WELCOME ➤ TO THE SWINGING EIGHTIES

In 1980 a youth movement began reshaping Britain.
Its stars didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did. This writer was there and these words and pictures tell the tale.

David Bowie

◼︎ As a decade, the 1970s spelt doom. British youth culture had been discredited by punk. A monumental recession followed the Labour government’s “winter of discontent”, threatening the prospect of no jobs for years ahead.
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Swinging 80s, London, history, blitz club, blitz kids, theblitzkids, theblitzclub, cult with no name, billy’s, gossip’s, nightclubs, fashion, pop music, steve strange, rusty egan, boy george, stephen jones, kim bowen, stephen linard, chris sullivan, robert elms, perry haines, princess julia, judi frankland, darla-jane gilroy,fiona dealey, jayne chilkes, derek ridgers, perry haines, terry jones,peter ashworth, lee sheldrick, michele clapton, myra, willy brown, helen robinson, stephane raynor, melissa caplan,Dinny Hall, Kate Garner, rachel auburn, richard ostell, Paul Bernstock, Dencil Williams, Darla Jane Gilroy, Simon Withers, Graham Smith, Graham Ball, christos tolera, sade adu, peter marilyn robinson, gaz mayall, midge ure, gary kemp, steve dagger,Denis O’Regan, andy polaris, john maybury, cerith Wyn Evans, iain webb, jeremy healy, david holah, stevie stewart, worried about the boy,Yet from this black hole burst an optimistic movement the press dubbed the New Romantics, based on a London club called the Blitz. Its soundtrack was a pounding synthesised electro-pop created for the dancefloor by a studio seven-piece called Visage, fronted by the ultimate poser, Steve Strange. He and other fashionista Blitz Kids were picked by Bowie to represent their movement in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes (above). But the live band who broke all the rules were five dandies with a preposterous name: Spandau Ballet.
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As the last of the Baby Boomers, the Blitz Kids were concerned with much more than music. In 1980 they shook off teenage doubt to express all those talents the later Generation X would have to live up to — leadership, adaptability, negotiating skills, focus. Children of the age of mass TV, these can-doers excelled especially in visual awareness. They were the vanguard for a self-confident new class who were ready to enjoy the personal liberty and social mobility heralded by their parents in the 60s.
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For Britain, the Swinging 80s were a tumultuous period of social change when the young wrested many levers of power away from the over-40s. London became a creative powerhouse and its pop music and street fashion the toast of world capitals. All because a vast dance underground had been gagging for a very sociable revolution.

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“From now on, this will become the official history”
Verdict of a former Blitz Kid.

➢ THE MENU AT TOP leads you into this Aladdin’s Cave.
➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates which also link to the background pages in the menu.

Below: View Blitz Club host Steve Strange in all his poser glory in the promo video for Fade to Grey (1982), also starring the club’s cloakroom girl, Julia Fodor, aka Princess

CLICK HERE to run the anthemic 80s video ♫ ♫ from Spandau Ballet and feel the chant:

nightlife, st moritz, club for heroes,le kilt, wag club, beat route,hacienda, cha-cha, holy city zoo, rum runner, camden palace, scala cinema, studio 21,crocs, le palace, white trash, fac51, Dirt Box, mud club, batcave, barbarella's, croc's, electro-pop, synth-pop, Chant No 1, kid creole, blue rondo, animal nightlife, visage, duran, depeche mode, ultravox, human league, gentry, ABC,soft cell, bolan,vince clarke, haysi, wham!, mclaren, heaven 17, yazoo, foxx, omd, bauhaus, phil oakey, jay strongman, Martyn Ware, martin fry ,altered images, 20th-century box, vivienne westwood, PX, axiom, body-map , foundry, sue clowes,demob, seditionaries, acme attractions, i-D, the face, new sounds new styles, Korniloff, andrew logan, kahn & bell, biddie & eve, toyah,

July 2, 1981: Shooting the video for Chant No 1 at Le Beat Route club in Soho, “down, down, pass the Talk of the Town”. Photograph © by Shapersofthe80s


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2020 ➤ Gaz still rockin’ those blues a lifetime later

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Gaz himself as his Thursday Rockin’ Blues rocketed to success in the 80s – today his is the longest running one-nighter in London. (Photo: Sheila Rock)

40
YEARS
ON

❚ TODAY IS THE DAY Gaz Mayall launched Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues in 1980 at the legendary Billy’s nightspot in Soho. Astonishingly, this remains London clubland’s longest running one-nighter.

