Tag Archives: Iain R Webb

➤ Fashionista Webb plays Sherlock to shed light on the mysteries of a smart invitation

Iain R Webb, book launch, Invitation Strictly Personal, fashion, exhibition, Duke Street Emporium,

Webb’s book launch: “It’s all about ego.” (Pic by Hugo von Hugo)

◼ ANOTHER YEAR ANOTHER BOOK LAUNCH. Here’s Iain R Webb doing the honours signing his latest in Mayfair this week – here for Hugo von Hugo, there for Helen David, there again for Carol Morgan, a professional trend tracker who, he swears, leaves a lasting impression on students at Central Saint Martins, something he knows about himself after four decades of journalism and professorialising. “It’s all about ego,” he declares. “That’s the only reason we do it.” A gaggle of respected colleagues are celebrating, from Hilary Alexander down. Let’s not forget Iain himself has edited quite a few smart fashion pages from The Times and Evening Standard to Elle and Harpers & Queen, since his first forays with Blitz.

This evening is what somebody calls a proper fashion event. Not only is Iain signing his latest book, Invitation Strictly Personal, at a launch party hosted by the Duke Street Emporium, the W1 outpost of Jigsaw, but he has also curated an in-store installation inspired by the book’s theme of whimsical, controversial and artistic promotional wheezes. Webb’s own art works are on sale alongside London Fashion Week T-shirts and totebags he has designed. On top of which is a modest display of his fashion ephemera over at Somerset House, while minor gems left out of the book also form the longest Tumblr on the Showstudio website you’ve ever tried to scroll infinitely.

The guests: Click any pic below to launch slideshow

In her foreword to the book, New York-based designer Anna Sui says the trick of a good invitation to a runway show is to allude to the themes of the collection, without giving away too much. Iain says the quandary faced by designers is to create a buzz while ensuring they get the right bums on front-row seats. His big hardback tome poses as a pick-and-dip coffee-table book of seemingly random moments hinting at one man’s dash through a world of smart bric-a-brac. It is more Sherlockian than that, and proves to be an erudite deconstruction of 300 totemic invitations to prestigious fashion events, plus images of promotional treats, none of which the public ever sees. They form a dotty archive while Iain’s insight wrings observation and surprise out of scores of renowned designers from Kenzo, Hamnett, Gaultier, Miyake, Capellino, Dior to any number of former Blitz Kids. Cent magazine calls it all “beyond fascinating”.

The joy of the champagne book-launch is Hils Alexander working the room garlanded in her infamous string of sacred Roman amulets she claims have power over male fertility. Oo-er. Helen David of English Eccentrics notes that Wendy Dagworthy is wearing Marni shoes‬ (is this comfort envy, one-up-manship or simple irony?). Tony Glenville says the event is “like a live Facebook” though ‪Sam McKnight‪ ‪admits afterwards: “I didn’t get any photos, I was too high on nostalgia!”

Also present are Mouchette Bell, ‪Alison Hargreaves‪, Paul Curtin, Franceska Luther King, Marcelo Anciano, Louise Constad, Fiona Dealey, John Galliano (or his spooky lookalike), Carol Morgan, Jacques Azagury, Lucinda Alford, John Prew, Robert Leach, Sarah Dallas, Tony Bannister, Colin McDowell, Greg Davis, Eve Ferret, Terence Nolder, ‪Tony Glenville‪, Fifi Russell, Nick Coleman.


Russell Marsh‪ It’s a great read‬
Jo Phillips Of course it is divine.
F‪ranceska Luther King‪ ‬Wonderfully put together
Martin Vintner-Jackson Prolific, consummate and complete
Karl Plewka‪ Absolutely FIERCE!
Robert Ogilvie‪ The book just gets better the more I dig into it.‬

The exhibits: Click any pic below to launch slideshow

➢ 40 Years of Fashion Invitations by Iain R Webb featured at Cent magazine – “A gem to be treasured for ever. This stunning book looks at an outstanding collection of more than 300 contemporary fashion-show invitations, and illustrates how the spectacle of the show is not limited to the runway”

