THE LOOK’s sojourn down under has combined with the acquisition of the fabulous Larrikins In London catalogue (from a show at Sydney’s Ivan Dougherty Gallery five years ago) to bring to mind a sorely underrated figures of 60s London: John Crittle.
//Peki d’Oslo and John Crittle on their way to court May 1967//
Crittle was so central a 60s character that he accompanied Amanda Lear (then modelling as Peki d’Oslo) when she appeared before magistrates on May 27 1967 after a raid on Dandie Fashions at 161 King’s Road resulted in charges for possession of “dangerous drugs”.
The charges were later dropped.
Brian Jones sent his car and chauffeur Brian Palastanga to ensure that their journey to and from Marlborough Street court was as comfortable as possible.
By all accounts a maverick, the great-looking Crittle arrived in London from Australia in the early 60s, just ahead of the influx which contained such movers and shakers as artist Martin Sharp, filmmaker Philippe Mora, iconoclast Germaine Greer, designer Jenny Kee and Oz magazine founder Richard Neville and his partner Louise Ferrier (who is played by Sienna Miller in this year’s movie version of Neville’s book Hippie Hippie Shake).
//Kee and Ferrier feature on the cover of Oz 17//
The estranged father of ballet superstar Darcey Bussell, Crittle first emerged in the story of rock and pop fashion in the employ of Michael Rainey at Hung On You, when it was situated in Cale Street, Chelsea Green, in 1965.
Rainey is not a fan, describing Crittle as “ghastly”; what is certain is that the Aussie took the Hung On You formula of fine tailoring with an eccentric twist to Dandie and broadened it out for the mainstream as the King’s Road became the global epicentre of cool.
Dandie was opened at in Kensington Mews, south Kensington, in the autumn of 1966 by well-born peacocks Neil Winterbotham and Guinness heir Tara Browne, in part as an outlet for Browne’s groovy tailoring business Foster & Tara, which also serviced such stores as Granny Takes A Trip.
//Tara Browne (back, centre) with Binder, Edwards & Vaughn and friends//
In December 1966, Browne was killed when his Lotus Elan collided with a van in Earls Court. Just 21, he had been on his way to the Kings Road to discuss the shop-front for Dandie’s new premises at 161 King’s Road. This was being created by designers Dudley Edwards (who continues to design for high profile collectors), Douglas Binder (curator at Dean Clough in Halifax) and David Vaughn (late father of designer Sadie Frost).
Famously, The Daily Mail report of Browne’s death was one of the triggers for John Lennon’s composition A Day In The Life (“He blew his mind out in a car, He didn’t notice that the light had changed…”) while the Pretty Things recorded Death Of A Socialite in Tara’s memory.
//Ron Hammond and Luther Rabb with Hendrix’s Dandie jacket//
Under Crittle’s stewardship with input from the team of Winterbotham, Freddie Hornik and Alan Holston, Dandie’s clientele included Jimi Hendrix, who bought a red silk jacket printed with roses which is still in the possession of his Seattle friends Ron Hammond and Luther Rabb (to whom he gave it in the late 60s), and David Bowie, who acquired the silver suit he wears in the Space Oddity clip for the short film Love You Till Tuesday:
Crittle was by no means a typical member of the counter-culture, which perhaps explains his absence from most histories of the period. One acquaintance, Nigel Waymouth of Granny’s, recalls him preferring pints in the pub with the shopfitters.
“John was the kind of guy who’d turn up after a night out with a black eye,” he says.In May 1968, The Beatles’ right-hand man Neil Aspinall and Apple accountant Stephen Maltz became directors of Dandie as part of a deal which saw the premises transformed into Apple Tailoring (Civil and Theatrical).
//Lennon poses at the opening of Crittle’s Apple Tailoring//
John Lennon – whose pen-and-ink portrait of Crittle recently reached Y300,000 at sale by Bonhams – attended the opening night party of Apple Tailoring with Yoko Ono, marking the couple’s first public appearance.
The Beatles’ attempt to latch onto the made-to-measure market was about as successful as Apple’s benighted Baker Street boutique, and the shop closed within a matter of months.
“The Kings Road shop, which is known as Apple Tailoring, isn’t going to be part of Apple anymore,” announced Paul McCartney.
“But it isn’t closing down and we are leaving our investment there because we have a moral and personal obligation to our partner John Crittle, who is now in sole control.”
Crittle returned to Australia in 1975, leaving behind his daughter and wife, who remarried. On his death in 2000 (from emphysema at the age of 56), the Daily Mail revealed he was Darcey Bussell’s father.
His daughter has occasionally reminisced about the few times she spent with him as a little girl, being ferried along the King’s Road in the back of a Rolls-Royce as Crittle manoeuvred his way around the demi-monde.
Kee, meanwhile, pays her own tribute in the Larrikins In London booklet by spelling out in capitals DANDY FASHIONS OF THE EFFETE ELITE.