Showing posts with label icons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label icons. Show all posts

Sunday, 17 April 2011

An Expensive Existence Failure

   Through StyleForvm this morning, I have learnt that we now have yet another Fabulous Dead Person to memorialise. Petkanas, I'm counting on you

Bijan Pakzad, 4 April 1944 – 16 April 2011

With my ego, I would have been successful anyplace, but America gave me the opportunity to show my taste
   Despite my raft of accidental globe trotting, I've never gotten around to visiting Beverly Hills, but between clever marketing, the world press and two seasoned Earth travellers whom I call "Mum and Dad," I had a wisp of an awareness about this alluring brand Bijan and how it filled the closets of the great, the good and primarily, the wealthy. Naturally, it was his range of scents - always one of the easier ways to integrate a designer's name into one's possessions - and that striking, almost graffiti-like logo that made a lasting visual impression on me; an indelible link to the glitterati of the planet might also have had something to do with that

   'The Persian Master of Fashion' - and a proud one at that, steadfast to his Iranian roots to the last, which is even borne out by the music on his website - was known for his 'appointment only' visitor's hours; highly appropriate, given that he had custody of "the most expensive store in the world," grown through his charm, good fortune, entrepreneurial nous (apparently genetic; his family was staunchly self-made) and dogged industriousness. He dressed a list of men so illustrious that they have been typed out and published in better obituaries than this one, as well as in his Wikipedia entry (his son Nicolas stated that he dressed over 40,000 clients, including all five living American Presidents). He was exceedingly fond of the colour yellow - good for him, me and you. And he loved his automobilia, did this one - every single write-up will probably mention how he enjoyed parking the jewels of his four wheeled fleet outside his store before attending to the whims and wants of those who came a'calling

   His signature flair for design splendour was hardly confined to clothes and fine living, and in the late 1980s, he sought a more luxurious way to fire bullets, achieving it with a Colt revolver made from gold. But then when of his most perceptible traits was how greatly he loved his work; you can see it in every twinkly eyed portrait taken to show that this brand had a face and it was that of a kindly, charismatic, expensive Iranian who would transform one from schlub to film star for the price of the average home and make it feel worthwhile. But back to the handgun:

The gun had a leather handgrip fashioned for a .38-cal. Colt revolver; inlaid in the cylinder was 56 grams of 24-karat gold. The revolver was placed in a mink pouch in a Baccarat crystal case embossed with the customer's name. Bijan's own signature is engraved in gold on the barrel of the gun. Only 200 such guns were made. In 2005, one of these guns sold to Jacob Nahamia at Christie's auction house for over $50,000 USD.

   The Bijan brand will endure, of course - it is a family enterprise - but naturally, the stewardship will be different and perhaps a little less aureate. So to conclude, I think it's only polite that I highlight an ethos worth sharing in:

The world said to conform, the world said to settle for less, the world said to compromise and no one would know... so I made my own world

   Godspeed, Mr. Bijan

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Plum Ken

Image by SAO! via I Lost I Found
   Prior to recent time spent with The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan (edited by John Lahr), I knew precisely four things about this inspiration: that he was a slightly louche but defiantly stylish dandy; that he was an outspoken critic of some legendary standing; that he'd a fine line in sadomasochism - hardly unusual in an Oxford man, I know - and that he was the first person to "F-Bomb" the BBC, albeit by way of a stammer. It probably - in an aural manner of speaking - resembled this modern internet icon of desolate, frustrated displeasure:

   Oh, and the title Oh! Calcutta! seemed to resonate a great deal, for some reason. School plays, maybe

   I cannot easily resist the outspoken, so it's an utter pleasure to read of the lacerating effect Tynan's words could inflict on all and sundry. I suspect that those who called for him to be hanged after his 1965 expletive spree on the BBC were probably comprised of fellow masochists seeking a thrill they could experience in public (so naturally, these complainants included Members of Parliament) and their better known counterparts, Daily Mail readers. And with unknowing and perfect irony, Mary Whitehouse informed the Queen in a letter that she felt Tynan deserved nothing less than a punitive spanking; he must have rung her number for days

