When young French actor Jules Sitruk appears as irritatingly cool French exchange student Didier in much-touted new Brit-movie Son Of Rambow, an entire vista of rock and pop fashion from the 80s, and one King’s Road store in particular, opens up.
//Sitruk in Son Of Rambow and a black version of the LaRocka jacket//
In a key scene, Sitruk is garbed in a red leather/black drill sleeveless Levi’s-style LaRocka! jacket from Johnsons, the greatest and most rocking fashion outlet of all time, whose customers ranged from Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan and Keith Richards to Tom Waits, The Pistols, The Clash and yes, even Liza Minnelli.
//Johnsons R&R Suicide in Son Of Rambow and on the cover of The Face 1981//
In a separate scene in Son Of Rambow, costume designer Harriett Cawley pays yet another covert tribute when she places a tee from Lloyd Johnson’s Japanese-influenced and much-imitated Rock & Roll Suicide collection.
It’s not surprising the the visual nods to rock and pop fashion are of the highest quality. The team behind Son Of Rambow are steeped in music; as promo production company Hammer & Tongs, writer/director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith have been responsible for such hit clips as Supergrass’s Pumping On Your Stereo and Fatboy Slim’s Right Here Right Now, and continue to pump it up; among recent commissions is Vampire Weekend’s new single A-Punk.
//406 King’s Road London SW3 in the 80s//
As revealed in THE LOOK, Lloyd’s shops in Kensington Market and at 406 King’s Road became a hive of rock-influenced fashion from the Seventies to the Noughties, with labels such as Tex-Mex, Beat Beat, Johnsons The Modern Outfitters, R&R Sucide and LaRocka! reflecting many different areas of design influence and musical interest.
//Trudi Parsons in The Face 1981//
Lloyd’s creations under the R&R Suicide banner debuted with coverage in style bible The Face, with Siouxsie Sue on a 1981 cover and shop manager Trudi Parsons featured inside.
//Billy and Joe plump for Johnson’s//
Meanwhile Billy Idol and Joe Strummer both chose R&R Suicide shirts, the former on the sleeve of his breakthrough album Hot In The City and The Clash frontman on tour in the Far East in 1982.
One of the most charming aspects of the Johnson’s retail experience was that Lloyd and his staff became personalities in their own right, as seen in this rare advert for the style press shot by photographer Martin Brading in 1986. Among those appearing are Lloyd (bottom right), his wife Jill (centre), Trudi and her brother Dave Parsons (top right). Dave moved on to play bass for Transvision Vamp and, in the 90s, grungers Bush.
//George Michael in LaRocka BSA jacket and boots//
LaRocka! became so ubiquitous that it was often the only common ground between artists and celebrities as various as Nick Cave and Samantha Fox, as exemplified by the fact that, in the same year, George Michael wore Johnsons in the video for his US number one hit Faith while Tom Waits carried over his stagewear bought from the shop for his landmark London shows of 1986 to his role in Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law.
//At 3.12: “NOT the shoes!!”//
As seen in this scene from the film, his character only comes to life when screen partner Ellen Barkin threatens to throw his silver tipped LaRocka! boots out of the window.
//THE LOOK’s own “Waits” LaRocka! boots//
Towards the end of the decade the glam element of Johnson’s designs attracted those interested not just in rock but also clubwear.”When the leather jackets really took off I had this mad idea to do a gold biker jacket, jeans and boots to celebrate,” says Lloyd.
“I guess it was Elvis’s gold suit playing on my mind. And once again, instant success! Lux Interior from The Cramps bought the first outfit and then the fashion editor of The Face was so ecstatic when he saw it, we got the front cover and four pages inside. So I thought, why not do silver as well? The next thing there was a phone call from Vogue. Could they photograph Liza Minelli in the silver jacket for the cover?”