The Great Escape, 2011: Judith Frankland prepares to break out from Newcastle at dawn this morning within the 20kg baggage allowance. Photograph by Joanne Lodge
❚ MOST OF BRITAIN MAY BE SWELTERING in a historic autumn heatwave. Yet Judith Frankland, the ex-Blitz Kid fashion designer, flew out of Tyneside this morning to establish her business in Germany swathed in vital garments she couldn’t pack within the 20kg baggage allowance. “This is my idea for getting as many clothes onboard as possible,” she said. “I’m wearing three topcoats: first a black full-length fake-fur, then stuffing myself inside a black lightweight down to the ankles, then the grey mountain-goat shortie. On top, loads of jewels of course, and in the pockets loads more bling. Down below, I’m in leather biker’s pants, heavy and warm, plus Harley Davidson boots.”
Biker leathers, darling??? “No of course I’m not going bikey, don’t be daft! They are simply so warm and cost only 50p brand new in a car-boot sale. I know I’m going to get beeped at security for my jewellery — changing planes last time at Schiphol, my steel-tipped stilettos set off the alarm. But if they stop me, I’ll be prepared for them, like Maria von Trapp. I’m going to say I’m anorexic and feeling the cold.”
This is how an upstart style princess prepares herself for Berlin, plus new-look hair, cut last night and freshly rinsed pink. She means business. A modest container is already being shipped by Voovit, bringing Judith’s sewing machines, her dramatically retro promotional collection for The Woman Who Likes To Say Hello shown this year in Newcastle upon Tyne, plus a ton more bling (she does have a way with black baubles and gilded chain). Yes, this is the great adventure to build a new life for one of the wild children of the Swinging 80s whose best break came the month she graduated from Ravensbourne art college when David Bowie dropped in at the Blitz Club and chose to put her and her clothes in his landmark video for Ashes to Ashes. [And which Shapersofthe80s displays as the picture heading this website. The New Romantics were utterly in thrall to Bowie.]
Having taken the temperature of Berlin on an exploratory trip this July, Judith has been scouting the smart district of Prenzlauer Berg for a workshop-cum-living quarters, with another eye on up-market boutiques through which to retail in the short-term.
Judith says: “My main plan is to create high fashion for women who love clothes that are beautiful but avant-garde and might even be called art. I’ve left England to seek fresh inspiration and shall be presenting my outfits next season in Paris in order to re-establish links with buyers who don’t visit London — from Japan and the Far East, for example.”
Judi’s lesson learnt in July: in Berlin an umbrella is no protection from the elements. Photograph by Shapersofthe80s
It is eight years since Judith’s previous bespoke design business blew up in her face. She has described on her blog at The Swelle Life how the American backer behind her Paris-based atelier suddenly got cold feet and hot-footed it back to the States, leaving Judith as the designer holding the baby. This more or less coincided with her mother’s health failing, whereupon Judith returned to Tyneside to care for her.
In Berlin, Judith has not been short of advice from friends made during her ten-year spell in Milan in the 90s designing and hosting nightclubs. Several friends are now relocated to Berlin, including photographer and videographer Sandro Martini. The Dutch costumier Eppo Dekker, who has a boutique called Prêt-à-Couture in Friedrichshain, has also been helping Judith make contacts in the city. Immediate plans include designing stage-wear for the underground performer Antal Nemeth.
“Meanwhile,” Judith says, “this weekend I’m heading down to a vintage Zupermarket run by the Sameheads brothers — they say rich ladies bring in their sparkly clothes for sale and nobody goes away unhappy.”
London’s Cafe Royal, 1980: Judith’s graduation show from Ravensbourne college of art caused a sensation with a glamorous evocation of the 50s in black and white taffeta, brocade, velvet and satin. Its climax was this black wedding dress worn by Sheila Ming, gloriously crowned by Stephen Jones’s veiled head-dress made of stiffened lace on a metal frame. Blitz club host Steve Strange was later to wear it in David Bowie’s video for Ashes to Ashes. Photographed © by Niall McInerney
Judith’s 1980 degree collection shot for Viz: these taffeta and satin outfits in medieval romantic mood were dubbed “Balenciaga hears the Sound of Music”. Photographed © by Adrian Bradbury
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