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‘Soho-Italianate’: Gordon Moore’s advert for Vince Man’s Shop in ARK magazine 1957


This advert for Vince Man’s Shop – the small Soho boutique which sparked the modernisation of menswear design and retailing in the second half of the 20th century – was designed by Gordon Moore for issue 20 of the Royal College Of Art magazine ARK, published in autumn 1957.

Launched in 1950, ARK was a veritable hothouse for design talent as well as a barometer of young British art. The adverts were created by students; around this time Moore also designed murals for Terence Conran’s first Soup Kitchen restaurant in Knightsbridge and later became photography editor of Oui and Playboy.

//Vince ad, What's On In London 1957, featuring model Sean Connery.//

Moore’s ad was the third and last for Vince to feature in consecutive issues of ARK.

The shop was opened in 1954 by muscle-boy photographer Bill (or sometimes Basil) Green, who told writer Rodney Bennett-England at the height of Swinging London more than a decade later that the secret of his early success was to tap into the burning desire among British youth for denim.

“I demonstrated it was not just an overall cloth,” said Green. “Pale blue is still the top seller. We also used a lot of other cloths like bed ticking, reversed fabrics and sailcloth. We did tapered shirts from the beginning. None of the revolution in menswear would have worked if the girls hadn’t approved. They wanted men to wear more exciting clothes with colour and a closer fit.”

As related by Alex Seago in his examination of post-war art-school sensibilities Burning The Box Of Beautiful Things, the Continental casual-wear propagated by Vince was hot to trot at the RCA, as was the “Soho-Italianate” decor of such haunts as El Sombrero, featured in the same edition’s local coffee bar survey by Toni del Renzio.

//Design by David Collins for article in ARK 20, 1957.//

//El Sombrero coffee bar, 1957. Photographer unknown.//

In Kensington, The Sombrero survived well into the 70s, its subterranean atmosphere, small dance floor and excellent music policy attracting a largely gay crowd. Whenever I visited I was thrilled in the knowledge that this was the place where David Bowie had first encountered his talented clothing designer Freddie Burretti.

But I digress. In his book, Seago cites the style of the RCA hipsters according to John Bratby’s 1960 autobiographical novel Breakdown, in which a character at one of the college’s dances wears “an Italian style short coat, a pair of pointed, elegant shoes, a thinly striped Italian shirt and a very narrow neck to belly tie. He was the new Italian-derivative arty type that had been to Italy and never recovered”.

Roger Coleman, the editor of ARK 1956-57 who championed the intellectual pop of the Independent Group and moved onto the ICA and Design magazine, told Seago: “Italian gear was very in then (in 1957). What was interesting was we all tended to have our hair cut short at the time in the Perry Como ‘college boy’ hairstyle. I remember that after I did those ARKs I was smitten by appendicitis and, after I’d been visited in hospital by Dick Smith, Robyn Denny and Pete Blake, an old Austrian guy in the bed next to me asked: ‘What is this? Some club mit the hair?’”

Coleman, now professor emeritus at the RCA and founder of the Helen Hanley Centre, specialises in the issues around design and the ageing population. Read more here.

There is a website dedicated to the Independent Group here.

I discussed how Vince Man’s Shop ignited the boutique explosion in THE LOOK.

Freddie Burretti’s life, work and relationship with David Bowie are celebrated in Kevin Cann’s definitive Any Day Now.

Burning The Box Of Beautiful Things – which includes a coolly delivered foreword by Len Deighton – is essential reading for those interested in British visual culture in the 50s and 60s.

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Author: / Published: Aug 24th, 2012 / Category: Art, Art Schools + Colleges, Books, Design, Magazines, Pop Art, The Look / Comments: 7

7 Responses to “‘Soho-Italianate’: Gordon Moore’s advert for Vince Man’s Shop in ARK magazine 1957”


  1. JD
    on Aug 24th, 2012
    @ 7:49 pm

    El Sombrero was still happening in the 80s, but “its subterranean atmosphere, small dance floor” was called ‘Yours & Mine’.


  2. Paul Gorman
    on Aug 25th, 2012
    @ 9:22 am

    I think it was called Yours & MIne from the early 70s JD – thanks for pointing that out. I didn’t know it survive dinto the 80s – what was it like then? Last time I went was in 78 and it was pretty shabby (but great) then. Wonder what happened to that coffee machine from the 50s?


  3. lloyd johnson
    on Aug 25th, 2012
    @ 12:35 pm

    When Patrick Cockell & I had Cockell & Johnson in Kensington Market 68-72ish – Armadeo, the owner of ‘YOURS & MINE’ (it might have been called ‘Yours or Mine’) which was below El Sombrero Restaurant in Kensington High Street,gave us £1500 so we could stock our stall properly; we were under capitalized at the time.
    The only thing he wanted in returned was for us to make all the staff of Yours & Mine and Maggie Jones (a restaurant he had an interest in) two shirts each of their choice.
    The shirts were skin-tight and we called the cut Ligne de Corps.
    Sadly I think Armadeo died at the hands of a jealous lover. He was a really nice guy, very kind. A lot of us use to go to ‘Yours & Mine’ – it was a great club and for its time very accepting of all sexualities. They didn’t mind that we were heterosexuals and would go there with our girlfriends. Bowie, Bolan, Iggy Pop and Freddie were regulars. We stopped going so much when Big Biba opened as you could see The Ronettes…New York Dolls..Bill Haley & The Comets at BIBA Rainbow room… which is another story…great times!!!


  4. JD
    on Aug 25th, 2012
    @ 12:36 pm

    Lloyd will fill you in on some good background too, but when the place was HOT, all the best female lovelies would feel safe amongst the throng, so us ‘butch’ blokes did rather well, loved it..


  5. JD
    on Aug 25th, 2012
    @ 12:37 pm

    Looks like Lloyd was quicker than me….


  6. Paul Gorman
    on Aug 25th, 2012
    @ 4:10 pm

    Thanks Lloyd. It was Yours And Mine – just checked my copy of Any Day Now (which I edited so should have remembered); Kevin talks about David Bowie going there since the mid-to late 60s with Ken Pitt when it was still an espresso bar. So you missed the great disco era of 75-78; the dancefloor was like Sat Night Fever’s much smaller; trnapsarent and underlit. I don’t know who the DJ was but they had great taste.


  7. Paul Gorman
    on Aug 25th, 2012
    @ 4:10 pm

    Butch? Ha!

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