   Outspokenness and daring were two of his most immediate characteristics - these facets certainly spurred a number of things in his life, from his positioning as a high priest of filmic and theatrical criticism to his battles against censorship, his taste in plum coloured suiting, a yen for spanking and caning his sexual partners, and his staging of a nude revue. Ironically, despite his long pursuit and achievement of public note, he felt that he had created a less diverse body of work than one with his passion for the worlds created on the stage and in the studio ought to; his notoriety was achieved by his opting to be more of an onlooker than a participant. I  realise that he is not as well remembered as he could be - for a myriad of factors, I'm sure - but I nevertheless think he denigrated himself a little too finely on this point - the critical world of his day gained much from his way of thinking, his almost overly keen awareness of cultural movements and his archly beautiful prose, all of which saturated his writing

   Because this is Mode Parade, I will point out that these behaviours seemed to inform his dressing. One would be maybe a little surprised to learn that not all men named Peacock live up to the sobriquet, but even if they did, I doubt many could strut with Tynan's determined pleasure in his own individuality. The Tynan of the 1940s and '50s shows something of the studied languor of the Bright Young Things he shared an alma mater with and his tastes were rooted in simple, clean tailoring, give or take an extravagant waistcoat or a gold coloured shirt. But come the Peacock Revolution and the 1970s, his wardrobe juxtaposed a classicist's awareness of his age - the sober cardigans in which he relaxed and the stately fur coat I'd like for myself - with his natural flamboyance, boasting a resplendent collection of op art-like print shirts that he was able to blend with wide neckties and suits of off white and dove grey cloth in a way only gifted individuals and master stylists are wired to do. There's a reason that such looks - when done well - are described as fun; it's a game of achieving harmony and balance, and should be approached as such. And I've always believed that such success takes a particular physical and mental refinement, which is possibly why Corin Redgrave's Tynan look has the edge on that of Rob Brydon when they played the critic in separate productions over the past decade

   I think my favourite impulse of his is the daring, but mainly for puerile reasons, I admit. Such a ribald, filthy-minded adventurer, really; not just the smacking of girls' bottoms, but the very public reading of the Spanking Times on train journeys and the bloody comedy of errors that was his experience of consuming vodka rectally, having read a recommendation of it in Alan Watts's autobiography. I suspect that Tynan's biggest mistake was going out for an Indian right before having the enema tube inserted

   For all of that he was a dysfunctional scamp, he was also a magnetic personality with a laudable mastery of the language and what I admire about him the most is rather simple - he was the consummate individual and nothing if not self-aware. And so, I end this in my customary manner: a round of photographs and a final word from the subject himself. That's one to grow on

All of the preceding: Tynan and his second wife Kathleen during the 1970s, seen in the last with Roman Polanski

Rob Brydon and Catherine McCormack as Kenneth and Kathleen Tynan in the BBC production, Kenneth Tynan: In Praise of Hardcore

Corin Redgrave in the Royal Shakespeare Company's one man show Tynan, adapted for the stage from Lahr's book of the diaries by Richard Nelson with Colin Chambers, in 2004

Without self-approval, there is no self-confidence, without self-confidence one has no secure identity; and without a secure identity one has no style

Saturday, 16 October 2010

My Daria Morgendorffer

   Beavis and Butt-head was good for some things, but few scaled the heights of this misanthropy icon, who deservedly spun-off into her own series during her time with Mike Judge's name-making creations. God bless Glenn Eichler

   Insanely easy for the disaffected to identify with, as an archetype, Daria is more than due for a revival: so says the Paris Review. And, of course, so do I

Friday, 17 September 2010

Roll It

Not bad for a man named Lewis

   Posthumously speaking, Brian Jones is my favourite Stone; the butterfly to Charlie Watts' beetle (and this also takes into account Keef's splendid purple suit); never a grown-up, always a child. Where Watts today is precise, sharp and structured in his appearance to the point that he may as well be armoured, Jones' flamboyance at its peak suggested that a mere brush with his chimerical finery would result in a psychotropic trip

   And those caught up in his personal whirlwind must have suspected the come downs would be as debilitating as they were scandalous

   Brian is perhaps the quintessential Rock Polymath of Doom, since, as it is sometimes seen, with great ability comes great disaster. He was charismatic, popular, sexually overactive and indulged in a great many interests; one could see the self-destructive predisposition a mile off. He was a rebel within a band of rebels and a quintessential outside-insider, a feeling to which I can sometimes relate

