Category Archives: Fashion

2020 ➤ Farewell Daniella, the girl who inspired Ziggy’s fiery hair

Daniella Parmar, David Bowie

Daniella Parmar, stylistic inspiration for Bowie. . . She became part of David’s 1971 entourage and is seen here with him during one of his rare visits to the Blitz Club in late ’79. David wears a Modern Classics jumpsuit by Willy Brown, as featured on the cover of his Feb ’80 single Alabama Song, which had as its B-side an acoustic version of Space Oddity recorded in Dec ’79. Choreographer and co-director of Bowie concerts, Toni Basil, was also sitting to David’s left. (Photo: Robert Rosen)

❚ THE TEENAGED GIRL who inspired David Bowie to give Ziggy Stardust livid red hair died this month from cancer at her home in Worthing. Daniella Parmar belonged to the circle of “piss-elegant champagne-drinking” young night-owls who Bowie met with his wife Angie at London’s Sombrero nightclub in 1971. During this Hunky Dory period he was wearing the Mr Fish man-dress and had long cascades of blond hair.

The pals included “fun-loving glamour girl” Wendy Kirby and her flatmate Freddie Burretti (Bowie’s handsome costume designer, who went on to create Ziggy’s exotic and sexual one-piece outfits). Daniella was of Indian extraction and noted for her emphatic eye make-up and top-to-toe style with special focus on her hair – in 2002 Bowie confirmed that its constantly changing colour had convinced him “of the importance of a synthetic hair colour for Ziggy”.

Wendy says: “We were the ‘young dudes’ who shaved off our eyebrows just for camp, because you could paint them on higher up — that gave us a strange unearthly look which David adopted. He was always open to suggestions and went through our wardrobes like a magpie!”

Freddi Burretti, Daniella Parmar

Melody Maker Awards, October 1973: Daniella Parmar with Freddie Burretti, who collected the award for Bowie. (Photo: Kevin Cann collection)

The Ziggy Stardust tour was already on the road when Bowie decided on the dramatic change of hairstyle. On 17 March 1972 they were to play at the Town Hall in Birmingham when a photographer called Mick Rock turned up to interview Bowie. They hit it off so well he soon became his official photographer. Kevin Cann’s seminal account of Bowie’s early life, Any Day Now, recalls that crucial day. . .

For the show his hair has been dyed light red and styled by Suzi Fussey, but David tells Rock he is going to make his hair ‘even redder’. Swayed by his Sombrero friend Daniella’s use of different hair dyes, not long after the Birmingham performance David shows Fussey the exact tone he desires in a photograph of model Marie Helvin in a recent fashion magazine. Fussey applies a bright red colour-fast dye and spikes the crown with Guard, a strong setting lotion. The Ziggy hairstyle is born.

Daniella became an intimate member of the Bowie household, playing nanny to their son Zowie, and shared the Bowies’ last Christmas party in Britain before they departed for the USA in March 1974.

One of Daniella’s last public outings was in 2015 at the premiere of Lee Scriven’s film titled Starman: Freddie Burretti – The Man Who Sewed The World. She died a fortnight ago on 3 November and friends report that the funeral chapel was decorated with pictures of her with David.

Daniella Parmar , Wendy Kirby, David Bowie

Recording Jean Genie for Top of the Pops, 1973: Bowie and Mick Ronson on-stage with support team of Wendy Kirby and Daniella Parmar at left. (BBC)

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2010, Kevin Cann’s book – A feast of Bowie-ana
served in waffeur-thin slices

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2011, I danced in Bowie’s Jean Genie video but
have never seen it, says his friend Wendy

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2015, Burretti movie adds an epic and essential
chapter to the Bowie story

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➤ Farewell Kansai the fashion genius who breathed the same colours as Bowie

Fashion, Japan, designer, stage costumes, Kansai Yamamoto, David Bowie,

Yamamoto’s second-best-ever tear-away garment, 1973: A white kimono-inspired floor-length cape, emblazoned with Japanese kanji letters spelling out “David Bowie” phonetically, but also translating to “One who spits out words in a fiery manner”. Bowie was the first Western artist to use a hikinuki quick costume-change by dramatically ripping off the cape to reveal his leotard beneath. (Photography Asahi Shimbun)

The Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto – known for styling David Bowie and creating some of Ziggy Stardust’s most flamboyant outfits – died last week of leukaemia aged 76. He went on to be a huge influence on a generation of younger talents from Jean Paul Gaultier to Hedi Slimane and also worked with Elton John and Stevie Wonder. Here are extracts from some tributes…

➢ Yamamoto obituary in The Times of London, 28 July 2020:

When Kansai Yamamoto first saw David Bowie descending to the stage on a disco ball, he felt a physical sensation that was like a “chemical reaction”. It was 1973. Because a friend had pleaded with him to stop what he was doing in Tokyo and come to New York, the Japanese designer had taken a 13-hour flight and then rushed from JFK airport to a front-row seat at Radio City Music Hall. When Yamamoto saw Bowie wearing one of his colourful outfits, he thought the long journey had been worth it.

