Paul Gorman’s fascination with the link between fashion and music and what they lend to each other has spawned the indispensable 2006 book The Look: Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion which tracks the relationship between musicians and designers from the 50s to present day. The book in turn has become a whole other entity with a blog, club nights and more recently, its own label, The Look Presents. Using the book as a relationship tool, Gorman tracks down names behind bygone labels that need some dusting off and reintroduction to a new generation and finds a way of reviving the label. Nigel Waymouth of 60s’ cult label Granny Takes a Trip did a line of psychedelic graphic t-shirts and now Anthony Price has launched Priceless, a capsule collection of menswear tailoring, both using Topman as a selling vehicle.
Dazed Digital: How did the collaboration with Topman happen and how did ‘The Look Presents’ come about?
Paul Gorman: I got to know a lot of the people whilst writing The Look and we became very friendly. It struck me that a lot of people’s work was getting ‘referenced’ and they weren’t getting any credit for it. I had always wanted to address the menswear market, especially when I grew up in the 70s’ and 80s’ when there were loads of independent boutiques that had amazing menswear. This seemed to be the best way of meeting the two desires.
I called up Gordon Richardson from Topman and he was like ‘Yeah great. Come back to me when you have the specifics.’ In the case of Granny Takes a Trip; they never did t-shirts but they just came up with 44 designs on jersey which were amazing and that’s how that happened. Then we talked to Antony and I got to know him quite well when interviewing him for the book. He is a prime example of a great designer, tailor and technician and a visionary. Yet he just wasn’t getting any credit. His sensual approach to menswear has a place in 2008.
DD: Tell me more about the Priceless range and what you wanted to achieve?
PG: Antony is a product of the art school system in the 60s – multi disciplined and broad-based. He chose to express his vision through tailoring and with an almost couture-like approach. He brings an extremely classy, sexy and sensual edge - a bit like Westwood. His clothes make you feel better when wearing them out and the average Joe wearing an Antony Price suit would feel like a peacock.
We pushed it and got to expose the crotch more. Gordon gave the go-ahed and was like ‘Yeah Fine’ and so the results are tight, skinny and quite sensual. We are going to do a second season of Antony Price. Think Duran Duran look; pistachio and pink coloured shirts – a Rio collection.
DD: Who else would you like to work with?
PG: I’d like to talk to womenswear people like Anita Pallenberg. I’m fascinated by her as a person and she’s so lovely – supremely intelligent, supremely creative. We should do something; it would be like a dream.
DD: What contemporary music/fashion collaborations do you admire?
PG: I really like Kate Moross and what she did for Topshop. She’s part of the scene and reflecting it and with Hearts Revolution, it works as a whole – the music has to be great, the clothes have to be great and when that combustion happens, it’s fantastic. Peggy Noland’s costumes for Lovefoxx of CSS are also great.
DD: Who has gotten the music/fashion collaboration completely wrong?
PG: There are certain people who get it. There are certain people who don’t. The truth will out when it’s obviously depressingly mundane and banal. For example, the Levi’s MC5 t-shirts – I just thought “Aw blimey.” You can always spot a wrong one.
DD: What makes Bubbles' work so iconic and why did you choose him as a subject for your new book Reasons to be Cheerful: The Life and Works of Barney Bubbles?
PG: One reason is that his work is satisfying in its entirety. It is also laced with repeated images, codes and symbols yet spans pure commercial design (for Conran), pop art, psychedelia, graphic design, new wave, punk, industrial, day-glo aesthetic, conceptual, abstract paintings, the lot.
This is also personal: Barney Bubbles' work appealed to me first hand as a consumer. He really hit the spot for me as I became visually aware as a young teenager - from Hawkwind gigs at the Roundhouse, reading the NME and The Face, buying records by Elvis Costello, The Damned and Ian Dury and watching videos by The Specials and Squeeze to tracking signposts for the history of 20th century art movements through his output, from constructivism (sleeves for Generation X and Nick Lowe) to post-modernism (the furniture he made for legendary rock & roll manager Jake Riviera is a great example).
Like the subjects of The Look, his story had never been told to my satisfaction; Barney Bubbles was in danger of being cast by the graphics establishment as a mildly interesting offshoot in the history of the development of commercial art, when in fact he was a towering example and influence. Next stop: the exhibition!
DD: What further projects are you working on?
PG: I am working on a few book projects: - Boutique is a highly visual book about the wild wild wild American fashion stores from the 1960s to the 1980s; The Art School Dance Goes on Forever studies the impact of the art college system on popular culture from William Morris to Kanye West; Swindle examines how fake is the new authentic; and I've been talking for an age about a book with Betsey Johnson which would show her rightful place as one of the most important and empowering figures in the world of female fashion, from Jackie O and Edie Sedgwick to Madonna and Amy Winehouse.
The Look Presents: Priceless by Antony Price collection is now available at Topman.
Reasons to be Cheerful: The Life and Works of Barney Bubbles will be available exclusively from Paul Smith from 20th November and will be widely released on 4th December.
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