Johnny Moke 1945-2009

Johnny Moke, who has died aged 63, was the London fashion luminary who will be remembered not only as a Mod exemplar and a leading member of the retail scene around Kensington Market and the King’s Road from the Sixties to the Noughties but also as the self-taught creator of elegantly crafted shoes who nurtured fresh design talent. 

 

//Johnny Moke in his King’s Road shop, 2000. Pic: Robert Holmes//

Designer Antony Price recalls the footwear Moke supplied for a 1988 catwalk show. “Johnny produced exquisite black satin shoes with an extremely high heel to go with the architectural dresses I had come up with,” says Price.

“The underside was made out of peach-beige leather, which accentuated the pin-thin heel and made the models – including Yasmin LeBon, Talisa Soto and Naomi Campbell – look stunning.”

Born John Joseph Rowley in Walthamstow, east London, on September 2 1945, Moke developed a precocious interest in style. Interviewed for THE LOOK, he recalled that his dressmaker mother encouraged him in his first shoe purchase at the age of 13: a pair of pearlised crocodile Densons with Cuban heels and gold buckles.

In the early 60s Moke was a member of east London’s select group of clothes-mad modernists which also included Mark Feld (later Marc Bolan) and by 1967 was occupying the tiny work-room/basement of Granny Takes A Trip, selling antique clothes, mainly women’s. With partner Mickey Oram, this business lead to the formation of Rowley & Oram in Kensington Market.

It was around this time that ownership of a series of then-trendy Mini-Mokes inspired the new surname. “Mokey had one car in bright yellow with red bumpers,” says Lloyd Johnson. “We’d all leap in it and drive around being very ‘Swinging London’ for a laugh.”

//Exterior 396 King’s Road, London, 2000. Pic: Robert Holmes// 

Fashion developed through personal relationships with pop stars: ”I’d design, say, yellow and pink velvet trousers and somebody like Ronnie Wood would see them at The Speakeasy and ask for a pair,” said Moke, who also befriended Jimi Hendrix and made multi-coloured corduroy trousers for the guitarist’s festival appearances.

Moke was the first retailer to stock an outrageous new design from young shoemaker Terry de Havilland - three-tiered patchwork snakeskin platform sandals which proved popular with Bianca Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Britt Ekland and Angie and David Bowie.

In the early 70s Moke opened the Hollywood Clothes Shop in Fulham. The designs and the interior paid tribute to the golden age of the movies. Cinema seats were installed, moveable fittings portrayed scenes from classic films and the clothes were placed on mannequins of 40s stars. Marc Bolan bought a sailor suit style pair of 30s pyjamas for a performance of Hot Love on Top Of The Pops.

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=dSpmEOSrTvU" onclick="javascript:pageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/youtube.com');">http://youtube.com/watch?v=dSpmEOSrTvU</a> 

Moke recalled how the most popular line was a bomber jacket with elasticated waists and cuffs in boldly-coloured Prince Of Wales check; one was so favoured by George Harrison that he wore it well into the 90s. The Hollywood Clothes Shop closed in 1972 and Moke opted out of fashion for a few years, travelling the countryside in a caravan and settling on a farm. In the late 70s he returned to the clothes business with Adhoc, which was established in the basement of Kensington Market with his associate Willie Deasey.

 

In 1979, as the mod revival went into overdrive as a result of the release of The Who’s film Quadrophenia, Moke’s name was introduced to a fresh generation of sartorialists when he collaborated with Richard Barnes on the book Mods!, to which he provided many original items.

  

//Interior 396 King’s Road London, 2000. Pic: Robert Holmes// 

Adhoc was sold on the dissolution of his partnership with Deasy, and survives to this day with an outlet in the former BOY premises at 153 King’s Road. He launched his own outlet, a shoe shop, in 1984 at 396 King’s Road. The crafted footwear drawing on traditional forms soon attracted a faithful international clientele which included Bryan Ferry and Paul Weller.

