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Barry Nick Kamen January 1984 Face Ray Petri Jamie Morgan
Barry and Nick Kamen in the January 1984 issue of The FacePhotography Jamie Morgan, styling Ray Petri

80s style icon and Buffalo boy Barry Kamen dies aged 52

The artist, stylist and cult pin-up has passed away

Barry Kamen, artist and poster boy for Buffalo, a collective who defined the look of 80s youth culture, has passed away aged 52. News of his death broke on social media, with people rushing to pay their respects.

One of eight children, Barry was of mixed Burmese, Irish, Dutch and English heritage (something he described as “a total product of colonialism”) and grew up in Harlow, Essex. In his late teens, he met the Ray Petri (the father of Buffalo) while working at a clothes shop in Covent Garden – where he would come in regularly to borrow clothes for shoots. Barry and his brother Nick became the stylist’s model muses soon afterwards.

The Kamen brothers, along with photographers Jamie Morgan and Marc Lebon, and stylist Mitzi Lorenz, formed the nucleus of the Buffalo collective. Drawing from what they saw on the streets and in the nightclubs, they had a post-punk DIY approach to fashion and were radical in their adoption of sportswear and use of non-white models.

They often took to the streets to find models for their shoots, one of whom was a pre-fame Naomi Campbell. “She was just a kid,” Kamen remembered in a recent Dazed interview. “She was just this nutty girl aged about fourteen, but she was part of the crew.”

Together this crew was responsible for crafting a style which not only defined the era but remains one of the most influential and highly referenced aesthetics in the history of menswear. Barry and Nick played a fundamental role in this; embodying the very essence of Buffalo.

The brothers worked with Vivienne Westwood – at a time when the original punk movement was still active – along with BodyMap, another era-defining label. But one of the brothers’ most iconic modeling moments was appearing in the Winter Sports issue of style bible The Face magazine in January 1984.

Kamen was more than just a cult pin-up; ever since his Buffalo days, he had worked on the other side of the camera as a stylist, represented by Streeters agency, undertaking commissions from magazines including Arena Homme + and Pop. And his creativity didn’t stop there; he was also an artist too, working across different media – from paint to film. All his work carries something of the spirit of Buffalo.

As news of Kamen’s passing travelled, people took to Twitter to express their condolences, including British singer-songwriter Boy George and The Face magazine founder Nick Logan.

Barry’s presence will be missed and his tremendous contributions to the worlds of fashion and art will not be forgotten.