful Dead, Santana, Ike & Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and many more. We also produced Paul McCartney’s Wings Over Europe tour. My people at Gear designed the Wings ensignia. I visited John in Malibu last Thanksgiving.

Also (in Electric Colour Co Coming Through) you have a picture of Paradise Garage with Trevor’s car. I and Charlie Simpson (Tommy Robert’s ex-partner) financed Trevor in Paradise Garage. I think I was even a partner, but that’s another story. It seems that we were all interlinked in some way or other. Thanks for trying to piece it all together.
Regards

Tom
tom

John said,

March 1, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

He was a great innovator, fun partner, sincere friend…Will always be remembered

bern,mick and flo said,

March 4, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

we will miss you Fredi,all those tales you would enthral us with over these last twenty years.To us you were a good friend who had such tales of years long past,to others a whole different character who actually knew you then.
I find it so sad that only now the credit you so richly deserved is coming to light for the rest of the world to hear,you may have been forgotten by others but to us you will never be forgotten for the friend you were and will always remain in our memories as modest,cynical but with such dry wit and humourous cynicism.
Sweet dreams Alfredo Mick,Bern and Flo xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Neil Winterbottom said,

March 8, 2009 @ 9:36 am

I was very sorry to hear that Freddie died recently. I was an investor and designer at Dandie Fashions back in the halcyon 60s, which he managed so ably, and remember him affectionately for his cheerful, helpful and friendly nature. He will be much missed.

hip hop fashion said,

March 9, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

Another icon bites the dust. My heart goes out to him and his family. Such a noble and talented artist. He will be remembered…

Brian Donnelly said,

June 27, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

l knew Tommy Roberts and Charlie Simpson before the Carnaby Street era.
Tommy was at Goldsmiths with my brother Pete,
and his father had a tie factory in Deptford (Roberta Neckware).
What happened to Charlie and Liz (his wife at the time)?
Sixties London. What a gas!

Helen Lyons said,

May 17, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

Still missing you Uncle Freddie, always thinking of you and the stories you told me, everyday
Love your ‘niece’
Helen x x x x x x x x x

Peter Sisman said,

August 15, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

Went to same school as Charlie Simpson. Went to Kleptomania several times. Lost touch many years ago. Anybody know where he is?

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