➢ An online jumble of cheap and chic fashion-industry mementoes, curated by Iain R Webb at ShowStudio

➢ Somerset House is displaying a modest selection of Iain R Webb’s fashion show ephemera, 16 Feb–22 March 2015 in the Great Arch Hall, free

➢ Invitation Strictly Personal, Goodman Books, £30


➤ Nowt so Strange as Steven John Harrington

Steve Strange, Steven Harrington, Blitz Kids, New  Romantics, nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, London, fashion, pop music, Visage, tributes

Steve Strange: Precocious club host and the face of synth band Visage, he changed British nightlife for ever

RIP Steve Strange
28 May 1959–12 Feb 2015

King of the Posers, Leader of the Blitz Kids,
co-founder of the Blitz Club,
catalyst for London’s fashion and pop
explosion in the 1980s

“ I chose to become famous and I work very hard at promoting myself. For me going out at night is work ”
– Steve Strange,
speaking to the Evening Standard in 1983

Iain R Webb, original Blitz Kid, later fashion editor of The Times and other publications, pays tribute to Steve Strange, who died in Egypt earlier today:

Steve gave us somewhere to go and beyond the crazy costumes and caked on make-up (maybe because of the…) made us each believe we had someone to be. He burned bright and we followed that light like moths to a flame – Billy’s to Blitz to Hell to Club For Heroes to Camden Palace… Oh, how we danced. His maverick spirit will never fade

Kim Bowen, stylist and former Queen of the Blitz Club, says:

“ You did create the stage on which
we all appeared ”

Andy Polaris, original Blitz Kid, and vocalist in Animal Nightlife, says:

It’s always a shock when you hear news that snatches away part of your youth. Steve Strange was not only a colourful character who had always left an impression on my teenage years. He was also a pivotal player in transforming London nightlife, along with deejay Rusty Egan. Their Tuesday nights at Billy’s club gave birth to the Blitz Club that influenced a generation of designers, musicians and artists. It’s remarkable the amount of creative talent that emerged from these clubs. It’s important to acknowledge that without Steve’s input a lot of these creative synergies might have never happened

Midge Ure, synth pioneer with Ultravox and Visage and driving force behind Band Aid, said:

Steve and Rusty created a movement in London. The Blitz and the subsequent Blitz Kids grew into a massive movement in the UK associated with fashion and image and photography. You could stand in the Blitz Club and look around you and there’d be future journalists and film-makers and writers and musicians, and a young Boy George taking coats at the coat check. There was something really vibrant about that, and they were responsible

Above: Steve Strange and three other Blitz Kids handpicked by David Bowie star in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes

➢ Read my history of Steve Strange, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1980, Strange days, strange nights, strange people – my invitation to the party that would last five years

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1982, Strange takes six cutting-edge British fashion designers to show their wares to the French

Steve Strange, Steven Harrington, Blitz Kids, New  Romantics, nightclubbing, Swinging 80s, London, fashion, pop music, Visage, tributes

Steve Strange in 1980: wearing Willy Brown’s Modern Classics, photographed by Derek Ridgers

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1983, Posing with a purpose at the Camden Palace – the ultimate expression of Strange & Egan’s clubbing prowess


➤ After Anna’s drenching, Gaultier leads the world’s fashionistas for more ice-bucket madness

ALS charity,ANNA WINTOUR, VIDEO,Ice Bucket Challenge,Dominic West,  Roger Federer,Vogue,

There goes her bob: editor Anna Wintour gets dowsed. Click pic to view video at Vogue

◼ WHO WOULD HAVE PREDICTED the stern-faced Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour would have played ball with the #icebucketchallenge sweeping America to raise funds for the ALS charity? Well, having been dared to get freezing-wet by her daughter Bee Shaffer, here’s the proof that Anna and her immaculately coiffed bob are good sports. The big question: Will the wet look make it to the September issue?

➢ Click to see Anna Wintour accept the
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Following the rules of the challenge, La Wintour obligingly nominated Roger Federer, tennis champion, and Dominic West, star of the TV drama series The Wire, to get themselves dowsed within 24 hours.