In 1999 the Johnny Moke label was the subject of three intriguing ad shorts art-directed by Mike Keane and created by agency Broadbent Cheetham Veazey. 

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=d8GPECkkdSc" onclick="javascript:pageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/youtube.com');">http://youtube.com/watch?v=d8GPECkkdSc</a> 

Johnny Moke held out longer than most independent boutiques against the invasion of the King’s Road by multiple retailers, chain-coffee shops and mobile phone outlets.

 

Expressing his disillusionment that fashion “finished with the 20th century” at the hands of globalisation and mass-marketing, Moke reinvented 396 King’s Road with a new label NOWE (an acronym for New/Old/West/East).

He augmented his shoe designs with ethnic clothing created by independent companies from all over the world. Moroccan slippers and Peruvian neck-chokers proved popular as did rails of vintage items such as Burberry raincoats and new lines by young British designers including Kate SheridanAlice Temperley and Alison Willoughby.

 

“The concept is to do anything I want, working with artisans from India to South America,” he told THE LOOK. “It may be fashionable, but it’s not fashion.” Moke finally closed his outlet in 2002 and in recent years his shoes have been available via international licenses, mainly in Asia.

 

//Two of Moke’s cards for RCA Secrets 2008// 

Last year Moke contributed six pieces  to the Royal College Of Art’s annual Secrets postcard art project.

Johnny Moke died of a heart attack in Mallorca on April 28.  

Angela Wayne said,

April 30, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

Goodbye Mokey – your shoes were the best and you were a lovely man.
May you rest in peace – with love Angela xxx

Juno Gemes said,

April 30, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

Vale Johnny Moke.
Artist extraordinaire.
Thanks for sending me round to the Greek bootmaker in Sheperds Bush.
All Love JG

planet mondo said,

April 30, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

A great tribute – another legend lost

Ray Chatham said,

April 30, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

Johnny rang me late last week to say that he was pretty sure he’d had a heart attack several days earlier, and that he’d now decided to see about it, and where would be the best place to go. He hadn’t been on the island very long, and certainly hadn’t even vaguely thought about where the hospitals were or anything else illness related. I’d have taken him myself to Son Llatzer if I hadn’t been so far out of Palma that it would have made him much later than the quick taxi ride.

His funeral is Sunday the 3rd at 1.30 midday. I’m going to miss him like mad.

Zelda said,

April 30, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

Another lost Treasure dear Moke..Love Zeldaxx

dandelion said,

April 30, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

This is a luvly tribute to the great johnny moke …thank you

rockpopfashion said,

May 1, 2009 @ 5:14 am

Below are just some of the condolences which have been sent across to me. Others who have expressed their sadness at Johnny’s passing include his old friends Jeff Dexter and Lloyd Johnson. PJG.

That is sad news. He was a good man and I remember when he came to us at Granny’s looking for an outlet to sell his clothes. I used to see him later when he had his shop in the King’s Road and I had a studio nearby. We’d pass the time chatting and reminiscing. Nigel Waymouth

Sorry to hear the sad news. Paul Smith.

What a sweetheart he was. I never really got to know him that well but the picture shows the expression he always greeted you with. Trevor Myles.

rockmother said,

May 4, 2009 @ 11:39 am

Such a lovely man – great fun when we were kids. We will miss you Johnny.

tony foley said,

May 4, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

R.I.P. mate

Graham said,

May 10, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

I used to drop into Johnny’s shop on Kings Road whenever I was in London. He was always very welcoming, knowledgable and a lovely guy to talk to. I’m very sad to hear of his untimely passing.

