Full of Eastern Promise Part 2: Abayas, Mens Dresses, Turkish Hareem Decor and Marrakesh.
In part 1 I pointed out that Granny Takes A Trip never really got into the hippie, ethnic clothing look. I suspect that John Pearse's mod sensibilities and fondness for tailoring probably had a lot to do with that. So in this second part of the story I want to focus on some designers who saw this influence as a major part of their artistic vision.
Hung On You - The Kings Road - Hapshash & Ingres
When Michael Rainey decided to move from 22 Cale Street to 430 King's Road he had a radical new vision for his new premises.
Michael English, pictured wearing the Blaam! t-shirt, had repainted the window of Hung On You at Cale Street in a Pop Art graphic style. This photograph was for an article in Everbody's magazine dated 22nd February 1967. So Michael Rainey (second on the left) contacted Michael English again in 1967 when he was relocating to King's Road.
Hung On You shop assistant Timothy Allen, who, along with Rainey, would join Sir Mark Palmer's English Boy model agency, remembers that his boss had become fascinated by Ingres 1842 painting, l'Odalisque a l'esclave; considered to be an Orientalist masterpiece by art historians.
The painting is of a Turkish hareem interior and shows a European white naked concubine listening to the saz (baglama in Turkish) playing of the female Abyssinian slave while the black male African eunuch stands in attendance in the background. Even though we can see the naked European figure as a nude with a long historical tradition in western art, the contrast of the skin tones and the varying degrees of its exposure between the three figures is quite remarkable.
But it's actually the interior decoration; the cushions, drapery, the clothes and in particular the wall paintings which inspired Rainey. In the photograph (left) manager of Hung On You, Bo, is standing in, what I assume is, the changing room. On the wall behind his legs you can see the same patterned panels as those next to the eunuch in Ingres' painting.
Ingres' orientalism became the inspiration for the entire aesthetic of the new boutique. The clothes definitely have an Indian flavour to them. Shop assistants Kelvin Bryce (left) in the Nehru jacket and Timothy Allen (centre) with manager Bo (right) modelling some more of the shops new exotic stock, outside of 430 King's road. The Hapshash CIA V's UFO poster for the Pink Floyd, 28th July gives us a good idea of the date.
Behind Kelvin is the Hung On You poster designed specifically for the new location by Michael English and Nigel Waymouth under the name Hapsash and the Coloured Coat.
Hapshash and the Coloured Coat - Hung On You
Nigel Waymouth told me that as Rainey had worked with Michael English previously that year he gave Hapshash a complete free hand in designing the poster.
Nigel said the inspiration came from the growing interest in India, promoted by the Beatles and particularly George Harrison who'd named only Indian gurus as his choices to appear on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's. But also from Michael Rainey's personal interest in Meher Baba, the spiritual leader who relayed his teachings using an alphabet board and hand gestures as he hadn't spoken since 1925 and remained silent until his death in 1969.
Interestingly Baba, was very critical of the use of drugs and especially LSD as a short cut to spiritual enlightenment describing it as "harmful physically, mentally and spiritually" and warned that "[its continued use] leads to madness or death". 1
The poster is perfectly in tune with the shop's ambiance and rich in symbolic references.
The dominant image is a traditional Hindu depiction of Radha and Krishna, the male and female manifestations of the deity. Krishna enchants the World, but Radhi enchants Krishna so she is the supreme goddess. Their unity is often expressed as: RadhaKrishna. They're shown between the Moon and the Sun (interestingly with the Sun, the heavenly body usually given masculine associations, on Radha's side of the couple). And the signs of the zodiac at their feet; depicting both time and the astrological year, and the cosmos reaching out beyond the Earth (shown on Radha's skirt) the Moon and Sun, to its unchartered limits represented by the alien life forms visiting in flying saucers (a fascination of countercultural types but perhaps also a reference to UFO club nights promoted by Hapshash's posters). Then there's a river (of life?) with boats travelling on it and an allusion to inner space exploration of the mind with the signs of the zodiac and the field of hallucinogenic Fly Agaric mushrooms in the landscape.
