Category Archives: London

➤ Burretti movie adds an epic and essential chapter to the Bowie story

Starman, Freddie Burretti, film, biopic, Lee Scriven, David Bowie, The Man Who Sewed The World, glam rock, fashion

Connected by otherness: Burretti and Bowie

Click to zoom down to Andy Polaris’s film review

◼ BETWEEN 1970 AND 1974 FREDDIE BURRETTI not only became David Bowie’s teenage lover but gave visual expression to the singer’s pop ambition. When they met Bowie was 23 and married to Angie while former Mod face Freddie, with his 28-inch waist and voluptuous long-hair, was as sexy as many another 19-year-old in that moment when David Johansen, Marc Bolan and Bowie were creating what became known as glam rock. But Freddie and David clicked instinctively in what Bowie calls their “otherness”, much of which derived from their sexuality. His career rebirth as an alien on Planet Earth was a masterstroke of pop invention and it was Burretti who created the exotic and brazenly sexual one-piece style of costuming in lush fabrics that we associate with Ziggy Stardust.

A new documentary biopic was previewed in London last night and not only breathes fresh life into familiar Bowie music but pieces together a unique chapter about his personal relationships against the austere climate of Britain in the 70s. Director Lee Scriven captures on film a score of eye-witness accounts, chief among them Freddie’s brother Stephen, his special friend and flatmate Wendy Kirby, his younger It-girl protégée Daniella Parmar, and biographer Kevin Cann.

Freddie Burretti , David Bowie, fashion,

Burretti stripes 1973: Bowie photographed on the Aberdeen express by Mick Rock

Titled Starman: Freddie Burretti – The Man Who Sewed The World, the biopic’s impact is cumulative. Burretti described himself as “just a dress designer” – raised in Hackney, transplanted at 14 to Bletchley in the home counties, then escaping at 18 back to London to live the life – yet by the time the on-screen talking heads arrive at GQ editor Dylan Jones, it becomes clear that a body of opinion today ranks Burretti alongside giants such as Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood and even Alexander McQueen, whose design talent blossomed more than a decade later.

Indeed, Burretti’s “stylish, yet slightly whimsical approach to tailoring” and the enduring influence of his adventurous cutting in several suits of the moment during 1973–74 is thoroughly acknowledged in the V&A catalogue to its touring exhibition, David Bowie Is. The singer’s blurring of the line between stage wear and day wear persuades an impressive list of high-fashion designers to admit their debt to him, including Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy whose SS2010 show opened with a black-and-white striped blazer in a blatant tribute to the one Bowie was famously photographed wearing on an intercity train in May 1973.

Bowie told Fan magazine in 1974: “Freddie is extremely patient. He just listens to my ideas and has this sort of telepathy, because whatever I think of in my mind he produces for real. I just hope he’ll continue to design incredible clothes for me.”

The tragedy is that the Burretti-Bowie partnership ended that year, over a “financial disagreement”, according to Kevin Cann’s book Any Day Now. Immediately, Burretti slipped out of the public eye.

, Freddie Burretti, David Bowie, glam rock, man-dress,gay issues,

Curious magazine, 1971: Bowie wears his Michael Fish “man-dress” and plans to create a band called The Arnold Corns to showcase Freddie as “the next Mick Jagger”

The affair had begun in Kensington’s fashionable gay disco Yours Or Mine beneath the Sombrero restaurant. The Bowies were regulars, and one night David spotted Freddie cutting a dash on the up-lit dancefloor. Angie Bowie crossed the room to ask him and Wendy to join them for a drink.

Angie said in 1999: “You have no idea how handsome this man was. Freddie was wearing white Spandex hotpants with a navy blue sailors trim and a sailor shirt with short sleeves out of the same white Spandex edged in navy on the collar and sleeves. He looked totally Scandinavian with high cheek-bones and lots of blond hair, but he was tall and had big hands and feet speaking of his artistry and physical stamina. Every night he made new clothes to wear. He was so brilliant.”

At last night’s screening flatmate Wendy also remembered that day: “Angie approached us and asked us to have a drink. We hesitated and that’s what’s missing from the film – our sheer arrogance. We nearly said no!” She added: “Watching the film was quite strange. No one imagines their youth will be portrayed on screen and it was a little unsettling. I think the film was an affectionate glimpse of a time long gone. I didn’t appreciate at the time how talented Freddie really was. Lee’s film brought home how exceptional his work was. I’m proud to have known the man who was ‘just Freddie’ to me.”

