Beautiful People: The Exhibition
Finally after being delayed by the Covid19 epidemic and enforced museum closures, Beautiful People will open at the Fashion and Textile Museum on 1st October.
The exhibition features clothes made by Granny Takes a Trip, Hung On You, Biba, Mr Fish, Dandie Fashions, the Apple boutique, Apple tailoring and Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell at Quorum. Clothes which were worn by so many of the most famous rock stars of the time: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix to name a just a few.
Before we came up with a name for this project we'd spent many years collecting and researching this period and the people involved. We were always thrilled to discover an old photograph of someone wearing something from our collection and of course, the more famous the better. For some time we simply called it "Rock stars in our clothes".
Now I wouldn't want to spoil the show by showing you any of the actual clothes in the exhibition so close to the opening day. But I thought it'd be exciting to share some of those old photographs of Beautiful People wearing some of the clothes which Cleo and I have chosen to feature in the show.
All the clothes mentioned below come from our collection except those kindly loaned from the collection of Peter Feely.
GRANNY TAKES A TRIP
We're particularly excited about The Granny Takes a Trip section of the exhibition. We believe it is the largest collection of men and womens clothing from Sheila Cohen, John Pearse and Nigel Waymouth's original boutique since the shop was open.
I'm sure this first one is no surprise, and it's one of my favourite pieces in our collection. George Harrison wearing the Morris & Co. Golden Lily print jacket by Granny Takes a Trip. George is wearing his to the opening party of Apple Tailoring (previously Dandie Fashions) on 22nd May 1968 in the Club Dell' Aretusa, Kings Road.
It's very easy to see why many famous musicians and celebrities bought the Morris & Co print jackets; the bold design really makes them stand out as extraordinary and beautiful pieces.
But the one now in our collection and which appears in the exhibition originally belonged to Nigel Lesmoir Gordon (right). Nigel and his wife Jenny were very much part of the scene - Alan Ginsburg lived with Nigel and Jenny at 101 Cromwell Road in the run up to the International Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall on 11th June 1965, an event which is seen by many as the first counter-cultural happening. They knew everyone, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, Chirstopher Gibbs, Donovan, Robert Fraser, Barry Miles, Hoppy Hopkins, John Dunbar and particularly from their early days in Cambridge the circle of people involved with Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett.
The show also features a pale acid lemon suit from Hung On You which was Nigel's and an Apple boutique outfit of Jenny's.
This (left) is Keith West singer of UFO regulars Tomorrow wearing a fabulous brocade jacket from Granny Takes a Trip. There's lots of images of Keith wearing this jacket but, perhaps most famously, he wore it in the 1967 film Smashing Time, written by George Melly.
Melly's Revolt into Style was one of the first attempts to evaluate popular culture and art and the film's light hearted look at the popular and counter cultural vintage fashion reveals something of his deeper knowledge of the topic.
Another of Keith West's Granny jackets in the show is the Donegal tweed with Western styling inspired by one worn by James Dean's character Jett Rink in Giant, John Pearse gave the American detailing a traditional British tailoring slant by adding the velvet collar.
Keith's brocade jacket has been loaned by Peter Feely and the James Dean - Jett Rink one is from our collection.
Below are two photos of Cream's Jack Bruce wearing Granny shirts made from bolts of old dress making material which Sheila, John and Nigel found in the fabric store of Pontings in Kensington.
Eric Clapton (left) also had a shirt from Granny's made in the same print. Both of these prints appear in the exhibition, but on womens clothes designed by Sheila Cohen. This leads me to conclude that the distinction between gender specific clothing was not that clearly defined at Granny's. I think that there was an attitude of if it fits you then why can't you wear it? Nigel Waymouth told me that mens and womens clothes would both be displayed on the same rails and therefore presented as available to both sexes. To illustrate that last point, here's a picture (below) of Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull with Marianne wearing a jacket made from the same fabric as Jack Bruce's. It's also the same as the one displayed in the exhibition from our collection.
While we're mentioning the Stones.. the jacket that Keith is wears on the front cover of Between the Buttons is also from Granny. This shot (below) is from the same Gered Mankowitz photo session on Primrose Hill in November 1966. Here you can see clearly the distinctive wide, burgundy stripes on Keith's jacket, identical one which appears in the show which originally belonged to English Boy model Tim Allen.
Tim also worked for Michael Rainey at Hung On You and that's him in the centre outside of the 340 Kings Road shop.
He'd previously worked at the 22 Cale Street shop and owned a green version of the Hung On You, dandy styled, coachman's jacket worn by Keith Richards in the photograph below. The red velvet collar and cuffs and the distinctive fastenings are notable details and, to my eye, shows the influence of Hung On You's designs on the clothes made for Dandie Fashions. John Crittle, who was part of the original Dandie team, had previously worked at Hung On You and used the same tailors, Fosters, as Michael Rainey to make their clothes.
Both of Tim Allen's jackets in the show are form Peter Feely's collection.
