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Magick Is Freedom! (After Barney Bubbles) opens in London this week

Jun 2nd, 2014

magickSHOWwebx_0 When I first saw it I was questioning a lot of things, not least my adequacy. Things like inspiration, influences, references . . . where do things come from? Copying things—not as “homage’”or “pastiche”, but dying to get inside a thing. Inhabit it. Nostalgia too. Using machines. Colour. Systems. Perpetual motion. Automatism. Copying things. Graham Wood on Existence Is Unhappiness.

This week sees the London opening of Magick Is Freedom! (After Barney Bubbles), an exhibition of the series of prints made by designer Graham Wood in response to Existence Is Unhappiness, the fold-out poster for the 12th issue of underground magazine Oz published in May 1968 and designed by Barney Bubbles with Sid Squeak and others.

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The Face, May 1992: Love Sees No Colour

Apr 29th, 2014
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//Cover: Boy George with Mica + Jade, styling David Mignon, photography Thomas Krygier//

From time to time I’m going to be turning over information and images here as I go through the process of writing my book Legacy: The story of The Face.

Today I spent an enjoyable and enlightening few hours interviewing former editor Richard Benson; during our conversation it became clear that one of the turning points in the history of this significant magazine occurred with the spring 1992 publication of the issue headed Love Sees No Colour.

This coincided with the High Court judgment against the magazine in the unfortunate libel case brought by actor/singer Jason Donovan on the grounds that he had been branded a liar and a hypocrite as a result of the inference that he was gay.

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//The Face May 1992, pp6-7: Nick Logan’s editorial on the right//

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//PP58-59: Left, montage by Keith Piper/Right, Kate Moss by Enrique Badalescu, styling Camille Nickerson + Lucy Ewing//

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//PP38-39: Seen, Gilbert & George, 1989//

The theme of tolerance had been hatched by Benson’s predecessor Sheryl Garratt long before the dispute reached, in publisher Nick Logan’s words, “its unhappy conclusion”.

In terms of the magazine’s narrative, the issue affirmed The Face’s position as the lightning rod of the progress of popular culture in the inclusive 90s.

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//PP76-77: Left, George O’Dowd in his Absolutely Queer T-shirt – “Homophobes are fine. I just don’t want them near my children.”/Right, Rebel MC in Michiko Koshino T-shirt, Ezra Oban + Dominique Kelly in Katharine Hamnett Protect + Survive vests. Photos: Kate Garner + Thomas Krygier//

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//PP82-83: Left (top), Apachi Indian in One World shirt by Paul Smith, (below) Banderas in Love Sees No Colour shirts by Joe Casely-Hayford,/Right, Des’Ree in No To Negrophobia T-shirt by Trevor Norris. Photos: Kate Garner + Thomas Krygier//

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//PP84-85: Left, (top left) Paul Reid in Face Love outfit by Dirk Bikkembergs, (top right) Charlotte Champion + Gabriella Stonebridge in Jean Colonna and Martin Margiela, (below) Colin “Sweet C” McMillan in Love Sees No Colour T-shirt by Gio Goi and Turn Your Nose Up At Racism by Bella Freud/Right, Michael Clark in Nazi Shithead outfit by Leigh Bowery. Photos: Kate Garner + Thomas Krygier//

Designed by Boris Bencic and Lee Swillingham, the issue tipped the hat to those figures who had played a part in the 80s story – Boy George, Paul Smith, Leigh Bowery – and also hit the mark with the generation setting the pace for the new decade, whether it be Joe Bloggs, Kate Moss or Martin Margiela.

Produced in an all-hands-to-the-pump atmosphere, with Logan and Garratt in daily court attendance and the all-too-real prospect of forced closure as a result of the huge legal bills resulting from the Donovan case, The Face May 1992 is a cracking issue, one which stands up as a consummate example of journalistic excellence achieved under duress.

Legacy: The story of The Face is published by Thames & Hudson in autumn 2015.

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The Look Of London: An illustrated guide to the city’s most influential fashion spots 1950-2000

Oct 10th, 2012

Tomorrow (October 11) is the publication date of The Look Of London, my map collaboration with the pre-eminent modern guide-makers Herb Lester Associates.

