Blitz Kids chosen by Bowie to star in his Ashes to Ashes video, 1980: Darla-Jane, Steve, Judith and Elise with Bowie at centre as Major Tom. © EMI
❚ WE ALL REMEMBER DESIGNER Judith Frankland’s nun-like appearance in David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes video in 1980 alongside Steve Strange who was wearing her infamous black wedding dress. Tomorrow Judith unveils her first women’s collection in eight years at the Holy Biscuit gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, in a week-long show by a mixed group of women artists. She says her new outfits are designed for “The Woman Who Likes to say Hello!”
Judith’s flyer illustrated by Manny More
They are joyous explosions of colour that, she insists, “come from within my well travelled head” — and here we’re talking the shock tactics of an eternal punkette, whose own looks veer between the immaculate cool of revue star Bea Lillie and the fruitiness of dancer Carmen Miranda. At the height of the Blitz club’s notoriety, Judith’s playful yet tailored outfits adorned Steve Strange as vocalist with Visage to become some of the most distinctive styles of the New Romantics movement. Most memorable was the taffeta jacket with medieval flourishes on the cover for Fade to Grey.
Milanese night warrior: Judith during her Pussy Galore hostess era, 1989-96
Where did the last 30 years go for Judith? She has lived more lives than the rest of us ever will, in a whirl of bespoke design partnerships and nightclub promoting from Vancouver to LA to Milan to Paris, fuelled by acerbic wit and a mighty big heart. With such landmark clubs as Pussy Galore and Chocolat City, the Italians branded her one of “i guerrieri della notte” — the warriors of the night.
In the end she returned to Tyneside to look after her ailing mum, and only now has she found the time and energy to return to the fashion fray. Judith’s last business was based in Paris and that’s where she plans to return next year. The new Winter 2011/12 collection is a modest calling card that exploits a secret stash of “school-blazer fabrics” in stripes and vibrant colourways. Judith has suffused uniform wool suitings with a positively romantic glow.
With the left hand, she has been contributing to a smart new blog called The Swelle Life, run by writer-photographer Denise Grayson. Here in her own uninhibited confessional style, Judith pays generous tribute to the inspirational circle of friends she has acquired on her travels.
Judith’s nun look from 1980, left, echoed in 2011, right. After fashion, her second passion is the film The Sound of Music. “I hate revisiting the past,” she maintains, but for her Swelle Life blog, she couldn’t resist accessorising this vintage German skirt with her own nun’s collar and cuffs. Photographs by Derek Ridgers and Denise Grayson
From Judith’s 2002 collection while living in Paris: her apartment in rue Montorgueil just by Les Halles converted into a showroom during fashion week
A couture original: When Shapersofthe80s visited Judith’s Old Curiosity Shoppe of a home last summer, she showed off the latest treasure acquired from her local thrift shops, this Lacroix coat, priced 25 pence! Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s
“ I’m an upstart and a woman like many who loves — and in my case lives — fashion and the world that lurks around it, a world I have stepped in and out of all my life. I have an excitable, excruciatingly inquisitive mind; I never stop thinking, plotting and some would say talking! I am not a lover of the term ‘On trend’; I like to say ‘On form’. Micro mini to maxi. If it feels right on the day I’ll wear it — no sheep mentality for me. I mix bargain buys, charity shop finds and my own creations. ”
Judith models her Hello! look for Winter 2011/12: day wear and evening wear giving new life to school-blazer suitings. Jewellery from the designer’s own massive collection. Photographed © by Denise Grayson
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
On the beach at Hastings filming Ashes to Ashes: Judith (right) in the ecclesiastical habit Bowie had seen her in at the Blitz, with Steve Strange (second left) in Judith’s black wedding dress he’d also worn that night (head-dress by Stephen Jones). Elise and Darla-Jane wear their own outfits. What with the shingle and the quicksand and Steve trying to outrun the bulldozer, Judith says the wedding dress was completely destroyed. © EMI
➢ An Eclectic Mix of Arts & Design runs April 8–15 at the Holy Biscuit gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne. Join Judith for a chat at the preview this Friday 6–8pm. Others showing are Tutu Benson, Anne Johnson, Helen Moss, Sheelagh Peace, Susan Stanton, Jill Stephen
➢ Update — Judith’s new collection for Winter 2011–12 reviewed