He said: “He was wearing all black and then all of a sudden that disappeared and he was wearing full colour. It was very dramatic and the audience all rose to their feet, so there was a standing ovation right at the beginning. I found David’s aesthetic and interest in transcending gender boundaries shockingly beautiful. It felt like the beginning of a new age.” Yamamoto would go on to play a full part in ushering in this new age… / Continued at Times Online

Fashion, Japan, designer, stage costumes, Kansai Yamamoto, David Bowie

LEFT – A fitting for Bowie in Japan, 1973: The elaborate clash of prints on his asymmetric knitted leotard are derived from the tattoo patterns of yakuza (organised crime syndicates). Kansai Yamamoto himself sports a matching mock turtleneck. Plus doughnut rings for wrists and ankles. (Photography Tajima Kazunal) . . . RIGHT – Space Samurai for Bowie, 1973: The metallic-looking suit in padded satin evokes the split-skirt hakama worn by Japanese samurai as armour. Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the Aladdin Sane tour. (Bowie Archive)

➢ From the fashion section of The New York Times, 27 July 2020:

Kansai Yamamoto, the unapologetically flamboyant fashion designer whose love of color, unfettered imagination and exploration of genderless dressing caught the eye of David Bowie and helped define the look of his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, died on July 21 in Japan.

Kansai, as Mr Yamamoto was generally known, was not as well known as some of his more high-profile Japanese fashion contemporaries, including Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. But it was Kansai who led the way for a generation of Japanese design talents to make their mark on the Western industry.

In 1971, he was among the first Japanese designers to show in London — a full decade before Ms Kawakubo and the other Mr Yamamoto. His signature aesthetic of sculptural shapes, clashing textures and prints, and eye-popping color combinations attracted industry attention.

Kansai’s debut collection was splashed across the cover of Harpers & Queen magazine with the tagline “Explosion from Tokyo” and his growing profile led to collaborations with the decade’s most important musician showmen, including Elton John and Stevie Wonder in addition to Mr Bowie, with whom he formed a longstanding creative relationship.

“Color is like the oxygen we are both breathing in the same space,” Kansai once said of his work with Mr Bowie… / Continued at NYT online

“When David wore my women’s clothes, people
were very surprised. My clothes were designed
to be worn by women. When I think of it,
it was a bizarre thing for him to do”
– Kansai Yamamoto

➢ From the fashion section of The Guardian, 27 July 2020:

Kansai Yamamoto was known for his singular aesthetic of bold, avant-garde designs, clashing colours and patterns that often incorporated elements from Japanese culture. His long-standing artistic partnership with Bowie would go on to inspire many younger fashion designers, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons, and became a major reference for modern gender-defying fashion.

Bowie was attracted to Yamamoto’s ability to design excessive, sculptural pieces which seemed unconstrained by the confines of gender. In turn, Yamamoto was impressed by Bowie’s ability to put this aesthetic in mainstream popular culture. It also helped that Bowie was slim enough to wear sample size. He said: “My clothes were normally made for professional models – this was the first time they had been used for an artist or singer”… / Continued at Guardian online

Fashion, Japan, designer, stage costumes, Kansai Yamamoto, David Bowie,

Yamamoto’s favourite creation for Bowie, 1973: The sculptural Tokyo Pop black vinyl jumpsuit with sequinned stripes and bowed legs is the best tear-away garment ever made. It was inspired by hikinuki, the quick-change technique for kabuki actors to be suddenly revealed wearing a different outfit – in Bowie’s case his flame-red skimpy Woodland Creatures jumpsuit on the Aladdin Sane tour. (Photography Masayoshi Sukita)

“Why was Andy Warhol obsessed with canned food?
Every artist has his own thing going on.
I often use Japanese motifs and sometimes wonder
if I’m choosing them because I’m Japanese”
– Kansai Yamamoto

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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 paying homage to some of his bizarre principal characters and moving himself on into the next phase of his life… Unwittingly the Blitz Kids 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 [Bowie] arrived with two other people and his PA [Corinne] ‘Coco’ [Schwab], whom I didn’t think was very nice.” The guests whose names Strange forgot were, according to the Polaris diary, 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 claims: “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.”

The book continues: “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 near 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. Other witnesses suggest subtle variations to his account…

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 black 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 £35,000 (about £151,000 in today’s money). The whole dreamscape was enhanced with 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.

At the time 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 Gretchen Fenston his hat, while 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 an ecclesiastical black velvet dress designed and made by herself, silk grosgrain coat and white collar with crucifix, plus a Stephen Jones hat. Elise Brazier personified a ballerina in a party frock plus tantaliser in her hair. This and another hat came from Fiona Dealey and Richard Ostell. All would soon be finding fame in the fashion business, with Elise becoming one of Premier’s leading models.

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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 Tuesday 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, which was originally titled People Are Turning to Gold… Bowie storyboarded the visuals himself (“actually drew it frame for frame,” he said) to include 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 JCB bulldozer (that Bowie had spotted parked up near the beach and hired on impulse) to signify “oncoming violence” and 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”.

