Paul Gorman is…

Roger Burton on the Michael Hochong collection

//Back of turquoise space suit.//

Following yesterday’s post about the exhibition of Michael Hochong’s incredible clothes, the Horse Hospital’s Roger Burton has given an account of how he came by the collection and his personal connection to this “very beautiful man”.

A couple of years ago I was contacted by an American woman whose uncle had suffered a stroke; due to lack of space in his new apartment he was looking for a good home for a unique collection of clothes.

She tried to describe them as best she could and even sent a photo, but there was still little indication as to how unusual they were. Intrigued, I made an appointment to visit Michael in Pimlico – he’d moved from a larger flat in Bond Street so that he could occupy a ground floor space.

//Satin suits with (left) sequinned coat + (right) turban.//

//Appliqué-d shirt + feather cloak.//

72 years old at our first meeting, he was seated in a matt black, state-of-the-art wheelchair, wearing a black ciré vest and matching hot-pants, with long grey hair tied in a ponytail.

The boxes of well-preserved clothes and his stories revealed an exclusive world which,  at the time,  was hidden from public gaze. He opened his restaurant Michael’s at 3 Park Close in Knightsbridge in 1969.  Close to Harvey Nichol’s, Cutler & Gross and Mr Chow (who had opened a year earlier) the district fast became an exclusive haunt for London’s elite.

Any night of the week at Michael’s there would be an array of celebrities, from Andy Warhol to Vincent Price, with the man himself as the star attraction.

Michael explained how he would wear a different outfit every night, first to appear at his restaurant and then on to his favorite nightclub, Tramp in Jermyn Street, where he would walk  past the lengthy queue with the likes of David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Peter Sellers and Richard Harris in tow to while away the evening with an attentive audience.

I came to understand how Michael’s life was one long parade of style. From the mid-60s through to the late 70s he commissioned dozens of outrageous garments from different designers, all the while customising other garments with appliqué, buttons and fabric found on his travels.

Michael was a very beautiful man.

Every Beautiful Thing… opens next Wednesday (November 9).

The images are from postcards available during the show.

Michael Hochong's painted lilac boots

//Painted lilac boots.//

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Author: / Published: Nov 4th, 2011 / Category: Archives, Collections, Exhibitions, London / Comments: None

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