Just before we leave the Granny Takes a Trip section I wanted to have a quick reminder of the Indian print bedspread dress, worn here by Joanna Lumley, that I've mentioned in an earlier post. It's such a distinctive print and we're featuring a Granny dress from our collection in this fabric but also the Sam Pig In Love kaftan as worn by Jimi Hendrix. The one shown in the exhibition was owned by Peter Daltry and worn on the cover of Kaleidoscope's Tangerine Dream album.
Peter Daltrey's kaftan is from Peter Feely's collection.
Dandie Fashions are perhaps some of the rarest clothes to find. Brain Jones and Jimi Hendrix were both frequent customers and the regency styling definitely attracted the rock n roll clientele. The Beatles not only wore their clothes, they went on to buy the business changing the name to Apple Tailoring. We have four Apple Tailoring suits in the show and two fabulous brocade examples from Dandie Fashions. A black one the same as Keith Moon's (above) and a cream one in the same brocade as Ringo's but in the same regency style as Keith Moon's.
The photo of Ringo was taken on set of the film Candy Man which he briefly appears in as a Mexican gardener, but not in his Dandie Fashions jacket.
Like Dandie Fashions and Apple Tailoring, clothes from the Apple Boutique are extremely rare. The clothes were made in small quantities but also the shop itself was short lived, from 7 December 1967 to 31 July 1968.
One of the highlights from our collection on the Apple stand is this brown tapestry suit with scarlet lining identical to one worn by George Harrison.
The Beatles always seemed to whole heartedly embrace their psychedelic period. No matter how extreme the clothes designed by The Fool during Sgt Pepper's and Magical Mystery Tour became, they never seemed uncomfortable in them. The same can't really be said of the Rolling Stones who went from their high dandy phase, as worn by Brian Jones and Bill Wyman (often in clothes by Dandie Fashions) through the more fanciful outfits of their psychedelic Their Satanic Majesties Request, to return to their R n B roots with the classic, late sixties, Rolling Stones sound of Jumpin' Jack Flash dressed in the leathers, satin trousers and silk shirts by Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell.
Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell are another of our favourite design teams and we have a large collection of their work. So for the exhibition we chose to focus on Quorum's 1968 fashion show at the Revolution club. All of the pieces mentioned below are from that show.
This shot (above) is from the photo shoot for Jumpin' Jack Flash released as a single on 24th May 1968. Brian is wearing an Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell print shirt with a Britwell print scarf and Keith wears an Ossie Clark motorcycle jacket and an original 1930s torpedo scarf, much beloved of rock stars and which Celia's 1968 version is in the same, cut on the bias, shape.
The motorcycle jacket was shown by English Boy model Bill Chenail (below) at the Revolution Club fashion show paired with some of Ossie's silver satin trousers,
Keith also wore the same jacket for the 1971 Sticky Fingers photo shoot and Ossie Clark owned a python skin version.
Here is Bill Wyman (below left) and Pattie Boyd (below right) in two more Celia Birtwell prints featured in the exhibition which were in the 1968 Revolution club fashion show. Pattie actually modeled the Greek Key Birtwell print satin jacket in the show and the one we're displaying originally belonged to Celia Birtwell,.
Another stand out piece from the Revolution club fashion show was Ossie's satinised cotton trouser suit named after the car he dearly wanted to own, a Lamborghini. Although originally designed as a womans suit, Bill Wyman (right) wore the jacket with one of Celia's satin print shirts for the Stones performances for their Rock n Roll Circus in December 1968.
Again this shows a particularly flexible attitude towards clothes and in the search for more adventurous and flamboyant ways of dressing men were attracted to fabrics, prints and garments created for women. This would become more pronounced in the 1970s and with rock stars like Bowie creating more androgynous looks.
I'm going to finish this post with this image of the New York Dolls who appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test on 27th November 1973. Both singer David Johansen's blouse and and bass player Arthur "Killer" Kane's faux leopard fur trimmed jacket were womens clothes from Biba which they'd picked up the previous day when they played Biba's Rainbow rooms.
The Dolls performance is now seen by many as one of the precursors of punk. Steve Jones, guitarist with the Sex Pistols has said that he modeled his on stage attitude on Johnny Thunders. And punk marks the end of the line for the fashion of the Beautiful People. Zandra Rhodes commented on the time that: "London Street-life was changing drastically. There was a new parade on the King's Road. In the clubs around there and in Soho and Oxford Street, you could feel the tension. Yesterday's jeunesse dore was suddenly irrelevant and in this atmosphere my floating chiffon butterflies were too delicate, too fragile, uneasy. I didn't feel right putting on any of the things I used to wear."
With that thought in mind we end the show with a comparison of two outfits made in 1975 and 76: Maurice Gibbs' bespoke, midnight blue, plush velvet suit by Tommy Nutter made during the Bee Gees were at the height of their Saturday Night Fever fame, and McLaren and Westwood's "Cowboys" print muslin shirt and red tartan bondage trousers.
Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture
At the Fashion and Textile Museum, Bermondsey
1st October 2021 - 13th March 2022
Tuesdays to Saturday 11am - 6pm