However, before either of them could muster enough supermarket ice-cubes, zat crazee Froggy, Jean Paul Gaultier, led the charge for the international brigade of couturiers. (So far fashion had been represented only by models such as Cara Delevingne and Suki Waterhouse.) Here is JP being given the big freeze by some handpicked hunk in speedos…


❏ Fabulous fashion footnote: You have until Monday 25 August to catch the extraordinary and witty retrospective of JPG’s madcap couture creations in The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier at London’s Barbican Art Gallery: 165 cutting-edge garments that boggle the imagination, up close and theatrically displayed in a touring exhibition from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Gaultier celebration trumps all else in London this summer

Fashion , Jean Paul Gaultier, Sidewalk to the Catwalk London, Barbican Art Gallery, exhibition, Eurotrash, reviews,

No, not JPG himself sporting a mink Marinière, and greeting us in English and French. This is one of many custom-made mannequins at London’s Barbican exhibition, brought flirtatiously to audio-visual life by the UBU/Compagnie de création of Montreal and Jolicoeur International of Quebec. Photographed by Shapersofthe80s

➢ Jean Paul Gaultier’s take on Sade’s style

Iain R Webb,fanzine,Jean Paul Gaultier, fashion,

Fan and hero: Iain R Webb and JP Gaultier

➢ British fashion guru Iain R Webb recently gave a guided tour of the Gaultier show in London – To prepare for the talk, he constructed a scrapbook of his friendship with JP Gaultier preferring to call it a fanzine. You can view it at his blog Hopeandglitter.


1980 ➤ Club to Catwalk: when fashion became an arena for all the arts

V&A ,fashion,Club to Catwalk , Bodymap, Scarlett Cannon, Monica Curtin,

Monica Curtin’s 1985 pic of Scarlett Cannon as “key identity” for the V&A Club to Catwalk show… Outfit by Bodymap’s AW 1984 collection, Cat in the hat takes a rumble with a techno fish. Stylist John Derry-Bunce. Background painting Simon Josebury. Hair and makeup Jalle Bakke

❚ “FASHION???” SCOFFED THE FASHION EDITOR of a leading women’s magazine who shared my flat in 1980, after meeting one of the more ornamental Blitz Kids over our breakfast table. “Those aren’t even clothes!” Yet within five years she was as keen as every other editor to be featuring Bodymap, Galliano, Jones, Auburn, Hogg, Hamnett, Bernstock Speirs et al. Scroll forward 30 years and London’s world-beating decorative arts museum, the V&A, weighs in with a necessary exhibition reappraising the UK’s style revolution of the 80s. What’s coming under scrutiny in its dedicated fashion galleries are the unique silhouettes of that extravagant shape-shifting decade and the clubland forces that moulded them. Only two weeks to go before Club to Catwalk, London Fashion in the 1980s, and there’s one crucial tipping point at its heart: the moment fashion became style.

Let’s hand over to fashion guru Iain R Webb, one of the central figures who defined his generation and whose impressive book As Seen in Blitz was published last month. Here’s a taste of the mighty personal essay he has written for the summer issue of the V&A Magazine…

V&A Magazine summer issue: the 80s deconstructed by Iain R Webb

V&A Magazine summer issue: the 80s deconstructed by Iain R Webb

Webb writes: “ The 1980s were all about being photographed. We dressed as if every day were a photo shoot and every night a party (it usually was). But there was another revolution happening.

The advent of the stylist who approached fashion as an artistic construct was something new. Alongside the contributors to BLITZ, The Face and i-D (Ray Petri, Judy Blame, Caroline Baker, Helen Roberts, Beth Summers, Simon Foxton, Mitzi Lorenz, Maxine Siwan and Caryn Franklin among them) were two thought-provoking arbiters whose importance is often overlooked. Michael Roberts at Tatler and Amanda Grieve at Harper’s and Queen added a subversive edge to their respective glossy titles. Roberts poking fun at old-school mores while Grieve (later Harlech) befriended St Martin’s graduate John Galliano and helped create the romantic whirlwind that shaped fashion for decades to follow.