❏ Read on for the reaction of Andy Polaris, ex-Blitz Kid and 80s pop singer who regards Bowie as one of rock’s serious gods.

➢ Starman director Lee Scriven’s website

“man-dress” , Wendy Kirby, Freddie Burretti, David Bowie, fashion,

Angie and David at home to Freddie: the host wears his Michael Fish designed “man-dress” that was banned from his American album cover for The Man Who Sold the World

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1970, Where to draw a line between glitter and glam

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 2011, I danced in Bowie’s lost Jean Genie video, by Wendy Kirby

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 2010, A feast of Bowie-ana served in waffeur-thin slices by Kevin Cann

Last night’s preview: click any pic below to launch slideshow



Freddie Burretti, Daniella Parmar, fashion,Ziggy Stardust

Designer and It-girl, Freddie and Daniella: striking a pose that David and Angie came to emulate

Andy Polaris, singer

Andy Polaris

❏ Starman: The Man Who Sewed The World gives a fascinating insight into the relatively unknown life of fashion future legend Freddie Burretti. This working-class lad had a creative mind able to absorb everything he loved about Mod fashion, having taught himself to make his own clothes at an early age. With enough dedication and focus to learn tailoring as well as the youthful dynamics of the dancefloor, he was obviously adept at observing styles and reworking looks to his own vision.

A chance meeting at the disco lead to the serendipitous collaboration with Bowie and the singer’s as yet not fully realised Ziggy Stardust wardrobe. These bold textured prints and coloured jumpsuits were, and are, extraordinary for capturing Bowie’s otherness at that time. Aladdin Sane prints that looked like Liberty worn by the androgynous male rock star blew our tiny minds back then.

What I loved about the movie was seeing the genesis of Freddie’s glamour vision in a mundanely drab landscape played out with the innocence of his mainly, it appears, female friends notably Wendy bf and Daniella protégée. Wonderful to hear their counterpoint stories of that inner ciricle involved in Bowie’s creation of Ziggy with Freddie’s ascendant talent and confidence.

The pairing of Freddie and Daniella wearing his clothes is groundbreaking. Looking at those photos we see the androgynous beauty of Freddie (like a still from James Bidgood’s 1971 cult movie Pink Narcissus) teamed with Daniella’s Asian complexion and short spiky blonde crop. They had already created David and Angie’s classic image before the rest of the world saw it!

fashion, David Johansen, David Bowie

Coordination of styles, 1973: which came first, Johansen of New York Dolls or Bowie in Ziggy coat?

In fact, Daniella also anticipates Ava Cherry singing with Bowie in Young Americans several years later when we note the similar styling – how did that happen?

From my own black perspective, a brown or black face was something I would immediately zone in on, seeing someone like you up there on a stage and hanging out with the stars. Marc Bolan having the black Gloria Jones as his wife was a big bloody deal to some black kids, for sure.

Freddie’s whole look seems to have been adopted wholesale by David Johansen of the New York Dolls, so the influence of this young British designer can today be recognised rippling out into the wider pop culture although it probably wasn’t acknowledged at the time. Maybe a parallel could be drawn between Freddie and Alexander McQueen – both gay and from working-class backgrounds – though McQueen came to work with Bowie as an established star, whereas Freddie created an image that made Bowie a star. Today it is unreal to imagine any designer could achieve such pivotal pop success without a massive team behind them.

➢ Video: Andy Polaris sings Mr Solitaire on Top of the Pops


➤ Spicy new survey from Derek Ridgers celebrates the wild hours between dusk and sunrise

books, Carpet Bombing Culture,photography, nightlife, London, UK, youth culture, street style, Dark Carnival, Derek Ridgers

Clubbers at the Astoria in 2000 photographed by Derek Ridgers

◼ HERE’S A PROMO VIDEO FEATURING some preposterous talking heads who include photographer Yasmine Akim and dancer Constantine Flowerz, describing a new large-format book of spicy photographs from Derek Ridgers’ travels through London clubland… The Dark Carnival: Portraits from the Endless Night is being published next week by Carpet Bombing Culture.

books, Carpet Bombing Culture,photography, nightlife,London, UK, youth culture, street style, Dark Carnival, Derek Ridgers, If you’re in it, you’ll be on the list for the launch party on Friday 27th from 5pm at the Lights of Soho gallery, followed on by a free Soho Swag night from 9.30pm at the 68 and Boston bar at the top end of Greek Street, hosted by 80s shapers Christos Tolera and Chris Sullivan.