I was intrigued by the Chinese script on the left hand side. Nigel is also mystified saying:
I think Michael English put that into the design. However, at the time Michael Rainey was into one of his fads: Mao’s Little Red Book. He was even selling Chinese communist style jackets at Hung On You. Nothing political, purely aesthetic. Maybe it’s a quote from the Chairman’s book? 2
I have no idea what the Chinese script says, but I do think it adds another cultural dimension to the poster which is predominantly an Indian image. Of course if Nigel is right and it's from Mao, it references the Chinese Communist party's promotion of atheism. Since the Cultural Revolution it is a criminal offence to be in possession of religious texts and monks and nuns were persecuted and monasteries destroyed in continuing anti-religious campaigns. All of which is in sharp contrast with harmonious feel of the poster and the zeitgeist intellectual tolerance, anti-censorship and freedom of expression held by the counterculture.
It'd be nice to discover that it's from a completely different source. Especially as it is one of my favourite Hapshash posters. It's just so lovely to look at, the figures are so beautifully drawn and the colour palette of hot reds, cool greens and silver is just sublime. I absolutely love it.
And while we're on the subject of Indian influenced art, I just couldn't resist mentioning Roger Law's 1967 cover for Axis Bold As Love, the second album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The band certainly do look like a three headed being in Karl Ferris' photograph (above) which Law used as a reference for the album artwork. Jimi had said The music in Axis is based on a very, very simple American Indian style. And it seems that Law was so engulfed in the prevailing fashion for all things Indian that he misinterpreted Hendrix's reference to Native Americans. He chose to use an ancient depiction of the Hindu deity Vishnu as described in the Bhagavad Gita, where Vishnu's avatar Krishna reveals himself to Prince Arjuna as the supreme being, Vishvarupa, the ultimate expression of Vishnu where everything is seen as an expression of the one divine.
Maybe it didn't occur to Law that it might be considered inappropriate to portray the Hendrix Experience as the ultimate being, even if they were pretty good, and that it would be considered offensive to Hindus to substitute a rock guitarist for their deity in a religious image.
Even Jimi himself wasn't happy with the cover depiction saying:
"The three of us have nothing to do with what's on the Axis cover." 3
As Hendrix had a Cherokee grandmother, he thought it would have been far more appropriate to portray him as a Native American; the way that Hapshash and The Coloured Coat did (right).
Nigel Waymouth told me It was my idea to depict Jimi Hendrix as a Native American medicine man as I suspected he had roots there too; the high cheekbones and the fact that many Americans do. I was tired too of the cliché of him being seen simply as just Afro-American. I’m glad to learn that he too was similarly minded. 4
Waymouth had an affinity for the Native Americans and chose portrait photographs of two Lakota chiefs, Kicking Bear and Low Dog (right), as images for Granny's shopfronts. Nigel says The shopfront and the poster were around the same time in 1967/8. Two different trains of thought, but I was interested in the story of Native Americans. 5
The Jimi Hendrix Experience's first gig in the USA was at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18, 1967, where upon they were immediately booked for a series of five concerts at San Francisco's Fillmore.
Nigel Waymouth continues the story: The poster was originally commissioned by him (Hendrix) and his management to advertise his show at the Fillmore. It went ahead as such until the promoter, Bill Graham decided he wanted to use one of his San Francisco artists. The posters were already printed so we sold them here in the U.K. However, the management and Hendrix liked the design so much that they also used the design to promote his first album. 6
This explains why there are two different coloured versions of the poster, but my favourite is this black and white one (above) which was also used as a giant backdrop for the band's appearance on Dutch television's show Hoepla on 10th November 1967.
Morocco was another important big cultural influence of the time, so while we're on a musical note, I thought I'd mention Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka.