All of which suggested a surreal sweeping away of the past, capped by the unleashing of the dove as an emblem of ritual cleansing, and so paving a way for the future. In September 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 getting 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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➤ 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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2020 ➤ Beyond: Learning how to be black and gay and blaze a trail to the future

Shapersofthe80s, black issues, gay issues, film, Beyond, Claire Lawrie,

Beyond director Claire Lawrie, centre: with some of her garrulous cast answering questions after a screening at Central Saint Martins college last year. Andy Polaris in red. (Photo by Shapersofthe80s)

AFTER A STREAM OF EXCLUSIVE SCREENINGS for a poignant and edgy short documentary about growing up black and queer in Seventies Britain, everyone can now view it online. Titled Beyond “There is always a black issue Dear”, the 34-minute film explores black LGBT identities and the ways in which they have influenced the collective history of London’s alternative club, fashion, fine art, dance and music scenes. The cast of ten are long-standing friends of director/photographer Claire Lawrie who helps tell their personal stories when these fans of soul and disco, punks and Blitz Kids found each other’s company in underground clubs.

Over the past year Claire has won a fistful of film-festival awards and, prompted by the coronavirus lockdown, she has posted the full version online, and repeat viewings reward with deeper appreciation.

Black issues, gay issues, film, Beyond, Claire Lawrie,

Photo that inspired the movie Beyond – Click pic to view the film in another window

“To me it’s important now that people
realise that black people were there,
because a lot of the time they
tried to paint us out”
– Andy Polaris

Onetime Blitz Kid Andy Polaris is part of the project and he recalls its origins in this extract from his own website Apolarisview. . .

“ A 2013 exhibition at the V&A museum in London titled Club to Catwalk was instrumental in bringing the collective creative talent of Eighties fashion stalwarts and club luminaries together for a preview party that summer. It was a splendid event, one of the last memorable social events with such a vibrant successful crowd. Among the assembled were Judy Blame, Princess Julia, Andrew Logan, Zandra Rhodes, Body Map, Antony Price, Chris Sullivan and it was the last time I saw Steve Strange (who along with Rusty Egan) had brought us all together at the Blitz Club in 1979.

The visual artist Claire Lawrie was at the V&A and pondered on the omission from the exhibition of gay black talent whose influence had permeated Eighties club culture. Although Jeffrey Hinton’s brilliant cave of projected nightlife photography did feature some of us, Lawrie echoed some of her friends’ frustration that their experience was not reflected in the exhibition. She set about organising an open-call photograph to celebrate a contingent of black talent and arranged for the gathering to be filmed by her friends, Emile Kelly and Kim Mnguni. This was the genesis of something deeper and her award-winning documentary, Beyond “There is always a black issue Dear”, emerged from that event with her as director.

Click any pic of the Beyond interviewees to enlarge all in a slideshow:

Continued: “ Over the next year Claire arranged interviews with ten of the candidates who were filmed on a shoestring. Contributions of archive footage were given by a long list of talented artists, people who, over the years had collaborated with and who wanted to show their respect and love for the cast. These included Pam Hogg, Dick Jewell, Dave Swindells and Nicola Tyson as well as John Maybury, Derek Ridgers, BodyMap, Devon Buchanon and Rankin.

The film adjusts the colour settings of the standard view of black creative lives when telling the story about club culture and its impact in the UK. Featuring ten black queer voices from the diaspora, born in the late Fifties and Sixties in the UK, Guyana and New York, the documentary delves into personal stories of discovery and eventual self-acceptance, looking back at struggles with identity and family and the wider world. The cast features stylist Frank Akinsete, transgender model Winn Austin, international model Roy Brown, make-up artist Kenny Campbell, choreographer Les Child, clubland pioneer Kenrick Davis and his mother Velma “Vee” Davis, nightclub host Nicky Green, gender-fluid performer Lanah Pellay, composer Robb Scott and myself as an original Blitz Kid turned pop singer.

Roy Brown, Black issues, gay issues, film, Beyond, Claire Lawrie

Roy Brown in 1985: poster boy for the Barbican’s recent exhibition on Masculinities. (Photo: Rotimi Fani-Kayode)

In the mid-Seventies and Eighties the UK’s attitudes to both race and gay issues were particularly brutal, endorsed by the anti-gay policies of Thatcher’s government and tabloid sensationalism regarding anything queer, especially later with the arrival of the Aids epidemic. The Seventies were marred by stereotypes of both marginalised groups, joining the sexist and misogynistic tropes in light entertainment and films which set the tone for how the world viewed us and how we viewed ourselves.

This lack of representation and role models forced us to create our own image during our teens, which in some cases was defiantly camp. Instead of allowing bullies to mock us, we accentuated certain behaviour, not just as a direct challenge to the heteronormative majority but against the conservative oppression in society.

Music and fashion were an escape from small-mindedness and even as early teens we were exploring alternatives and the fashionable disco and punk clubs were our laboratories of choice. . . / Continued at Apolarisview

➢ All about the making of Beyond “There is always
a black issue Dear”

➢ Interview with director Claire Lawrie: “These were
people that I looked up to and admired”

➢ On video – Beyond Q&A by RankinFilm after
the July 2019 screening at his studio

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