Club to Catwalk, exhibition, London, Fashion,1980s, V&AThe images produced by all these stylists merged fashion and art, questioned the accepted ideals of beauty and social status and enjoyed a sense of experimentation. Their vanguard imagery often highlighted specific issues such as the superficiality of fashion and consumerism with humour.

“At that time there was a group of stylists who were as creative as the designers, if not more so,” remembers PR Lynne Franks, who represented Bodymap, Katharine Hamnett and Wendy Dagworthy. “It prompted the question: What came first, the styling or the clothes? It was very spontaneous, like playing dress-up.”

Stefano Tonchi, editor of W magazine, then editor of Westuff, an alternative style periodical published in Florence, says: “Fashion was no longer fashionable. Style was used to describe many areas of the creative arts that came together. It made for a new category. Music dictated a lot of the emerging trends and there was experimentation in both photography and graphic design, but fashion was where these exciting changes were most evident. Think of the Bodymap fashion shows, they weren’t just about the clothes but involved music, graphic design and theatre… ”

➢ Revolt into Style Revisited: continued at Webb’s blog

V&A ,fashion,Club to Catwalk , Bodymap, Scarlett Cannon, Monica Curtin,

Showing in Club to Catwalk: Cotton dress by Willy Brown, 1980… Fallen Angel suit
 by John Galliano,
1985. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


➤ Webb’s flipside of the 80s fashion revolution as seen last night at the ICA

Cover girl: Scarlett Cannon at last night’s book launch . . . and covered in 1985 by photographer David Hiscock, scarfed by Hermès


❚ LAST NIGHT DIEHARD 80s FASHIONISTAS celebrated the launch of an elegant hardback with far greater ambitions than most coffee-table photobooks. It’s a glorious personal CV posing as one man’s record of five energetic years. It doesn’t quite knock the sensationalist Casanova off his perch as the master memoirist, but Iain R Webb’s chutzpah certainly takes your breath away.

As Seen in BLITZ, Fashioning ’80s Style is among the most unabashed, single-minded, focused works of diarism you are likely to have read. In capturing his output as a fashion journalist, this book aspires to present social history expressed through fashion. He brings a new twist to the well-tried technique of oral history, because the 100+ collaborators who contribute to this book are constantly telling the author how marvellous he is, but in the second-person singular. They are talking to “you”, meaning “me”, the author whose name appears on the cover, Iain R Webb.

Its 272 pages record a series of testimonials: “You pulled so many creative people round you” … “We did it because you asked us to” … “You jump-started my career as a photographer” … “You were one of our earliest supporters” … “You had different ways of shooting things” … “You were doing the opposite of high fashion and glamour” … “You showed me a life that was different” … “You were so beautiful and excitingly aloof” … “I would have done anything you asked” … “You were the person who ––”.

There is no place in Webb’s memoir for Eng Lit’s Unreliable Narrator, or for self-doubt or inner struggle. His worldview is confirmed at every turn. Assertion is all: The 80s – we did it my way. We, the readers, are soon rocking on our heels at the sheer brass-necked cheek of it all!

Having said which, consider the credentials of everyone involved. They amount to a Who’s Who of the fashion shapers of the 80s: Jasper Conran, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Katharine Hamnett, Marc Jacobs, Stephen Jones, Calvin Klein, Barry Kamen, Baillie Walsh, Martine Sitbon, Princess Julia, Nick Knight, David LaChapelle and many more.

Iain R Webb, fashion,photography, books

The author last night: Iain R Webb signing his book with lavish tributes to his former colleagues

We’ve heard enough about George O’Dowd’s tawdry version of events. Finally we have a much-needed corrective view of the youth cultural revolution that fired up the Swinging 80s. As Seen in BLITZ celebrates Webb’s own unique take on the decade of egotism through the pages he produced. We hear the voices of his co-stars – the photographers, designers, models and stylists who supported him as a lynchpin fashion editor – all dissecting the nuances of their subversive visions.