It's live recording of a group of Moroccan Sufi musicians made in the mountain village of Joujouka which Jones had visited in 1967 and 68. The music made for a religious ritual festival was recorded by Jones' engineer George Chkiantzis in 1968. It's of call and response style melodies, sung or played on double reed mediaeval shawm-style instruments with drum accompaniment. There's also a more intimate recording of a solo flute with a drone which after a slow introduction is joined by another flute drums and hand clapping gradually picking up speed to the climax.
The festival features a boy dressed as Bou Jeloud the Goat God, wearing a skin from a freshly slaughtered goat, who crates havoc running through the darkened village. This was linked to the pagan god Pan by the westerners and hence the title of the album. Back in London Jones edited the recordings and added reverb and phasing effects, presumably in an attempt to capture something of the altered consciousness states and other worldly atmosphere of the ritual. Although Jones finished the album months before his death, it wasn't released until October 1971.
After that artistic and musical interlude it's time to get back to some clothes.
Mr Fish - Mens Dresses?
Michael Fish has become known for his outrageously flamboyant and androgynous styling, and probably the most famous example of that style the outfit worn by Mick Jagger at the Stones in the Park free concert in Hyde Park on 5th July 1969. The outfit was originally shown at Fish's Clifford Street shop in March 1969 and modeled (below right) by Stuarte De Randall with Jan De Souza wearing Knockout, a lace trouser suit by Janet Lyle.
It's difficult to know how much Michael Fish intended this outfit to be seen as androgynous. The story I'm familiar with is that Mick Jagger had intended to wear a leather jumpsuit designed by Ossie Clark for the gig, but changed his mind as he thought it would be too hot. In his diaries Ossie Clark mentions the Stones had started to wear Quorum designs in 1967:
When Brian Jones and Keith took to wearing the silks and satins printed by Celia and the skin-tight jewel coloured trousers from a stash of pre-war corset satin AP (Alice Pollock) found, I made men's shirts with frills in chiffon, in crepe, with a one sided collar, a leather jacket metallic with blue snake. 7
And given that androgyny had played such a large part of Mick Jagger's role as Turner in Performance, I think it's pretty safe to assume that he took that aspect of Michael Fish's outfit and ran with it. Phillip Norman in his Jagger biography says Mick had borrowed the dress, which had been made for Sammy Davis Jr. at the Mr. Fish boutique, and wore it to Prince Rupert Lowenstein's white ball, where he had shown it to Princess Margaret. Jagger was only to wear it for half-an-hour at the Hyde Park concert, after which he tore it off to reveal a violet T-shirt and white loon pants. 8
And certainly by the time David Bowie wore this Mr Fish creation in the shoot for the original cover of The Man Who Sold The World in 1970, the camp androgyny was really being milked for all it was worth. Katherine Hepburn I'd say.
When in 1972 Melody Maker's Michael Watts asked Bowie: Why aren’t you wearing your girl’s dress today? He replied: Oh dear. You must understand that it’s not a woman’s. It’s a man’s dress. 9
In the past I'd always assumed Bowie's reply was just a flippant remark ie it's a man's dress because, even though it's a dress, I'm a man and therefore it's a mans dress. But it's actually more complicated than that. True it has no bust darts and is obviously tailored for a man, but does that make it a dress?
Michael Fish had taken inspiration for both Mick Jagger and Bowie's designs from traditional ethnic menswear. Jagger's white outfit draws on the uniform of the Evzones, the Greek Presidential guard and features the Foustanella, the 400 pleat Greek skirt, where each pleat represents a year of Ottoman occupation. So to bring the concept closer to our own culture, is a Scottish kilt a skirt?
And equally I chose to show Bowie in this raw silk version of his Mr Fish, rather than the floral print one which is probably more well known, as it shows more clearly the influence of the Sherwani, a knee length button coat worn by men that was the court dress worn by noblemen in Turkey and Persia. In India It's a formal occasion outfit for men, popular for weddings and is the male national dress of Pakistan. So within their cultural settings these clothes aren't seen as feminine at all. So I think there's a very strong argument against calling them dresses. However Michael Fish did choose to call the 1970s garments mens smoking dress, and of course here he may be using the term dress as a verb. But again I think it's not quite that simple.
