Paul Gorman is…

John Stephen: Progenitor of a custom-built design movement

Oct 5th, 2012

“One day, ‘Carnaby Street’ could rank with ‘Bauhaus’ as a descriptive phrase for a design style and design legend.”

Ken and Kate Baynes, Design, August 1966.

Today is the seventh anniversary of Westminster Council’s dedication of a plaque in Carnaby Street to the late fashion retailer John Stephen, the 60s media darling dubbed “The £1m Mod” for his entrepreneurial success and flamboyant lifestyle (houses in Cannes and Milan, a white Alsatian named Prince who dined with him at his regular table at Mirabelle).

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Documentaries: Up pops Tommy Roberts in Three Swings On A Pendulum (1967)

Jul 31st, 2012

//Roberts, right, tries on a military greatcoat at I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet.//

Look out for an appearance by Tommy Roberts – subject of my new book – in the 1967 documentary Three Swings On A Pendulum, currently available for viewing (in the UK at least) on BBC iPlayer.

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Magazines: West One’s London Belles 1973 – Diane Logan, Vivienne Westwood et al

Nov 23rd, 2011

A viewing of Jes Benstock’s fab doc A British Guide To Showing Off occasions this opportunity to dig out the London Belles feature from a 1973 issue of shortlived free magazine West One.

Above is milliner Diane Logan in one of her outfits as contestant Rita Ritz in the 1973 Alternative Miss World.

Logan – wife of sculptor Peter, mother of fashion illustrator Blue and sister-in-law of AMW host & hostess Andrew – is wearing a satin bathing suit with one of her own hats (from Logan’s Chiltern Street shop) and sandals from Tommy Roberts’ Covent Garden boutique City Lights Studio.

Another London Belle was Vivienne Westwood in an early media appearance wearing a Let It Rock striped suit, ankle boots, patterned stockings and an adapted Chuck Berry t-shirt from 430 King’s Road’s incarnation as Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die.

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Ideal Home: Biba beans + biscuit tins + wallpaper by David Bowie + Barney Bubbles

Sep 5th, 2011
Biba tin of baked beans

Can of Biba own-brand baked beans. Packaging design: Whitmore-Thomas Partnership, 1973.

Chelsea Space director Donald Smith has invited me to contribute items from my design collection to his forthcoming show Ideal Home, which features the work of more than 50 artists and designers spanning 1913 to 2011.

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Conversation: Lloyd Johnson + Ben Olins on Brighton Rock

Feb 27th, 2011

Place: Golden Square, London W1.

Time: 1pm

Coffee: Nordic Bakery Soho

Lloyd Johnson, Ben Olins and I met on a sunny Saturday for a chat about Rowan Joffe’s recently-released film Brighton Rock. The transposition of the storyline to 1964 has resulted in marketing which leans heavily on the backdrop of the Mods vs Rockers “riots” in British coastal resorts that year.

Pretty Green and Merc are among promotional partners; there lingers the distinct impression of an attempt to reach out to cinemagoers by creating a British version of the Mad Men buzz.

In fact the mod content is a gloss overlaying this stodgy interpretation of the 1947 film classic rather than Grahame Greene’s 1939 novel (despite claims to the contrary; Joffe even chose the first film’s climactic cop-out, against the author’s wish for an unremittingly bleak ending).

An original modernist raised in neighbouring Hastings, Lloyd has considerable first-hand knowledge of the subject and worked on the film which is a primary visual influence: Quadrophenia.

Ben’s fascination for the period is manifested in such activities as the club-night The Fabulous Cellar and certain aspects of his media company Herb Lester Associates.

As a cradle Catholic my heart sank when I heard the word on this; one of the great literary investigations into good and evil recast as a mod rite of passage. Mod really is the mainstream option these days isn’t? So codified as to be meaningless and square beyond belief: all those “rules”, all that conformity. For that, and many other reasons, the film lived down to my low expectations.

What do you reckon?

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Blessed & Blasted: Angry Brigade Communique 8. 01.05.1971

Jan 27th, 2011

By the time this appeared in International Times, The Angry Brigade had bombed the Biba boutique in Kensington High Street, west London, on May Day, 1971.

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