Tonight Gaz celebrates 40 years with a live stream party from a secret location, from 8pm-midnight Friday 3 July. With deejays Gaz Mayall & The Cumbia Kid plus Rockabilly crew Red Hot Riot!

➢ Click here for Gaz’s party as a live stream till late

Gaz Mayall, Rockin' Blues, anniversary, party, live stream

Tonight’s live stream as at 9:30pm: Gaz Mayall’s 40th anniversary musical party in the back garden, with one of his acts unnamed at right. Sound a bit shonky, vision slightly cranky

Gaz's Rockin' Blues, Gaz Mayall, Soho, nightclubbing, Swinging 80s

Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues, 40 years later – Celebrating with a live stream party tonight

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Private worlds of the new young – Gaz’s first appearance in the Evening Standard

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
69 Dean Street and the making of UK club culture

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Gaz Mayall then and again: As Gaz Vincent in 1980 snapped by Shapersofthe80s for the Evening Standard, and painted by the British realist Lucian Freud in 1997

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1980 ➤ Why Bowie came recruiting Blitz Kids for his Ashes to Ashes video

40
YEARS
ON

❚ TODAY WAS THE DAY in 1980 when London’s now fabled Blitz Club was blessed by a visit from David Bowie. He came with a purpose – to whisk away four of the most outlandish Blitz Kids to strut with his pierrot through the video for his new number, Ashes to Ashes, from an imminent new album. It earned each of them £50, helped Bowie to No 1 in the singles chart the following month and boosted demand for black ankle-length robes among trendsetters.

Ashes To Ashes, David Bowie, video, pop music,Ashes To Ashes

Ashes To Ashes video 1980: Blitz Kids as chorus to Major Tom

Every Tuesday for 16 months, king of the posers Steve Strange had been declaring a “private party” in the cheap-and-cheerful Blitz wine bar near Covent Garden, along with his co-host Rusty Egan who was pioneering Elektro-Diskow dance music as deejay. Your Look was everything and outrage ensured entry. Inside, precocious 19-year-olds presented an eye-stopping collage, preening away in wondrous ensembles, in-flight haircuts and emphatic make-up that made you feel normality was a sin. Hammer Horror met Rank starlet. These were Bowie’s offspring, individualists who had taken him at his word to be “heroes just for one day”, living amusing lives, creating disposable identities, and wearing looks not uniforms. Now, on this day, their god came among them with the very serious mission of moving himself and his cast of bizarre characters on into the next phase of his life… Unwittingly they would become his little helpers.

Russ Williams, John Lockwood, Andy Bulled, Tommy Crowley, David Bowie, Blitz Kids, Swinging 80s,nightlife

Bowie at the Blitz Club 1980: Russ Williams, John Lockwood and Andy Bulled papped by Tommy Crowley

Memories of Tuesday 1 July vary. The 21-year-old Steve Strange found himself requesting extra security to stem what the soon-to-become pop singer Andy Polaris also records in his diary as a “minor riot”. In contrast, the coolest heroes in the club refused to pander to the great star and merely contemplated their drinks.

Strange writes in his autobiography, Blitzed: “We had no prior warning, and he arrived with two other people and his PA Coco [Schwab], whom I didn’t think was very nice.” The guests whose names Strange forgot were singer Karen O’Connor (daughter of comedian Des) and painter-photographer Edward Bell, who designed the cover artwork for the imminent Scary Monsters album and singles.

Strange’s book continues: “We managed to sneak them into the club the back way to avoid a fuss and usher him upstairs to a private area. David himself was charming and asked if I would join him upstairs for a drink when I had finished on the door. I wanted to go straight away, but, annoyingly, I had to do my job first and stay at the door.

“Word soon spread like wildfire that David Bowie was there. He was probably the reason most people at the club had got into pop music in the first place. He had changed his look and his sound so many times, there were more than enough images to go round. The alien from Low and The Man Who Fell To Earth, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Ziggy Stardust. He was the one person that everyone there would cite as an influence, even more important than punk.