Freedom of sexual expression was part of the counter-cultural zeitgeist and for Fish, as a gay man, this surely meant these clothes are a personal political statement. Surely Fish is deliberately and playfully blurring and questioning notions of gender specific clothing by drawing on cross cultural examples of masculine dress. And at the same time being fully aware of the influence of the fashionable bohemian romanticism of north African and eastern Orientalism.
Interestingly when Fish was looking for models for his mens smoking dresses (including the one Bowie is wearing in the photo above) he chose black and ethnic minority models Antonio, Walter Giegold and Rudi Patterson. Maybe this was an attempt to place the "dresses" in some degree of cultural context.
Marrakesh - Rich Bohemian Chic
I knew the youthfulness of the '60s: Talitha and Paul Getty lying on a starlit terrace in Marrakesh, beautiful and damned, and a whole generation assembled as if for eternity where the curtain of the past seemed to lift before an extraordinary future. Yves Saint Laurent 10
Talitha Pol and John Paul Getty junior were married in December 1966 and on their honeymoon in Marrakesh bought a nineteenth century palace living between Morocco, Rome and London. In The Beautiful Fall, the biograpghy of Yves Saint Laurent, Alicia Drake describes Talitha hosting: .... dinners on her rooftop terrace at which appeared barefoot and ethereal, rings on every finger, kaftan flying, stoned and enchanting. She possessed not just a sexual freedom, but also a freedom about her body that was almost childlike in its candour. She was emblematic of the upper-class hippie movement that defined 1960s London....She invited all her London friends to stay - Marianne Faithful, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg - and they arrived in various states of head spin and decadence. fashion designer Ossie Clark was there, coked up and dancing on life's edges. He was brittle and brilliant, dreaming up ravishing dresses of chiffon that expressed all the freedom and eroticism of the new rock and roll generation. 11
Drake certainly paints a vivid and wonderfully evocative image of Talitha and their rock star and fashion designer friends with their debauched bohemian lifestyle in Marrakesh.
Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge had visited Marrakesh in 1966 and fell in love with the city, buying a home of their own in the Medina.
Thadee Klossowski de Rola, younger brother of Stash and husband of YSL muse Loulou de la Falaise, says that Marrakesh made a deep impact on Pierre and Yves:
In many ways Yves and Pierre were terribly square and French.... He (Yves) was shocked, shocked and immensely titillated. 12
And their friend Spanish fashion designer Fernando Sanchez remembers the transformation he made in Marrakesh: I remember changing from this kind of bourgeois, well-behaved boy that I had been told to be into someone who started dressing rather outrageously, with pierced ears and boots and kohl. It was like an explosion. I shed a skin that was strangling me and that's when I became more creative, because I started, not forgetting, but rather by passing all the clichés that I would have applied before. When I started getting stoned, I could not go back and design a bourgeois little black dress. Impossible. Time had changed. 13
So for the rich bohemians Marrakesh was a permissive paradise. It was the elite's version of the hippie trail freedom and provided that same life changing and creative experience. For Yves Saint Laurent, who was born in Oran in French Algeria, it must have brought back childhood memories. And as another fashion designer said:
An exotic childhood is an incalcuable asset for a designer or indeed any sort of artist. Mine was certainly exotic and also idyllic. 14
That designer was Thea Porter who perhaps for many is the name most strongly associated with the rich hippie style.
Thea Porter was born in Jerusalem in 1927 but brought up in Damascus in Syria. I really think that Syria is a most beautiful country. Every time I close my eyes it's there. It haunts me. 15
Her idyllic childhood, with summers spent in the village of Bloudan high the mountains above Damascus, gave her a nostalgia for the Middle East which lasted all her life. When she moved to London is 1964 she created middle eastern styling for clients working as an interior designer, importing Syrian furniture and decorative objects. One of her early customers was, of course, Talitha Getty.