The Dark Carnival is Derek’s second book published this month. He modestly calls it “my 40-year wander through nightclubs” but this delicous cornucopia selected by Derek himself proves much more of an adult shocker where anything goes on the themes of sexuality, seduction and shame (lack of), with eye-poppers shot at Anarchy, Smack, Submission, Wacko, Wicked, Rubber Ball and coming right up to date at Torture Garden.

➢ Buy The Dark Carnival direct from Carpet Bombing Culture, 216 huge pages for £30

photography, nightlife, London, UK, youth culture, books, Carpet Bombing Culture,street style, Dark Carnival, Derek Ridgers

Anonymous clubber in Brixton 2011 photographed by Derek Ridgers


2015 ➤ Weird and wonderful new Bowie – his Blackstar man is set to blow our minds

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

Blackstar: Bowie being messianic and ghoulish

◼ SET ASIDE 10 MINUTES AND HOLD YOUR BREATH. David Bowie’s first video for his January album is titled in plain English Blackstar, though the album itself is titled ★ following the Princely principle of symbols. The video is ghoulish, disturbing, eerie, messianic, ritualistic, jazzy, baffling – and a little mousey. His tale of a starman’s legacy out there in a faraway galaxy is musically immaculately orchestrated and makes compelling viewing and listening. It will have the geeks mining for references in its overwrought and folksy narrative. A momentarily real-world Bowie actually thumbs his nose at us singing “You’re the flash in the pan/ I’m the great I am!” yet the overall gist seems relentlessly morbid and we’re not helped by not being able to catch crucial lyrics, which for a music video is a drawback.

Directed by the Swedish music video maestro Johan Renck and premiered last night on Palladia TV, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. Natch.

➢ Blackstar is also pre-bookable on vinyl

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

➢ Nov 23: “We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar,” says producer Tony Visconti. “The goal was to avoid rock & roll” – Rolling Stone reveals all about ★ the album

➢ “As a taster for the forthcoming album, it works perfectly” – Alex Petridis reviews the single Blackstar in The Guardian:

The influence of latterday Scott Walker still appears to be making itself felt in the lyrics – they’re elliptical, filled with images of fear and death (“Take your passport and shoes and your sedatives”) and clearly just waiting to be unpicked by the more dedicated Bowiephile – but the music drifts episodically: from an ambient opening to vocals floating mournfully over a jerkily propulsive drum pattern and synthesisers squelching in vaguely acid houseish style to a sax solo to a beautiful, slow middle section with both a lovely melody and electronically-treated backing vocals. . .

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck



➤ 75 Ballet gigs later, Gary Kemp tackles serious theatre but denounces its obsession with class

Homecoming, Harold Pinter, Gary Kemp, Jamie Lloyd, Gemma Chan, Trafalgar Studios, interview, theatre, London, reviews

Gemma Chan as Ruth, with Gary Kemp as Teddy, rehearsing for The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios in London. Photograph by Matt Humphrey

➢ Gary Kemp interviewed by Nick Clark in The Independent, 10 Nov, before he opened this week in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios:

The play, set in 1965 was written when working-class people didn’t cross into celebrity, or cross classes. Kemp can empathise with the character who left his working-class roots and found home alien upon his return. “I went to grammar school and things became different, more middle class. My parents were definitely working class. My dad was a printer.” He said: “I get that thing about coming home and having a different language to your parents and sometimes using it against them and sometimes feeling terrible because of that.”

Today, he feels class restrictions remain visible, particularly in the acting world. It is, he said, “utterly class orientated. It’s ironic really because it’s incredibly liberal but underneath that facade there lies this need for Oxbridge, a need for the understanding of literature and a need for received pronunciation. Working-class actors are condemned to sitcoms and soap.” He pointed out that the production’s director Lloyd is working class. “That’s as rare as hen’s teeth” . . . / Continued at The Independent online

➢ The Homecoming runs at the Trafalgar Studios, London (0844 871 7632) until 13 February


➢ Michael Billington in the Guardian, 23 Nov:
Fifty years after its London premiere, Harold Pinter’s play continues to puzzle, astonish and delight. Far from treating it as a revered theatrical specimen preserved in aspic, Jamie Lloyd’s excellent revival offers a fresh approach to the play without in any way violating the rhythms of Pinter’s text. . . The Homecoming retains its hold over our imaginations. It can be seen as a Freudian play about sons filled with subconscious Oedipal desires. It can equally be seen as an ethological study of a group of human animals fighting over territory.