Bowie,Ashes to Ashes , video,Blitz Kids

Bowie’s chorus at Hastings, July 1980: Polaroid snapped by a crew member on the beach during filming of Ashes to Ashes with Blitz Kids Steve Strange, Darla Jane Gilroy, Judi Frankland and Elise Brazier keeping warm in a mackintosh between takes. When they got back to London, they all went clubbing at Hell

“He said it was a great scene and asked me if I would like to appear in the video for his next single, Ashes To Ashes. He also asked me if I could suggest a make-up artist for him, and I recommended Richard Sharah, the man who did my make-up. He said: ‘I’d like it left to you to pick the clothes you are going to wear, and to choose three other extras for the video.’ This was the most important moment of my life. I rushed around and found Judith Frankland, Darla Jane Gilroy and another girl [Elise Brazier] for the video.” Here, as with so much of his flaky book, Strange’s memory leave the rails…

Enter the next witness, Ravensbourne graduate Judith Frankland, designer of Steve Strange’s Fade to Grey outfit and of two gowns worn in the Ashes video which were inspired, she says, by the nuns in The Sound of Music and coincidentally had been unveiled in her sensational degree collection “Romantic Monasticism” at the Café Royal during June. She says: “In a wonderful twist of fate, Steve was resplendent in my black wedding outfit that night and was chosen straight away. He was asked to select people he felt could be right. Bowie did see George O’Dowd but as I remember he was wearing his big leather jacket look that night, so he was out. I was invited as was Darla up to the table where David and Coco were sitting and offered a glass of champagne. Darla and I were both dressed in a similar ecclesiastic style, Darla in her own nun’s outfit with white collar, and we were also asked to take part for what at that time was a decent sum of money for penniless, decadent students.

“We were told Coco would call us the following day with the details. I woke the next day thinking I’d dreamt it and you know I guarded that communal pay phone on the landing like a rottweiler until she did: be outside the Hilton the next morning, Thursday, she said, at some ungodly hour, fully dressed and made up the same way I had been at the Blitz, and to get the coach to a secret location.

Ashes To Ashes, David Bowie, video, pop music, Blitz Kids,

Ashes To Ashes video 1980: Blitz Kids as Greek chorus (© Jones Music / EMI Records Ltd)

“When we arrived at the beach near Hastings [not Southend, as Strange reports], the crew was set up and David Bowie greeted us dressed in the pierrot outfit he would be wearing. He coached us for a few minutes on the words we were to mime and then the day was spent in what we Lancastrians call sinking sand, sloppy sand, and the further out we got on the beach the messier and sloppier and muddier it was. I wore flats which was a wise choice. Then we were up and down that field with the bulldozer and every time we had to do a take it had to back up and the field got muddier. The bulldozer wasn’t that close but if he’d stepped on the gas we would all have been gonners.

“We were finally told we had all ‘done well’ and set off in the coach straight from the shoot to Hell [Strange’s Thursday club-night with a sacrilegious flavour] – well, home first to get freshened up. Steve dropped off his very muddy wedding dress and Hell was a rowdier night than usual. Steve brought one of the labourers from the bulldozer site with him and dressed him up in a Modern Classics suit. The poor guy was disturbed by it all, to say the least.

“We’d also been asked to go to the Ewart Studios in Wandsworth that weekend to shoot another scene – the kitchen with Major Tom in the chair and us providing the chorus. This involved an explosion behind us four as we faced the camera. We were told to duck out and run after we had mimed our lines or we could be hurt. This was difficult in a hobble dress, so I hoisted it up as high as I could and got ready to run. Quite a sight for the superstar sat behind me! Health and Safety would be all over that now.

“May I add that at the studios David Bowie joined us mere mortals in the canteen. Yummy. What a nice man he was, well he was to me, very kind and patient with us all.”

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London’s Cafe Royal, 1980: Judith Frankland’s graduation show climaxed with a wedding dress in black and white taffeta, brocade, velvet and satin. All crowned by Stephen Jones’s veiled head-dress. As worn by Blitz Club host Steve Strange in the Ashes to Ashes video. (Niall McInerney’s slides scanned by Shapersofthe80s)

CRUCIAL MOTIFS DECODED

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St Martin’s Alternative Fashion Show in May 1980: Stephen Linard’s “Neon Gothic” collection modelled by his most stylish friends, Myra, George and Michele, with Lee Sheldrick in white as a space-age pope

❏ Co-directed by Bowie and David Mallet, location scenes for Ashes to Ashes were filmed on 3 July 1980 at Pett Level, a stony beach on marshlands about six miles east of Hastings in East Sussex, known to Mallet since he was a boy. The drama of waves splashing against a towering cliff excited him. The video was the most expensive music video made to that date, costing £250,000. The whole dreamscape was enhanced with the solarising effects from the then novel Quantel Paintbox to create a visual enigma, echoing a distant past, yet suggesting “nostalgia for the future” in Bowie’s own words.