In July 1966 she opened in 8 Greek Street and loved Soho...not only for its restaurants, strip-clubs, prostitutes and reckless night life, but because there was no other shop there like the one I dreamed of creating, an exotic Aladdin's cave, full of baubles and pearly furniture, and hung with the rich fabrics I had collected in the East. 16
And it's in Greek Street where she first started sell authentic antique kaftans. These proved to be so popular that she began to create her own, inspired by the shapes of traditional ethnic clothing but informed by her clients' fascination and expectations of exotic cultures.
Pink Floyd, surely the counter culture band of 1967, chose to wear Thea Porter on the cover of their debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
Roger Walters (top left) and Richard Right (right) are both wearing embroidered jackets by Thea Porter as is Richard's shirt. Nick Mason (bottom left) is wearing a Dandie Fashions regency style jacket.
But for me, these are far from her best work and don't really give a true indication of what she created.
This coat (left), made from Samawa carpets from southern Iraq trimmed with fur, was made in 1970 and is a fabulous example of how she adapted ethnic fabrics to create fashionable clothes to western tastes.
Perhaps the garment she is best known for is the abaya as worn by model Moyra Swan (above) dramatically outlined against the rooftops of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, in Barry Latigan's fabulous photograph from 1971. Traditionally an abaya is a black, loose or voluminous over garment worn by some women in Muslim countries. It covers the whole body except the head, hands and feet and is sometimes worn with a face covering veil or niqāb. Worn in public the idea being that it prevents men from seeing the woman's body.
Thea Porters abaya's are equally voluminous and give the wearer total freedom of movement in such a light weight (hers are often in silk or chiffon) and loose fitting garment. But they're also reinvented to reflect those countercultural values. The abaya worn by Moyra Swan is of sheer black chiffon and makes her body very clearly visible. The erotic nature of this particular piece is undeniable, but even if most of Porter's abayas weren't quite as see through as this example, the freedom and sensuality of such fine fabrics, barely in contact with the body, would create a feeling of being virtually naked for the wearer.
Throughout the 1970s, Thea Porter along with other designers like Bill Gibb and Yves Saint Laurent would to draw on ethnic garments creating a bohemian de luxe high fashion which was far removed from the counter-cultural, alternative aesthetic with which it began.
Fashion photography would draw on exotic styling or settings for their shoots even when the designer's aesthetic had little or no eastern influence. Below are two great examples, on the left Zandra Rhodes' fabulous chiffon is worn by Pat Cleveland in the Manhattan home of interior designer Angelo Donghia, and on the right Jan Ward (de Villenuve) wears one of Jean Muir's minimalist dresses, wrapped in some paisley print sari(?) fabric and posed in in the sands of Monument Valley in Utah for this Vogue shoot in January 1971.
Equally at the other end of the spectrum, cheap ethnic clothing flooded into London during 1967. As soon as the Beatles endorsed India, commercialisation of the style was inevitable.
Christopher Gibbs remembers ….walking down the King’s Road and knowing, if I met anyone who looked at all nice, that they’d be a very old friend. Now they were everywhere, perfect strangers, and one felt they were taking over. 17
Craig Sams remembers the huge demand for Afghans after people had seen the Beatles wearing them. A demand which so far exceed the supply that makers compromised their production process by reducing the curing times of the skins resulting in that distinctive Afghan coat smell. However despite commercialisation of hippie style clothing becoming decidedly passé by the late 1960's, the Afghan coat retained its authority as a symbol of alternative attitudes well into the 1970s.
And this was particularly true when worn as it was by Mark Palmer in that Quorum fashion shoot back in 1967. Here it looks well worn in, and a bit scruffy and ragged at the edges. And he's wearing it with some equally well worn it and faded jeans. He's got some beaded bracelets on both wrists and his hair is perfectly tousled and naturally curly.
Below is another great example from 20th March 1970 when David Bowie married Angie at the Bromley Registry Office.
Bowie's Afro perm is growing out a bit by now and he's wearing his Afghan with a 1930s torpedo scarf in typical rock star fashion with an open necked shirt. But as we're into the 1970s he's got some satin trousers on and a chain belt slung across his hips giving us a hint of the glam styling to come. Angie is wearing a fab 1930s floral print dress and a knotted fringed shawl for the occasion.