   He was also a Peacock sans pareil, with a mid-to-late 1960s wardrobe  practically custom built to outrage the sensibilities of the most conservative echelons of sartorialism and stir the loins of the girls and women who flocked to the itinerant father of five and his bandmates.  With finery to source from the likes of Mr. Fish, Hung On You, I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet, and Granny Takes A Trip, Brian had little difficulty in establishing himself as a leader of the psychedelic plumage set

   Bandmate Bill Wyman later summed him up as thus:
There were two Brians... one was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking... the other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers... he pushed every friendship to the limit and way beyond
   Of course, even without the motivation of court appearances to moderate his excesses, he was perfectly capable of affecting a more reputable presentation when the occasion arose; indeed, the earlier days of The Rolling Stones - interesting enough to serve as a reference for Stefano Pilati's Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche collection in Fall 2008 - feature a more relatively sober Brian, with he and his bandmates more attuned to the calmer attire of the earlier 1960s. I like to think that he was good at that, also:

   But don't think that I cannot appreciate the contrast; the immediacy of Brian's psyched out latter period may attract more attention, but these different modes instantly resonate with me, used as I am to modifying my appearance when social engagements call for it. That, by the by, is a choice I make - it's rather an interesting exercise in adaptability where I'm concerned

   Nevertheless, the Dandy In The Sky look that Brian made his own has such a compelling F-U grace to it that it rarely fails to inspire.After all, peacocks rarely exist to be 100% replicated; it is their ideas that are to be admired or reviled, absorbed or discarded. For all the white men who can be found fretting about their suitability for a wider palette of clothing colours, there's Brian's blithe mixing and matching; a riotous visual patchwork of glee for dressing up that doesn't occur to most fellows even once in a lifetime. Where concerns persist over the use of odd striped trousers, Brian went to tour sporting a dark jacket and corresponding tie (3rd photograph from the top), confidently displaying the desaturated version of his own adventurous glamour. When I need an interesting guide or 5 to donning neckscarves and other silken accoutrements, I have over a dozen pictures of Brian to show me how it's done

   Certainly, he looked like the sort of fellow one might proffer to a hippy at a Dead concert to lick, but I enjoy that. I draw the line at his blazer suit and the fondness for python skin boots he shared with Keith Richards (though I suppose that he had to share a few tastes at least with The Glimmer Twins), but with such a bombast, there's usually a line that must be drawn somewhere

   Let us put it this way - he is not the Lapo Elkann of the 1960s - for a start, Lapo's binges seem to have had a more all-encompassing deleterious effect on his own creativity than Brian's did his. At least Brian had the good grace to keep it consistent

   Mick Jagger, appropriately, wore one of Mr. Fish's shirt dresses when performing at The Rolling Stones' free concert in Hyde Park, two days after Brian joined The 27 Club upon his death on 3rd July 1969. Having dedicated the performances to the founder who eventually became isolated from his peers, the band's frontman took a moment to play orator in memory of his one-time friend:

   Brian, as it is famously known, was ultimately discovered dead at the bottom of his own swimming pool at his Cotchford Farm home in West Sussex. It bears noting that in later years, the tiles from the pool were individually sold for around $210 per 6-inch tiles, courtesy of his own Fan Club

   Such as it was, Brian earned a place in checkered history. And popular culture and rock 'n' roll were certainly the more interesting for having had him there to develop their milieus in a most uncommon manner

   Roll with it

Further reading:

And a pictorial to close out proceedings:

Saturday, 14 August 2010


The Out Group - 18th July 1967

Back Row: Tom Maschler, David Benedictus, Nicholas Tomalin

Centre: Cathy McGowan, Jonathan Aitken, Tom Hustler

Front Row: Christopher Gibbs and Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon

   Revisiting the theme of Luminaries United, this counterpart portrait to The In Group was also commissioned by Jocelyn Stevens, then the publisher of Queen Magazine, to take place on 18th July 1967

   Don't be fooled by the veneer of respectability this photograph uses to juxtapose itself with its sibling: former Conservative MP Mr. Aitken, for one, is not known for his aversion to a little indelicacy. One should also take note of Chelsea Set leader, designer and dandy, Christopher Gibbs - we have him to thank for giving velvet ties their moment under the club lights

   It's been said that Lord Lichfield's gift lay in eliciting an air of relaxation from his subjects (and let it also be said that his gift was certainly not in lending his name to transient menswear brands). Nowhere, I feel, is this more aparent than in his group portraiture and his more candid work at country piles, Hollywood homes and ambassadorial residences