When Bowie dropped in on the Blitz, the fashion mood had darkened for post-punk no-wavers. Black was back in gothic style without that word being applied, mostly. One exception was Stephen Linard who stole the annual Alternative Fashion Show in his second year at St Martin’s with his “Neon Gothic” collection in May 1980, when the event was coordinated by Perry Haines. Fellow Blitz Kids modelled a stylish collision of Space 1999 meets liturgical gothic, strutting to the Human League’s newest release, Empire State Human. Among them, Lee Sheldrick, the gifted eminence gris behind so many other students’ creations, had also shaved his head bald to become the embodiment of Nosferatu the Vampyre. The following week Steve Strange teamed up with fellow Welsh soul-boy and Camberwell student Chris Sullivan to open a no-holds-barred club-night at Hell with the invitation “to burn in Hell – demoniacal dress is desired”. Bowie knew what he was looking for.

One of Bowie’s long-standing collaborators, Natasha Korniloff, designed his pierrot costume for the video, and he gave Richard Sharah a free hand to design the make-up. On the night of Bowie’s visit to the Blitz, Steve Strange and Judi Frankland were sporting her graduation garments, Strange in the black wedding dress crowned with a Stephen Jones head-dress and veil made of stiffened lace on a metal frame. Judi recalls: “The wedding dress was the reason Steve and I got close. He called me up wanting to buy pieces of the collection. He also bought a jacket he wore on the cover of Fade to Grey and gave me a credit on the sleeve. That dress, all sand, sea and mud, ended up in the bottom of Steve’s wardrobe. It had a stand-up collar that was caked in his makeup. Never wore it again though he got some money off the video people to get it cleaned. The veil also got squashed in his wardrobe.” Darla Jane Gilroy wore her own nun’s gown, while Elise Brazier personified a ballerina in a party frock. Other hats came from Fiona Dealey and Richard Ostell who would soon be finding fame too.

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Stephen Linard: sporting a wooden cross by Dinny Hall and the rabbinical outfit that caught Bowie’s eye in July 1980

Stephen Linard supplies his own footnote to that great night at the Blitz. “Bowie actually sat at the bar next to my sister Bev, with me on the other side of her and I told her “Don’t look. Be cool.” So of course she looked, she was only 17. So did I. I was only 21. I was in all my Jewish rabbinical gear and Bowie’s PA Coco asked if I would be in the Ashes to Ashes video, but they wanted us up at the crack of dawn and were only offering £50! Anyway, I was on a warning at St Martin’s over attendance, so I had to say No.”

Steve Strange has the last word: “It seemed like a very long day for a three-minute film. I was delighted when I was handed my wages of £50 by a member of the production team. I didn’t tell them, but I would have paid them to have appeared in a video with David Bowie.”

storyboard, Ashes To Ashes, David Bowie, video, pop music,

Storyboard for Ashes to Ashes, 1980: The opening scene of pierrot on the beach sketched by Bowie to guide his co-director David Mallet

BOWIE’S OWN VISION WITHIN THE ASHES

❏ Bowie’s brief to David Mallet for the video was simply: “A clown on a beach with a bonfire.” Yet you can be sure Freud would have a field-day turning over every mortal motif in Ashes to Ashes… Bowie storyboarded the visuals himself (“actually drew it frame for frame,” he said) from the pierrot of his Lindsay Kemp era, the number of “Madmen” in his own family symbolically in a padded cell, his first hit Major Tom the spaceman now in an exploding kitchen with his own Greek chorus, the images of mourners round a funeral pyre, the menacing JCB bulldozer (that Bowie had spotted parked up near the beach and hired on impulse) seemingly pushing along the Blitz Kids in the pierrot’s wake like a funeral procession pulsating with a mother’s invocation “to get things done…” Not to mention the song’s title itself, derived from the burial service in the English Book of Common Prayer which commends: “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

In September of 1980, Bowie revealed his thinking to NME: “The sub-text of Ashes To Ashes is quite obviously the nursery rhyme appeal of it and for me it’s a story of corruption. When I originally wrote about Major Tom I thought I knew all about the great American dream and where it started and where it should stop. [Now] the whole process that got him up there had decayed and he wishes to return to the nice, round womb, the earth, from whence he started. It really is an ode to childhood, if you like, a popular nursery rhyme.”