Nicholas Dunn said,

May 11, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

So sad to hear that Johnny has past away. He gave me my first job assisting him in his store on the kings road which led me to passing my degree at Cordwainers and on to graduating from the Royal College of Art and into a career in shoe and accessories design. Such a lovely man and a great mentor to me and so many other young designers..

rockpopfashion said,

May 16, 2009 @ 6:00 am

The obit for Johnny Moke is in today’s Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/5330886/Johnny-Moke.html

Adeline André et Istvan Dohar said,

May 21, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

Durant de nombreuses années, Johnny Moke a réalisé avec beaucoup de passion les chaussures de mes défilés, je le remercierais toujours.
Sa soudaine disparition nous plonge dans une profonde tristesse.
Avec Hazel, Sunny, Soraya et tous ses amis nous partagerons pour toujours de merveilleux souvenirs de beauté et de joies.
Au revoir Johnny,
Adeline et Istvan

TRANSLATION:
For many years and with great passion, Johnny Moke made shoes for my shows, for which I was always very grateful.
His sudden disappearance plunges us into deep sadness.
With Hazel, Sunny, Soraya and all his friends we will always share wonderful memories of the beauty and joy he brought us.
Farewell Johnny,
Adeline and Istvan

Simon Kirwan said,

June 17, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

I first encountered Johnny’s name in the mods book by Richard Barnes.

I was thirteen at the time (1979) and a number amount of years later, while browsing the shoes in Selfridges, every shoe I liked and picked up was a Johnny Moke shoe. Could this be the same man?
I then bought a pair in Kensington in the January sales for £95.
Then I found out he had his own shop in the Kings Road, so the following January I went to pick up another friendly bargain with my hard earned cash in my pocket.
I arrived at his shop door on a bitterly cold Saturday morning.
Looking in through the window I saw a collection of the finest mod shoes one could want. I went to enter the door but it was locked. A man with a beard wearing a two piece blue suit let me in. I saw the shoes I liked which were priced at £175 and asked him if the sale was on.
He replied “not till the end of the month”. I was gutted and offered him £150 for them
He said “give me £140″, so I bought them. I never even asked if he was Johnny or spoke about the mods book and have been trying to find out what happened to him since.
I now know. I still have the bag they came and wear both pairs of shoes with pride and respect.
I also now know that it WAS Johnny who served me.
The original is still the greatest.
Thanks for the memory.
R.I.P.

Lee said,

November 18, 2009 @ 1:17 am

RIP Johnny. I loved working for you . Very good memories for me .
Lee x. Love to Hazel, Soraya ( I still have all your paintings you sent me from Spain ..1992) and Sunny x

Keith Lander said,

December 2, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

To Sunny, Soraya and Hazel,
We are deeply saddened to hear of Johnny’s passing. Johnny was a dear man who taught me much about life and art. I became a photographer because of him. On my first day of working for Johnny (1989) he set out rows of shoes on his desk, handed me a sketch pad and pencil and said “draw these”. His shoe designs remain amongst the greatest in the world and I think, the most unique.
I last saw Johnny at his shop on the Kings Road near World’s End in 1999. He was lovely man, a great artist (we still have all the shoes he made us), an individual and someone who made others lives more enriching for having known him! God Bless you Johnny and God Bless your family!

With love,

Keith & Leticia Lander

Edward Aydin said,

December 6, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

Mr Moke
I still wear all the shoes i got from your Kings Rd Shop.
When i walked into your store..you told me i was a size 10.5
and you where correct and all your shoes are so well made
and comfortable. God Bless.
Edward

Paul Grant said,

March 19, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

Johnny you were a true mod and face. You laid the groundwork for the mod movement that continues to this day. I have wonderful memories of my mod years from 1963 to 1965. By far the best days of my life, all thanks to you. I am sixty-six years old, still think, dress and live as a mod, and ride a Vespa GS.
Where ever you are, i know that you will continuing the mod lifestyle.

GSPAUL

Funkg said,

July 11, 2011 @ 10:38 am

I still on occasions wear my black Johnny Moke brogues which I bought in 1988, it has never really dated in my opinion. Johhny Moke was an inspiration for me and was one of the sparks in my interest and in design and fashion.

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