   But as I said, he had a way with the human reaction. One only has to observe the subjects in this Studio-set shot to notice that

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


   Also fabulous, dead and born on this day (68 years ago, to be precise) was Raymond 'Ossie' Clark, a King of the Swingers and of the King's Road in the 1960s and 1970s. And whilst he was off swinging every which way he could, he also took time to clothe the beau monde and become one of the Great Remembered of the late 20th century

   Reputedly able to cut a perfectly fitting dress for a woman by running his hands over her body, Clark was charismatic, multitalented and driven, although like a number of creators in this life, his talent did not come without its drawbacks

   One of them even evolved out of his desire for self-betterment: in a Larkin-like twist, the stimulants given to him by his mother when he needed the presence of mind for early commutes to design school eventually lead to his drug habit

   Naturally, Clark's work for the retail operation Quorum and Ossie Clark for  Radley - the house that purchased Quorum, bailing it out as it did so - has been venerated by nostalgists, collectors, editors, stylists and students. With the highly enticing printwork and intelligently devised textiles by his then-wife, Celia Birtwell, and his nous for cutting, patterns and design, melded with a taste for chiffon, gauze, moss crepe fabric and snakeskin, it couldn't help but be loveable

   Patrons included Twiggy, Ali MacGraw, Faye Dunaway, Elizabeth Taylor, Sharon Tate, Liza Minnelli and Marianne Faithful. The Beatles were also recipients of his imagination, and he launched a menswear line in 1968. Mick Jagger, legendary for his parading and preening, also became a client

   Idle talk has it that Clark did more than a little parading of his own with David Hockney, whom he had known since college. It is certainly accepted that Hockney's 1970 portrait of his hardcore bisexual friend and Birtwell, 'Mr and Mrs Clark with Percy,' is one of Britain's most visited artworks

   Following a career and personal decline, a tentative renaissance ended with Clark's 57 stab wounds and a broken skull from a teracotta pot in his Holland Park flat; the fatality was carried out by his drugged out former lover, Diego Cogolato, who received a manslaughter conviction and six years' incarceration

   Fashion designer André Courrèges may have bemoaned that as a result of Clark's popularity, “Haute couture is as good as dead. The streets of Paris are beginning to look like Portobello Road,” but few designers of that time could turn their moment into nearly a decade of pure form and remain memorable and referenced for further decades to come

   Some still struggle with it today

Menopausal Mauve and Bowlers; Oh My

   Mr Peacock has reminded me that today would have been the 99th birthday of Neil Munroe Roger, more familiarly known as “Bunny”

   Now, Bunny is not memorialised for nothing – in life and death, his sartorial renown and his predilections spread deep and wide. Fine and exacting tailoring performed by long-defunct Savile Row house Watson, Fargerstrom & Hughes; the sexual companionship of other men; heavy powdering; carnations; couture design; punctiliousness; the organisation of greatly hedonic parties; bon mots; bon vivantism; fine art and antiques; Rolls Royces; colour complementing, and so forth

   This champagne socialite is remembered as one of the most interesting characters from the 1940s right through to his existence failure in 1997. In the internet age, he is lionised or minimised, depending on which side of the divide created by the awareness of a refined homosexual with a fondness for lurid Lurex ensembles and drag that one falls

Lurex printed Nehru and casual purple wool sportcoat from the 1970s with Turnbull & Asser shirts and sporrans, from the catalogue of Sotheby's 1998 auction of Bunny Roger's estate

   As a relatively nascent fan of extravagant libertines, Roger’s dedication to his aureate lifestyle is, to me, practically peerless. His cordwainers, Poulsen, Skone & Co., created four pairs of dress shoes and boots for his 150-strong collection of tailored suits. Each. I can imagine that he had at least three outings with every individual pair. Most enviable is that he actually had the space to accommodate 600 shoes, to say nothing of seasonal and occasional footwear such as espadrilles, slippers and evening footwear

   (I’ll bet he was a pump man)

   Also of interest is the Neo-Edwardian milieu that he exemplified (and that I've dabbled in). To most people, the term, although self-explanatory, probably doesn’t mean much until one mentions the much parodied City of London look and the performances of John Cleese and Patrick MacNee in Monty Python’s 'Ministry of Silly Walks' sketch and The Avengers, respectively. As I understand it, the label, “Edwardian,” itself puts some tailoring enthusiasts in mind of this look

