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Bravura + brilliance: Tommy Roberts, February 6 1941 – December 10 2012

Dec 10th, 2013
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//Tommy Roberts, 1987. Photo: Christopher Clunn//

Sad to note the anniversary today of the death of Tommy Roberts, flamboyant design entrepreneur and subject of my book Mr Freedom.

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//Dedication (right) with (left on cover-flap) list of abiding interests (courtesy Eve Ferret + Mark Summerfield) and Brian Aris portrait//

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//Roberts opened Kleptomania with Charlie Simpson in Kingly Street, central London, in 1966//

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//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.

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Smiles all round at the Tommy Roberts book launch

Jun 23rd, 2012

Photoshoot for the Tommy Roberts book: Mr Freedom winged boots, City Lights Studio suit, Practical Styling carrier bag, Jane Wealleans’ fabric print and much much more

Nov 19th, 2011
Tommy Roberts book photoshoot: Jane Wealleans print fabric

//Swathe with repeat print of American footballers, Jane Wealleans for Mr Freedom, 1970.//

Tommy Roberts book photoshoot: Jane Wealleans American footballer print on swathe of brown crepe.

//Jane Wealleans print on brown crepe.//

Here’s a sneak iPhone peak from yesterday’s photoshoot for my forthcoming book about Tommy Roberts.

Tommy’s son and accomplished photographer/cameraman Keith set up a studio in a room at his furniture emporium Two Columbia Road and shot around 50-plus garments and artefacts to go with the 300-odd images already planned for the book.

I snapped these on my phone in downtime; forgive the quality – hopefully they convey the flavour of the exercise.

Keith photographed a cornucopia of goodies, including two pairs of Mr Freedom’s famous winged boots, a carrier bag for Tommy’s 80s shop Practical Styling, a suit from his 70s boutique City Lights Studio (lent to us by another design hero Lloyd Johnson) and much more besides.

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