Who’s who at the Blitz
➤ The 50 crucial nightclubbers who set the style for a decade
King and queen of the Blitz in 1980: Steve Strange wearing PX and Kim Bowen in dress, coat and shawl all from the old vintage clothing store Cornucopia, then crowned by Stephen Jones titfer. Photograph © by Letac / Shapersofthe80s archive
❚ “AN EVENING WITHIN THE ORBIT of London’s Blitz club superstars – and we’re talking about 50 people here – was more than entertaining. You were zapped with a very tangible electric shock — what we’d call today “sensory overload” — as if these exquisite, compulsive posers had revitalised Gilbert & George’s notion from 1969 of processing through the world as living sculptures. The Blitz Kids generated their own crackling versions of hyper-reality that defined the space around them. They included Kim, Julia, Judi, Melissa, Fiona, Jayne, Theresa, Myra, Scarlett, Clare, Michele, Darla, Sade, Kate, Stevie, Naomi, Mandy, Helen, Jo, Perri, Christine and Franceska . . . the Stephens Linard and Jones, Lee, John, Cerith, Simon, Iain, Dylan, Andy, George, Marilyn, Wilf, Greg, Jeffrey, Christos, Graham, Neil, Dencil, Robert, the Holahs, the Richards Ostell and Sharah. A fair few other Blitz Kids, like Strange, Egan, Elms, Sullivan, Dagger, Haines, Ure, O’Donnell, Mole, Ball and Lewis, had the motormouth skills of energetic talkers and schemers who were, as we say today, “good in the room”. Above all, the best among them “made things happen” wherever they set foot. That’s why spending time with them was the best kind of fun – stimulating, argumentative and constructive, whether idling at a bar or bounding around the beach on Bournemouth bank holidays . . . ”
➢ From the June 3 post, Inspiration for
Romantics ancient and Neo
❚ TWENTY FASHIONISTAS among the Blitz Kids shaped the New Romantics silhouette at Covent Garden’s Blitz club — they were Stephen Jones, Kim Bowen, Stephen Linard, Lee Sheldrick, Helen Robinson, Melissa Caplan, Fiona Dealey, Judi Frankland, Michele Clapton, David Holah, Stevie Stewart, Julia Fodor, Dinny Hall, Iain Webb, Simon Withers, Willy Brown, David Holah, Richard Ostell, Rachel Auburn and über-wag Chris Sullivan. Whatever talents Steve Strange and George O’Dowd had for courting publicity, they were entirely dependent on this elite corps of sharp-eyed trendsetters to create the clothes that defined their idiosyncratic and ever-mutating identities.
New romancing at the Blitz, March 18, 1980: Kim Bowen (elegantly titfered by Stephen Jones) in a clinch with Julia Fodor; skinny Jeremy Healy chats with (soon-to-be deejay) Jeffrey Hinton. Photograph © Homer Sykes
A whirl at the Blitz, March 18, 1980: at rear, Julia before she became a princess. In the foreground, the dancing Space Cadets are Dennis Sheldrick wearing a customised overall from his job at Scunthorpe steel-works, and in a similar outfit his partner Denise King. Photograph © Homer Sykes
The identikit Blitz Kid: drawn and annotated 1983 by © Iain R Webb, ex-St Martin’s, ex-fashion editor of The Times of London
No Sacrifice was an alternative fashion show in August 1980 organised by Iain R Webb and mounted for art-school refusés: outside Chelsea’s Chenil Gallery, Kim Bowen as ever sports a hat by Stephen Jones (right), Jeremy Healy at centre. Photographed © by Mick Hurd
Gods of the Blitz: George O’Dowd and Stephen Linard at the Spandau Ballet concert in Heaven, Dec 29, 1980. Both became international icons, one as popstar, the other as fashion designer, both eagerly devoured in Japan. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s
Perry Haines at Spandau’s Heaven show, December 1980. Having studied journalism at St Martin’s, Perry spread the message through the autumn launch issue of i-D magazine: “Style isn’t what you wear but how you wear it.” Some firmly believe the phrase “New Romantics” can be attributed to him. He certainly inspired its insertion into the lyrics for Duran Duran’s first single Planet Earth which he also styled for its recording in December, directed by Russell Mulcahy. Perry went on to direct their video for Careless Memories in 1981. Photograph © by Shapersofthe80s
The blue number: Chris Sullivan, zoot suit and wardrobe in 1981 at his Kentish Town flat. The nearest thing to the Blitz Kids’ own Renaissance man, he shaped music, style and nightclubbing for the next 19 years by fronting Blue Rondo à la Turk then naming and co-hosting Soho’s Wag club in his own image. His dictum for the 80s was: “One look lasts a day.” Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s
Girls night out: fashion designer Melissa Caplan and legendary spike, with Myra in white face. Photographed © by Derek Ridgers
Julia Fodor in April 1980, before she became Princess: as an assistant at PX, the home of New Romantic ready-to-wear, here wearing a lilac taffeta suit made by Clare Thom, with spiked-collar blouse by Helen Robinson of PX. Photographed in the Endell Street shop by Terry Smith
Noir et rouge at Le Kilt, 1981: Stephen Linard in his Endangered Species look and Myra with, well, that hair. Photographed © by Derek Ridgers
