Paul Gorman is…

‘Extraordinary… transgressive’: Malcolm McLaren’s great lost fashion collection

Feb 12th, 2017

//Detail: Etching in steel toe-cap for the 80s collection. This image © Paul Gorman Archive. No reproduction without permission//

On the collapse of their design partnership in October 1983 after showcasing of the collection Worlds End 1984 in Paris and London, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood went their separate ways.

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Rarely spotted Mr Freedom designs emerge from Audrey’s wardrobe after 45 years

May 31st, 2016
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//Audrey Watson’s great grand-neice Carlie models the spot-print two-piece bought in 1971 from Mr Freedom’s branch at 20 Kensington Church Street in west London. All photos: Helen Smith//

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//Sooty & Sweep print Mr Freedom shirt also acquired by Watson on one of her shopping trips to London in the early 70s//

The emergence of good condition Mr Freedom designs with strong provenance is rare these days, so I’m delighted to showcase these unusual and original garments from the seminal early 70s London boutique operated by Trevor Myles, John Paul and Tommy Roberts.

They were acquired in the early 70s from the second Mr Freedom outlet in Kensington by the ultra-stylish British collector Audrey Watson, now 87 and a lifelong devotee of quirky and interesting clothing who has reluctantly begun the process of divesting herself of her fashion archive.

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Fabulousness: Rarely-seen footage of Kansai Yamamoto’s game-changing 1971 King’s Road catwalk show

Mar 19th, 2016

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“It was a spectacular coup de théâtre – Kansai’s models came on moving. They leapt, ran, whirled like dervishes, danced, flung out their arms so that the brilliant colours meshed and merged into a kaleidoscopic cartoon of colour. Kansai himself, black-clothed and masked, moved across the stage like a Samurai warrior, tearing off layers and layers of clothes, stripping down the beautiful, pyramidal outer garments, right down to the vests and body paint. Kansai’s clothes épatent les couturiers.”

Harpers & Queen, July 1971

As fuzzy as they are, the two precious video clips at the end of this post convey the game-changing nature of  Kansai Yamamoto’s theatrical introduction of avant-garde Japanese fashion design to these shores at the dawn of the 70s.

They also reveal the extent to which the late David Bowie subsequently drew on Yamamoto’s flamboyance and daring when presenting Ziggy Stardust on stage.

Several of the designs were worn by Bowie in performance during live promotion, in particular of the Aladdin Sane album, and he also adopted the sleight-of-hand layered costume reveals, the emphatic postures of the models and even the flame-red hair colouring as seen on the huge wig worn in the first excerpt below.

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‘A lifetime in design taught Tommy Roberts to avoid fashionability’: My chapter on the importance of the late design entrepreneur in new book

Oct 21st, 2015

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“Anyone who has wondered how the Britain of utility furniture and wartime rationing managed to evolve into Cool Britannia will find this a remarkable book.”

Elizabeth Guffey, State University of New York at Purchase

My case study Tommy Roberts: From Kleptomania To Two Columbia Road forms a chapter in new book British Design: Tradition And Modernity After 1948, which is published by Bloomsbury Academic tomorrow (October 22).

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‘Designers + Customisers in 3D’: Electric Colour Company in new issue of GQ Style

Apr 9th, 2015

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Electric Colour Company were intent on enlivening the visual landscape of grey London town by desecrating polite notions of decor and good taste

My feature on the pioneering but sorely undervalued design studio Electric Colour Company appears in the current issue of UK GQ Style.

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Granny Takes A Trip + Mr Freedom boots: Were they originally owned by Elton?

Mar 12th, 2015

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//The four pairs of boots are classic examples of early 70s rock n roll style//

These rare and unusual boots are thought to have once belonged to Elton John; the current owner was told this when he acquired them.

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430 Kings Road: In the back of Mr Freedom, Paradise Garage + Let It Rock 1969 – 1972

Feb 28th, 2015
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/Left: Andrew Greaves of Electric Colour Company in the back of Paradise Garage, May 1971. Right: Vivienne Westwood in the back of Let It Rock, January 1972. Photos: David Parkinson//

Preparation for my paper at Ben Kelly’s interior design symposium Dead Or Alive has coincided with the refurbishment of the Worlds End shop at 430 King’s Road in Chelsea.

The address is the subject of my talk; I’ll be detailing the history of 430 and how and why it was an important social and cultural locus over a number of decades.

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//Back wall of 430 King’s Road on the opening of Mr Freedom, September 1969. Interior: Electric Colour Company. Photo: David Parkinson//

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Funky but chic: Roxy in Kensington Church Street + the Ken Todd connection

Feb 19th, 2015
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//Roxy, 25 Kensington Church Street, 1972. Photo: Masayoshi Sukita//

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//Inside Roxy, 1972: Shelley Martin in a flamenco dress designed by Dinah Adams. Photo: Masayoshi Sukita//

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//Some of the Roxy crowd photographed around the corner from the shop (from left): The late Granny’s co-owner Marty Breslau, whose ensemble includes a Wonder Workshop top; Louise Doktor; Shelley Martin; John Knight. Photo: Masayoshi Sukita//

I’ve been aware of the existence of the Kensington boutique Roxy for some time, particularly since the store name was used as the title of the feature on London street fashion in a 1972 edition of Japanese magazine An An.

But my curiosity was pricked recently while browsing that same issue of An An which appears in Freddie Hornik’s scrapbook (see last post).

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Little space with a big impact: Talking about 430 King’s Road at ICA interior design symposium in March

Jan 19th, 2015
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//Portfolio shot of the newly completed Seditionaries, 430 King’s Road, London SW10,  December 1976.
(c) Ben Kelly//

Interior Design: Dead Or Alive is the title of the symposium being organised by the prominent British designer Ben Kelly at London’s Institute Of Contemporary Arts on March 14.

I am a contributing speaker alongside writer/curator Michael Bracewell, designers Fred Deakin, Ed Barber & Jay Osgerby and Peter Saville, artists Lucy McKenzie and Bridget Smith and David Toop of the London College Of Communications and Tate Britain’s Andrew Wilson.

“We’re going to be taking stock of the ways in which iconic interiors affect and influence the direction of popular culture and the wider world,” says Kelly, who is putting the event together in his capacity as professor of interior design and spatial studies at the University of the Arts London.

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//Portfolio shot of the freshly installed Seditionaries name plaque, December 1976. (c) Ben Kelly//

Among Kelly’s designs was the November 1976 transformation of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop Sex at 430 King’s Road into Seditionaries. Knowing that I have researched and produced a substantial document on the history of 430 King’s Road, Kelly has asked me to address this little space with a big impact in terms of its importance as a cultural hub and incubator of often radical ideas.

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Promo curio: Diana Crawshaw and the Granny Takes A Trip Dodge in Tim Rose clip

Aug 19th, 2014
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//Still from Long Haired Boy: Diana Crawshaw outside 488 King’s Road, 1969//

Diana Crawshaw – who designed for such boutiques as Mr Freedom and Paradise Garage – has contacted me about an appearance she made in an early pop promo clip: Piers Bedford’s short for the 1968 single Long Haired Boy by American singer-songwriter Tim Rose.

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