Homecoming, Harold Pinter, Gary Kemp, Ron Cook, Jamie Lloyd, Gemma Chan, Trafalgar Studios, interview, theatre, London, reviews

Gemma Chan as Ruth, with Gary Kemp and Ron Cook, in The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios. Photograph by Marc Brenner

➢ Dominic Maxwell in The Times:
Half a century after it first put Harold Pinter at the forefront of British drama, this 1965 play can still leave audiences provoked, puzzled and, finally, pleased. With its stark but colourful expressionist staging, its swirling bursts of Mod music and its sharp Sixties threads, this is Pinter goes Kafka, domestic drama goes haunted-house horror.

➢ Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph:
Welcome back to Pinter-land, a world of inescapable disquietude which, in Jamie Lloyd’s stripped-back 50th anniversary revival of The Homecoming, is more Hades than Hackney. The gender politics of the play make it Pinter’s most problematic major work. It’s not constructed to invite “debate” – you’re meant to submit to its strange, atavistic logic. . . In broad terms, Lloyd delivers an evening that is intense, committed and often – because of the dialogue – darkly funny.

➢ Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail:
Those with a taste for bleak, absurdist, sexist fantasy will find their needs adequately catered for by the latest Jamie Lloyd production at London’s Trafalgar Studios. . . Pinter’s language is always to be savoured, his patter of lower-middle class cliches so astute. References to Humber Snipes and jam rolls and London Airport and flannel vests evoke an era. Was he ahead of his time in envisaging a career woman liberating herself from a lifeless marriage? Or was bedhopper Harold working off a little fantasy about a woman too free with her favours? I incline to the latter view.


1980s ➤ The Ridgers lens lays bare the pursuit of love

The Others, Derek Ridgers, Idea Books, youth culture, nightlife, London, Swinging 80s, Dover Street Market, photography, style,

London 1984: if this is you, come to the party! Photo © Derek Ridgers

◼ IF THIS PHOTO SHOWS YOU perfecting the horizontal jig in a London club in 1984, you’ll find yourselves immortalised in the latest book by photographer Derek Ridgers, titled The Others. The collection captures young love in all its clubland guises and if you spot yourself in this gallery why not email info [a t] and ask to come to the London launch this Thursday, 19 Nov?

Between 1980 and 1986 Ridgers and his candid lens couldn’t help following the pursuit of romance among the lovers, the loveless, the lonely and the last to leave in nightclubs as disparate as Gossip’s, Planets, Great Wall, Batcave, Feltham Football & Social Club, Flick’s, Lyceum, Le Beat Route, Camden Palace, Taboo and many more.

These snogging couples represent Britain’s many subcultural tribes who expressed distinct affinities in the early 80s through personal style and musical tastes. The book’s foreword says its intriguingly contradictory title describes the “other” clubbers who had enough attitude *not* to get rejected by the greeters on the doors of London’s finest clubs. It would make more sense to call these kids The Chosen Ones. Once inside a club, however, they got their priorities right and relegated posing into second place behind the down-to-earth goal that was really on their minds.

The Ridgers images capture all the fun and frailty and the frissons of exploring your youthful identity among like-minded tribalists in ways the publisher was probably trying to nail: a sense of “otherness” that characterised many subcultures in that austere and intolerant era. Whether brave or tentative, outsiders or players, they were helping shift attitudes in dark and stylish cellars across the land. They re-energised Britain by mobilising the talents in which the young excel: through music, clothes, haircuts and romance.

The Others is priced £35 for 124 pages in a limited edition exclusively available at Dover Street Market London and New York, Ginza and the Comme des Garcons Trading Museum in Paris, as well as Marc Jacobs’ Bookmarc stores in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Tokyo. And online from Idea Books.

The Others, Derek Ridgers, Idea Books, youth culture, nightlife, London, Swinging 80s, Dover Street Market, photography, style,

Big hair, 80s-style: Mohican and his captive. Photo © Derek Ridgers