The whole momentum of post-punk street style during the decade’s dawn, 1980-83, is what drew the eyes of the world’s fashion industries back to Britain and put London Fashion Week on the agenda of every serious commentator twice a year.

While studying fashion design at St Martin’s, Webb was at the centre of London’s nightlife crowd at the now-legendary club called the Blitz – very much one of the 20 key Blitz Kids, as the media tagged them. He rightly claims: “At the dawn of a hedonistic club scene that saw the birth of the New Romantics … on the pages of Blitz, The Face and i-D, a new breed of young iconoclasts hoped to inspire revolution.” These were three new magazines, soon dubbed “style bibles”, which gave journalistic expression to the fertile innovations in UK pop culture and defined the era.

Blitz was a desultory magazine, almost entirely devoid of character in its early years. It was launched in 1980 with a title that its owner says seemed “catchy”, utterly oblivious to the pivotal club-night of the same name and the precocious youth-quake putting London back at the centre of the pop universe. It took until about 1983 for Webb to recognise the gap in the market for radical and purposeful fashion journalism and to infiltrate Blitz, the magazine.

Iain R Webb, As Seen in BLITZ, fashion, books, photography

Webb’s ICA launch: the author sets the style for the evening. After Godot, out of skip? I stand corrected: After Wild Boys, out of Burroughs

Webb beavered his way up to becoming its fashion editor from Feb 1985 to August 1987 and was often given 20 pages a month to be filled with his “singular vision if they were to be taken seriously”. Webb’s USP was an “ongoing love/hate relationship with the fashion industry. It was not about selling a look, it was about saying something”. He expressed his ethos on a T-shirt in a 1986 photo shoot: “We’re Not Here to Sell Clothes”. When he was headhunted to join the London Evening Standard in 1987, his shoes at Blitz were filled by Kim Bowen, Queen Bee of the Blitz Kids, herself the wildest child in the club.

Webb’s purpose, he writes, “has always been to inspire or provoke, engage or enrage” and his images “manipulated fashion to explore ideas of transformation, beauty, glamour and sex”. His book brims with attitude and evidence that the fashion world did indeed tilt slightly on its axis during the 80s – as eye-witness accounts confirm in entertaining archive interviews.

How does an author cap all this? At his launch party last night at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the savviest fashion editor of his day sported an awkward grey suit, and a battered pair of lucky suede shoes, every inch Beckett’s absurd tramps waiting for Godot, looking to all the world as if he’d spent the night in a skip. Anti-fashion to a T. Who’d have thought Webb had once held plumb posts at Harpers & Queen, The Times and Elle? And won the Fashion Journalist of The Year Award in both 1995 and 1996. And remains Professor of Fashion at the RCA and Central Saint Martins!

Iain R Webb, As Seen in BLITZ, fashion, books, photography

As Seen in BLITZ, 1986: classic Hermès scarves redeployed as boxer shorts and tailored jacket. Model Barry Kamen says says the female model’s attitude is so Webb, so BLITZ

❚ THIS BEAUTIFUL PHOTOBOOK, As Seen in BLITZ, precipitates a weekend of events at London’s ICA. Today there is a pop-up show in the ICA Theatre curated by the author Iain R Webb to display his own highly confessional memorabilia, plus a series of talks with special guests, film screenings.

In the darkened theatre only the 80s ephemera are visible as you enter: an array of toplit boxes on tables, containing notebooks, diary pages, sketches and name-droppy correspondence. These relics of a career lie in plain wooden showcases – “vitrines” would be an overstatement – more like pauper’s coffins. They amount to a novel kind of runway show of “my creations”. On one sheet of paper, Webb outlines his vision as fashion editor of Blitz, explaining London’s appeal: “The young English inherit a fight-back spirit, whilst the old fall sleepily into a heritage of traditional and quality goods … Of late the two have begun to merge, and the results have ensured the envy of the rest of the world.” Another note identifies the icing on a girl’s wardrobe as “an abundance of dishevelled accessorising – 1985 is a time to be ALIVE”.

➢ Webb’s As Seen in BLITZ discounted from £35 to £21

➢ The Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s runs from July 10, 2013 to Feb 16, 2014