Britannia rules, or is it Boudica, the warrior queen? George O’Dowd as one of our national emblems (silver lamé helmet by Stephen Jones) helps dress performance artist Miss Binnie for the reopening of the Embassy Club, 5 Sep 1980
Strange and Egan: posing away at the Blitz for Visage’s video for the Visage single (Polydor)
Blitz Kids as stars of Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes video: Enhanced with visual effects from the then novel Quantel Paintbox, the video cost £35,000 (about £151,000 in today’s money) and was the most expensive music video made to that date, directed by David Mallet, 3 July 1980 on the beach east of Hastings. A long-standing collaborator, Natasha Korniloff, designed Bowie’s pierrot costume and Gretchen Fenston his hat, while he gave Richard Sharah a free hand to design the make-up. Providing the chorus are, from the left, Steve Strange, Darla Jane Gilroy, Elise Brazier and Judi Frankland. Strange’s black wedding dress with Stephen Jones head-dress and veil came from Judi’s graduation collection, as did her own, with Darla in her own ecclesiastical habit. Hats by Fiona Dealey and Richard Ostell. When they got back to London after filming, they all went clubbing at Hell. Video © 1983 Jones Music / EMI Records Ltd
Waldorf Hotel 1980: seated at centre, Spandau Ballet, house band of Covent Garden’s Blitz Club, home of the New Romantics movement, plus support team of Blitz Kids who helped put their first single To Cut a Long Story Short into the UK singles chart at No 5, on 6 December. Average age 20, everyone had a specific role to play in staging and promoting the band: seven musicians, six designers, three media and management, three club-hosts, two DJs, one crimper and 22 egos.
Commissioned by Yours Truly and photographed on 16 December for the Evening Standard © by Herbie Knott
◼ THIS CLIP ABOVE SHOWS THE *ONLY* FOOTAGE of genuine Blitz Kids in the Blitz Club that you will find on the web, authenticated first before inclusion in the Spandau Ballet biopic Soul Boys of the Western World (2014). It remains the only known on-site footage to capture the “New Romantic” spirit of the Tuesday club-night run by Steve Strange, and nine black-and-white stills included in this clip were taken by Yours Truly, aka Shapersofthe80s.
Do not be bamboozled like so many charlies out there at YouTube when they see some of these frames mashed up with video of a fancy-dress party called Come as Your Favourite Blonde, which was *not* organised by Steve Strange but by somebody else on a Sunday evening at the Blitz wine bar to celebrate *her birthday*. The fact that six Blitz Kids can be seen among the other 100 guests wearing blonde wigs and gold masks and a Miss Piggy is probably inevitable but actually a sheer coincidence. That footage came from reporter-turned-director Lyndall Hobbs’s cinema short called Steppin’ Out (1979), featuring the Queen’s lookalike Jeannette Charles in a general survey of London subcultures, more of which was visibly shot in the Embassy club than at the non-Romantic blondes party at the Blitz, with as much again shot during a coach trip to a roller-disco in Dunstable. So get your facts right, you YouTube charlies in your Old Romantic dreamworlds!
Unholy cabaret, 10 May 1981: improvising a louche cabaret scene for a John Maybury movie at the Film-Makers Cooperative are Stephen Jones, Jeremy Healy, David Holah and Kim Bowen. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s
St Martin’s graduate fashion designer Stephen Linard at the height of his commercial success in 1984, when he worked for three years for Jun Co in Japan. Here pictured by Toscani for i-D magazine’s issue No 15 in “An illustrated guide to detail”. He sports a leather Confederate Army cap $15 bought in transit through Anchorage airport in Alaska. The jacket £250 over giant-collared shirt £120, and trousers £200 are all by Yohji Yamamoto. Waistcoat £180 by Gianni Versace. Artfully placed on his left lapel is a silvered bathroom tap £60 and faucet brooch £40, both from a jewellery collection for Chloe, Paris. He said: “It was worth it for the stir it caused at the Paris collections.”
Time Out, Jan 1981, and the New Romantics are about to reap their first whirlwind of media coverage: “An enclosed world where style is all, and a fashion ends as it begins”
➢ Selected Blitz Kids in Iain McKell’s portfolio
❚ AFTER FEARLESSLY EXPERIMENTING WITH SEX and drugs and fashion, the Blitz Kids in this video tell their own alternative history of the early 80s when music and style were all, and how you looked was who you were. Street fashion led a whole new wave of dressing up rather than down like punk, and British music and style spread across the world as one. This otherwise excellent summary of the early 80s, created to accompany the V&A’s 2013 fashion exhibition Club to Catwalk, places too much gloomy emphasis on Aids, which was identified in 1982.
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