The middle image, 'Savile Row/The New Mayfair Edwardians' (Peter Coats; William Ackroyd; Mark Gilbey), was shot by Norman Parkinson in 1950; Parkinson was also the lensman behind a portrait of Roger stood near his ornately printed car in 1954

   As noted in the opening photograph of Roger, Neo-Edwadianism in dress, as well as deportment, was a nostalgic exhumation and customisation of an old style. It was the ideal postwar reaction; emerging from half a decade of atrocity, loss and devastation and seeking reinvigoration in the aftermath, Row tailors advocated this fashion to entice customers back to suiting

   Of course, with the likes of Bunny Roger as a paragon, the movement eventually came to be somewhat associated with the surreptitious and the naughty

   Having viewed a number of Neo-Edwardian looks of late, I’ve noted a pleasing variation of styling, although the defining elements are clear. A bowler hatted silhouette encompassed a fitted look, with its long and lean jacket – slightly flared at the skirt – and slim, straight trousers. Pearl pins were often affixed to the ties. An umbrella, as it came to succeed canes, became obligatory. Turn ups were seemingly rare – Bunny, for one, rigorously disapproved of them. As the aesthetic's most well known paradigm, his waist (29 – 31”) and broad upper build (40”, same as I) gave him the sharpest profile of all

   The disparities were where things became more interesting. As the 1950s became the 1960s, the relative sobriety of the look grew suffused with wild abandon in the encroaching age of modernity and Modernism. Interwar austerity was over

   By the 1960s, it had integrated eight buttoned double breasteds, four buttoned single breasteds, turnback cuffed dress suits, brass buttons and a myriad of showy fabrics. The dependably ostentatious Bunny commissioned his most outré suiting designs during that time; his peccadilloes of dress had already won him the respect and following of the Teddy Boys, who were the less elite and refined, and more ragtag and youthful exponents of this Edwardian reminiscence

   They tend to be better remembered, perhaps due to being young and shifty

On the right, Hamish Bowles, photographed at his New York abode for Fantastic Man, wears one of Roger's WF&H checked suits, one of a number he acquired at the posthumous Sotheby's auction of Roger and his brother Sandy's effects. Apparently, the somewhat elfin Bowles has to breathe in to accommodate the seamwork designed for Roger's waisted physique 

   Hardy Amies had also picked up on Roger’s trendsetting. Whilst he summarised the general Neo-Edwardian/London aesthetic of the 1950s as “the average young man of position [trying] to give an air of substance without being stodgy: of having time for the niceties of life” and “uncomfortable in anything other than a hard collar and a bowler hat,” he believed Bunny’s particular cut and quirks would usher in the defining styles of the 1960s. No surprise that Roger was one of his investors, but then Amies knew tasteful change - the mark of a talented dresser - when he saw it:

 Hardy Amies Four Buttoned Suit, circa the 1960s

   Then the Edwardian look grew into something else entirely:
While its name reflected its homage to turn-of-the-century men’s fashions, the trend was equally influenced by the nineteenth century dandy and his flare for the dramatic.  The result was a highly theatrical style of dress in which no self-respecting Edwardian (emphasis: mine) gentlemen would have been caught dead, least of all after six o’clock 

   The aesthetic evolved well into the early 1970s, intersecting with the neo-Regency remixes of the Peacock Revolution, before the energetic, neo-1930s exaggerations of the 1970s claimed a sturdier hold on the tailoring world (one school of thought suggests that the 1960s did not truly end until 1972)

   Bunny, however, continued on his idiosyncratic way. The most famed imagery from his late period comes from his birthday shindig in 1981:

 At the Amethyst Ball in London's Holland Park, held to celebrate his 70th birthday, 9th June 1981 (photograph by Terence Donovan Archive/Getty Images). Naturally, anyone not in a lilac hued outfit was unceremoniously rejected

   Despite his visibility in all matters sartorial, he remained more quasi-iconic in stature. Luckily, we live in an age that can deliver information on him at the click of a keystroke

   After all's said and done, I can't help but find common ground with a man who loved offbeat formality and the colour purple

   And above all, Bunny Roger was a true gentleman

Cigars to StyleForvm, Sator and Carpu at The Cutter and Tailor, and The Neo-Edwardian Hipster