For me, growing up through the 1970s and delving into the progressive music section of our local Smiths record department, I remember in 1975 - 6 the look I and my school friends wanted to wear was essentially the same as Mark Palmer's nine years earlier. A hippie look of well worn in and faded and jeans, although ours were more flared, worn over cowboy boots and the crowning glory was always that afghan coat. Of course as school kids we had to wear uniforms during the week, but at weekends we'd make the transformation into wannabe hippies. For us the clothes were absolutely and intrinsically linked to the music and wearing them was an expression of your conviction to the likes of: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Yes and Mike Oldfield.
I remember seeing Steve Hillage as one of the support acts to Queen at their free Hyde park concert in September 1976. Hillage's set included George Harrison's It's All Too Much and Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man (a song he wrote in Rishikesh staying with the Beatles). In one of his own songs Hillage calls to a new breed of Electrick Gypsies to bring back the spirit of 1967 in a new spacey sound of synthesized psychedelic revivalism. And it seemed so in tune with the mood of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, played over the sound system between live acts, Rick Wright's synthesizers and David Gilmour's fabulous guitar solo introduction to Shine On You Crazy Diamond, perfect music for the blistering summer heat. Little did I know then how close we all were to the end of that lingering hippie era. My next London free festival would be in 1978, the Rock Against Racism rally and Victoria Park concert with The Clash, X-ray Spex and Steel Pulse.
But back to 1976 and those afghan coats. I had two school friends, older than me but in the same year, who had paper rounds and bought themselves Afghans. Feeling like I was letting the side down and not being a true devotee, I remember asking my mum if she'd buy me one. Taking her to Spice Island, our local patchouli smelling hippie shop, she was horrified when she saw it, incredulously asking if I really wanted to wear THAT? I was completely overwhelmed by her reaction and placing it back on the rail, I realized that the prized Afghan coat was just a step too far for me. .
I want to look at the transformative power of clothes and what it is to be a dandy.
Thanks again Nigel Waymouth and Craig Sams, to Peter Feely who shared Timothy Allen's memories of the Hung On You decor and to Sreejith Balakrishnan for his Hindu expertise, verifying I had correctly described and understood the Vishvarupa.
I also want to mention Sweet Jane's Pop Boutique blogspot for her history of 430 Kings Road (probably one of the most important addresses in UK street fashion history) right back to its first incarnation the 4.30 Boutique.
Spiritual Leader Warning on LSD, United Press International, 27 July 1967
Waymouth. Nigel, phone conversation
Cross, Charles R. (2005). Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix, Hyperion p.205
Waymouth. Nigel, email correspondence.
Waymouth. Nigel, email correspondence.
Waymouth. Nigel, email correspondence.
Rous. Henrietta (1998), The Ossie Clark Diaries, Bloomsbury
Norman, Philip (2013), Mick Jagger. London: HarperCollins. pp. 346–55.
Drake, Alicia (2006), The Beautiful Fall. Bloomsbury, p.47
Drake, Alicia (2006), The Beautiful Fall. p.48
Drake, Alicia (2006), The Beautiful Fall. pp.50-51
McLaws Helms, Laura & Porter, Venitia (2015), Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic, V&A Publishing, p.10
McLaws Helms, Laura & Porter, Venitia (2015), Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic, p.28
McLaws Helms, Laura & Porter, Venitia (2015), Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic, p.64
Cohn, Nick ((1971), Today There Are No Gentlemen. Blackman, Cally (2005), Clothing the Cosmic Counterculture: Fashion and Psychedelia, in Summer Of Love: Psychedelic Art, Social Crisis and Counterculture in the 1960s, Tate Liverpool and Liverpool University Press, p.221
1. The Kinks - Apeman Thanks to Peter Hass via Sharon Kane for pointing out the Afghans worn by the band here. Dave Davies wears one of those huge sheepskin waistcoats.