“This map is a reminder that London, with all its individuality and character, is still very exciting,” writes Paul Smith in the foreword; he opened at 44 Floral Street WC2 in 1979.

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The Look Of London: Research materials for new map with Herb Lester Associates

Oct 8th, 2012

Time to put away the books, mags, newspapers, pamphlets, catalogues and other materials used as reference for the map The Look Of London, which is published later this week by Herb Lester Associates.

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MR FREEDOM in W magazine + Husk

Apr 26th, 2012

//Left: Living Legend: Modern English by Diane Solway, W magazine, May 2012. Right screen-grab of spread from Husk, Spring/Summer 2012.//

My new book MR FREEDOM – Tommy Roberts: British Design Genius is featured in the new editions of US fashion monthly W magazine and European quarterly Husk.

With a foreword by Paul Smith and contributions from the designers who created the work sold in Roberts’ shops as well as friends, family and design authorities, MR FREEDOM is published in June by Adelita and distributed in the US by DAP.

More on the W magazine feature here; Husk stockists here.

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Cover of Mr Freedom – Tommy Roberts: British Design Hero

Apr 6th, 2012

Monster V&A design book: Bubbles, Hirst, The Queen + Bowie get special treatment…but where’s Malcolm?

Mar 21st, 2012

British Design from 1948: Innovation in the Modern Age

British Design From 1948: Innovation In The Modern Age – the new book accompanying the forthcoming show at the V+A – is a bumper edition: 400 pages weighing in at 5lbs.

It’s cheering to see Barney Bubbles’ design Ian Dury With Love granted upfront prominence; the poster is in select company given special treatment by the book’s designer, Barnbrook’s Daniel Streat. The others are: Cecil Beaton’s 1953 coronation portrait of The Queen, a shot of Damien Hirst’s Notting Hill restaurant Pharmacy and Brian Duffy’s Aladdin Sane portrait of David Bowie.

Barney Bubbles' Ian Dury poster treated by Jonathan Barnbrook

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“Serious tailoring”: Derek Morton

Dec 3rd, 2011
Derek Morton, Paul Smith Japan A/W2011

//Paul Smith Collection, A/W 2011.//

Thanks to Julian Morey for alerting me to these splendid photographs of Paul Smith designer Derek Morton in clothes from the company’s autumn/winter 2011 collection.

Morton has worked with Smith since the mid-70s and is currently head of the label’s menswear division for Japan.

Derek Morton Paul Smith Japan A/W 2011.

//Paul Smith Collection, A/W 2011.//

A thoroughly nice chap, Morton is also self-deprecating and reserved, as I discovered when I interviewed him recently for the Tommy Roberts book (he designed menswear for Roberts’ extraordinary Covent Garden outlet City Lights Studio).

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Bowie Boys by Tommy Roberts

Apr 4th, 2011

I am currently working with Tommy Roberts on a book about his life and career in fashion. Tommy has been assembling a selection of anecdotes and stories which will feature as occasional tasters here over the coming months.

This reminiscence stems from the period in the early 70s when Tommy operated City Lights Studio. Situated at 54 Shorts Gardens WC2 with a darkly glamorous interior design realised by Electric Colour Company’s Andrew Greaves + Jeffrey Pine, City Lights was the first fashion store in London’s Covent Garden, the neighbourhood then dominated by the capital’s fruit and veg market.

City Lights Studio, which came into being at the end of 1972, was a fashion emporium I created in tandem with Willy Daly, a colleague and friend since we had worked together at Mr Freedom.

City Lights was situated in an imposing high-ceilinged loft atop a building in Covent Garden. Our studio designed, wholesaled and retailed an extremely stylish and tasty array of men’s and women’s wear, shoes, hats, jewellery and other fashion accessories.

For this story I’m concentrating on the menswear.

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From the vaults: Paul Smith on the threat to the High Street (Guardian 1988)

Feb 24th, 2011

Publication: The Guardian Weekend supplement, Dec 3-4, 1988.

I have collected and kept magazines, newspapers, fanzines and all sorts of publications for decades.

From the launch edition of The Weekend Guardian, this was the first in a series of think pieces by prominent people on aspects of design.

Paul Smith could tell what was coming; the desecration of Britain’s High Streets – and thus independently operated, individual and often idiosyncratic retail outlets – at the hands of the giant chains of faceless stores.

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