Years later, Bowie told author Nicholas Pegg that with Ashes to Ashes he was “wrapping up the Seventies really” for himself, which “seemed a good enough epitaph”. On Bowie’s death his lifelong friend George Underwood called him an emotional, passionate person: “He had created this fierce storm, but he was the only one in it.” Take your pick.

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: The year the Blitz Kids took their first steps into the headlines

Ashes To Ashes, David Bowie, video, pop music,Ashes To Ashes

Ashes To Ashes video 1980: Bowie’s pierrot out of his depth

FURTHER READING

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: The Blitz Kids WATN? No 37, Judith Frankland

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: The Blitz Kids WATN? No 28, Stephen Linard

➢ Blitzed! The Autobiography of Steve Strange (2002)

➢ Edward Bell’s Connection

➢ The future isn’t what it used to be, by Angus MacKinnon
in NME, 13 September 1980

➢ Chris O’Leary’s impassioned survey of the Bowie catalogue

Ashes To Ashes, David Bowie, video, pop music

Ashes To Ashes video 1980: Bowie’s pierrot at Pett Level in Sussex with “mum” (© Jones Music / EMI Records Ltd)

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2020 ➤ Singer Ross reveals how Spandau drove him to try ending it all

Sun Exclusive, Spandau Ballet, Ross William Wild,

From today’s Sun

Pop music,Spandau Ballet, Ross William Wild,

June 2018: Spandau Ballet showcase their new recruit, vocalist Ross William Wild at their debut gig in Subterania

TODAY’S SUN RUNS A GRIM ACCOUNT of how singer Ross William Wild was pushed into attempting suicide after being frozen out of Spandau Ballet last year. Only 11 months after he took over from frontman Tony Hadley, Ross took some pills and “crashed out” but thankfully a friend raised the alarm.

At that time in May 2019, Shapers of the 80s reported the whole curious background to Ross’s crisis of confidence. After his first impressive performances with Spandau he says he was “ignored” by management and claims he was banned from taking other music and theatre jobs, losing out on much needed income. The Sun reports today:

Spandau Ballet, Ross William Wild, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Steve Norman, pop music,

When he finally mustered the courage to quit, he was humiliated on national TV the next day when the band announced it would never perform again unless Tony rejoins — effectively sacking their young singer live on air. I couldn’t afford to be left on a shelf, not knowing where my next meal was coming from. Then the next day they forced Martin Kemp on This Morning and made him act like I was just being brushed aside. I never even got to say that I quit. I was so humiliated as they had treated me so badly for so long. It hit me like a ton of bricks. That’s when I tried to kill myself.

Shapers of the 80s revealed that Ross made the first move by tweeting that he had resigned, after which Martin Kemp went on ITV to flannel around the issue, barely mentioning Ross but yearning for the day Hadley would rejoin Spandau, saying this was “what people really want”. You can still hear this clip, below. Equally tactless had been Gary Kemp giving a killer “no future” interview to an American blogger only one month earlier. “There are no plans for Spandau going into 2020,” he’d said, and we reported that car-crash interview here too, in all its insulting detail.

LISTEN TO THE CRUCIAL PART OF MARTIN’S ITV INTERVIEW 2019:

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Within a couple of days Ross gave us his side of the saga, saying “the way things were put out on TV made me feel like crap”. His good friend sax player Steve Norman also got in touch to say: “I was neither involved in nor informed of any discussions or decision-making regarding the future of my band, least of all Ross’s position in it.” All of which still makes for a gob-smacking read.

Ross’s account in today’s Sun is well worth reading for its courageous candour. He says: “Spandau didn’t realise that they were dealing with a person. I’m not a titan of the music industry like these guys. They gave me a chance, little old Ross, and then they just brushed me aside.” There’s some consolation in knowing that last week Ross saw his new band Mercutio have its raunchy single Slap Bang! voted Classic Rock’s track of the week [see video at YouTube].

