Sad to note the anniversary today of the death of Tommy Roberts, flamboyant design entrepreneur and subject of my book Mr Freedom.
//Dedication (right) with (left on cover-flap) list of abiding interests (courtesy Eve Ferret + Mark Summerfield) and Brian Aris portrait//
//Roberts opened Kleptomania with Charlie Simpson in Kingly Street, central London, in 1966//
//Neon arch sales counter display designed by Jeffrey Pine for Mr Freedom, opened with partner Trevor Myles at 430 King’s Road in September 1969//
Here – with a selection of images from Mr Freedom – is an extract from an essay I have written about Roberts’ role in the development of design in Britain for Chris Breward and Ghislaine Wood’s book British Design: Tradition & Modernity, which will be published by Bloomsbury next year.
It is arguable that wider recognition for Tommy Roberts’ audacious innovations in the promotion of street style, furniture, gastronomy, home-wares, interiors and collectables was undercut by his refusal to observe the sensitivities of England’s post-war design world.
Roberts adopted an ebullient public persona to match his stout physique and broad Cockney accent. “I’m the most vulgar man in fashion, darlin’!” Roberts proclaimed to the no-less outrageous Sunday Times fashion editor Molly Parkin in the heyday of his Pop Art fashion and objects emporium Mr Freedom.
//Susie Bubble pays tribute to Shop, The World According To…, Shop At Maison Bertaux, Posh, Shopgirl//
Rifling through her memories of Pippa Brooks and Max Karie’s Soho boutique Shop (which later mutated into The World According To… and then shifted base to Shop At Maison Bertaux), fashion blogger Susie Bubble has nice things to say about me and my work and includes in her selection of images the cover of the first edition of The Look.
This featured Libby Peder’s photograph of Pippa and James Dearlove, her musical collaborator in Posh, All About Eve Babitz and Shopgirl.
It was as Shopgirl that Pippa and James played the launch party, which was held across the road from Shop at the club Astral and featured DJ sets by others in the book, including Jeff Dexter, Count Indigo, Dan Donovan + Don Letts and Jay Strongman.
//2001 invite to the party launching the first edition of The Look//
I got to know Pippa through Shop and Posh, who I saw live a few times in the 90s. Sadly I missed this performance at Wembley Stadium on the same bill as Bon Jovi (is it me or is Pippa absolutely bricking it when she leans down to take a slug of water?):
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor is an exhibition of Polaroids taken by artist, illustrator and print-maker Jim French which opens tonight at New York’s ClampArt gallery.
These include studies for French’s 1969 Colt Studio print Longhorns Dance, incorporated by Malcolm McLaren in 1975 in his notorious Cowboys t-shirt design, as sold in Sex and Seditionaries at 430 King’s Road and worn by the Sex Pistols and others.
//Longhorns Dance by Colt (Jim French) from Manpower! issue 7, 1974//
//Wearing their Cowboys (clockwise from top left): McLaren 1975, Sid Vicious 1977, Siouxsie 1976, Steve Jones 1975. Photographs: Bob Gruen; Dennis Morris; Ray Stevenson; Mick Rock.//
In the period 1972-78 when the body of the partnership’s punk fashions were created, Malcolm McLaren’s art education and development as a largely conceptual visual artist was applied with Vivienne Westwood’s intuitive and sophisticated technical skills.
The resultant potency of the work was achieved by such factors as: balance in the proportions; deft use of juxtaposition; confidence in realisation; jarring harmony in the use of colour; wit in the application of motifs; and astute sense of framing, particularly of text and visual imagery.
Excerpt from introduction to my review of the McLaren/Westwood designs in the Costume Institute collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, summer 2013.
Precision, deftness, balance, harmony, these are terms unjustly omitted from the standard critical lexicon applied to punk’s central design aesthetics as conceived and realised by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and their coterie.
Which is why Punk @ ShowStudio, the elegant exhibition which is now moving into its final week at photographer Nick Knight’s Belgravia gallery, is to be applauded, since it avoids the run-of-the-mill in favour of recognition of the importance of these qualities.
“I was very impressed. It was inspiring to see what I like to call ‘the origins of Punk’ as opposed to the usual well documented ‘greatest hits of Punk’,” the collector/archivist/author Paul Burgess wrote to me recently.
//Part of Judy Blame's contribution to the exhibition//
//Richard Wernham, Nick Garvey, Robert Gotobed, Rob Smith on the front cover of Teenage Head/Lights Out by The Snakes, Dynamo Records, 1976//
I went to a good school (it was approved, as my first editor would have it in the late 70s. You had to be there).
I was taken on as a scholarship boy, one who showed enough promise for the fees to be paid by the council.
But I was lazy, not as bright as I made out, unhappy, an under-achiever. Aside from winning the cross-country race when I was 14, my life there was almost entirely undistinguished, so preoccupied was I with music, clothes and girls. I had pretensions to vast knowledge in all three areas undercut by lack of experience in the latter regard.
//Booklet with Quadrophenia, an album about "a cat with four personalities" according to me, 1973//
//School report 1975: "If Paul is as familiar with DG Mackean's Introduction To Biology as he is with the NME, he will pass his O-Level. As it is, he isn't, so I fear he won't." And I didn't//
//Clockwise from top left: Cover, Helen And Desire, 1970; George O'Dowd, photo: Richard Bevan, 2013; Carnaby Street book and Palisades swing tag, 1970 and 1966; front cover, Anarchy In The UK newsprint fanzine, 1976//
I’m involved in a couple of events which open in London this week: artist Lucy Harrison’s multi-layered project Carnaby Echoes in the West End and photographer Nick Knight’s exhibition Punk at his Showstudio space in SW1.
The intriguing new project from photographer Bradley Richards is Austerity Measures, a hand-bound and printed collection of observations taken in and around Canary Wharf, the capital’s business district and financial hub.
The Emporium, the London clothing outlet which inaugurated London’s vintage fashion business, is to close after 27 years.
As London’s independent retail fashion scene took the swan-dive from which it never recovered in the mid-80s, so Jon Hale and Jacki Cook’s shop in Greenwich, south-east London, provided a haven of 20th Century style, handpicked with consummate taste from their carefully accumulated archive of thousands of garments from the 30s to the 70s.
//Laurie Cunningham in bespoke suit and tie of his own design aged 17, 1973. Photo courtesy Dermot Kavanagh//
Journalist Dermot Kavanagh’s project to celebrate the life and achievements of the late soul boy footballer Laurie Cunningham moves apace; if you have the opportunity, listen to Kavanagh talking to BBC London 94.9′s Robert Elms today. Read the rest of this entry »