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Another Spandau bombshell – Kemp Brothers drive out Ross their ‘perfect’ new singer

Spandau Ballet, Ross William Wild, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Steve Norman, pop music,

October 2018: What proved to be vocalist Ross William Wild’s last outing with Spandau Ballet at the Hammersmith Apollo

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2017, Tony Hadley pulls the plug on Spandau Ballet – but the band will rise from the dead

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➤ Why every Stephen Jones hat casts its own magic spell

Books, fashion , Rizzoli I, Christian Dior, Stephen Jones,

“The essence of the whimsical”: Stephen Jones photographed by Sølve Sundsbø Studio

◼ THE LEADING BLITZ KID and former star of St Martin’s art school Stephen Jones spearheaded the fashionable revival of British millinery in the early 1980s that was to win him the OBE. Deploying unusual materials and radical designs, he pushed the boundaries of hat design and found himself recruited by the couturier Christian Dior who tested his inventiveness further. For more than two decades this collaboration has yielded such creations as wired arrays that mimic the hairstyles of those wearing the ensembles, or enigmatic masks that conceal and reveal.

This month sees the publication of a lavishly illustrated book titled Dior Hats: From Christian Dior to Stephen Jones in which he reviews the house’s star-studded 70-year history along with three other co-authors. As his own promotional device, today Stephen published an almost poetic personal account of his art and craft pinpointing the magic spell that a hat can cast. He writes:

For the past 24 years I have had the honour of creating hats for Christian Dior. It’s been an extraordinary time following in the footsteps of the greatest names in fashion. Whereas so much of fashion seems ephemeral, Dior has some sort of gravitas – or maybe that’s in my mind’s eye as, conversely, hats are the essence of the whimsical.

Dior hats run the gamut of simplicity to complexity, but most often they attract themselves to the happy spot in between. What is unique is that they complete the outfit but can stand by themselves too. This is crucial, because in reality the hat is not about itself but the person wearing it – whether woman, man or child.

Although I ‘bear the crown’, the hats I create are always in collaboration. The different creative directors with whom I have worked always have their distinct point of view. When they arrive at Dior, they understand that hats are an essential part of the Dior iconography, as pivotal as the Bar jacket, fantasy evening dresses or the colour grey. Certainly, hats underline their point of view: To hat or not to hat? Are hats retro or modern? Do they enrich or dilute? These are perennial questions to be resolved every season.

However, the studio is only one side of the story; for me the atelier is also a huge part of the creative process. The fastidious premieres, the multi-talented milliners (never petits mains), the devoted suppliers, all working in harmony to create that evocation of fashion, France and Dior; un joli chapeau!

I thank you all. ” – Stephen Jones

Books, fashion , Rizzoli I, Christian Dior, Stephen Jones,

“Without hats there is no civilisation” said Christian Dior. Left: Stephen Jones says: “Suggestion of a pert hairdo” – Sara Dijkink wears a Jones for Maria Grazia Chiuri, SS 2019… Right, Africa Penalver wears an evening bibi in velvet with satin bows; Cuba, by Christian Dior AW 1955. (Photographs by Sølve Sundsbø Studio)

➢ Dior Hats: From Christian Dior to Stephen Jones, by Stephen Jones and Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni (Rizzoli International Publications, 3 June 2020)

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1979 ➤ Ethereal Bowie sets the bar for one of his inadvertent hits

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Click picture to view an immaculate video of Bowie singing The Man Who

HERE’S A RARE CHANCE TO VIEW one of the most inspired renderings of The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie with the bizarre German punk Klaus Nomi as backing singer during a performance on Saturday Night Live on 15 December 1979. Wearing red on the left we see American performance artist, Joey Arias, who became a regular act at Club 57 in New York’s East Village. Anyone who visited the 2013–2015 touring exhibition, Bowie Is, from the V&A in London will have seen Bowie’s huge tubular costume at first hand…

Luckily, this 8-minute clip also includes brilliant versions of TVC 15 with Bowie in a skirt and heels, plus Boys Keep Swinging where he sports a nude puppet costume with bizarre extremities. Nomi introduces us to his poodle who appears to have swallowed a TV set. A gifted trio of performances.

The Man Who Sold the World – title track of Bowie’s third studio album – was written in 1970 but released on the B-side of a single hence missed the charts in its own right. It did reach No 3 after Lulu covered the track in 1974 and other covers followed, including one by Midge Ure. Critically the song is widely regarded as one of Bowie’s essential best and only in his last couple of decades did he start rendering it in live performances in utterly different and often haunting ways. Nevertheless, the SNL video from 1979 is powered by a cascade of supremely confident operatic flourishes, “Ohhhh-oh-ohhhh, ohhhhhhh-oh!”

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