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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Paul Gorman

Paul Gorman originally started out as a music journalist having interviewed such artists as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop and Elvis Costello and having contributed to such publications as Music Week, Mojo and The Guardian. He also was the first to acknowledge music’s exterior being fashion, and the influence it had (and still has) on music itself. This brought him onto investing 10 years of hard labour and sleepless nights into his book: ‘The Look: Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion’ which has been named in the top ten fashion books by The Independent Newspaper. I was given the opportunity to converse with the fabulous Paul Gorman; discussing Lady Gaga, his collaboration with Topman in 2008, designers and boutiques around London.

One of the many concepts of fashion is, essentially, to make a statement. Although we may not have the Boy George, or the Madonna figure really present in the current music scene, there was an artist that made it easier to make comparisons with: Lady Gaga. At the MTV Awards earlier this year, she sported a controversial dress woven out of raw meat. When asking Paul’s opinion of this he simply replied: ‘I think it’s really good that there are people like her. She’s part of a long line of people who push visual expression in various different ways.’ Perhaps this may not agree with views of vegetarians per se, but he’s got a point and shows how music encourages people to manifest their visual identity. He goes on to talk a friend of his who ‘made a film about dépêche mode last year. There were people in Russia pre glasnost, whose connections to the west was via the music of dépêche mode. It gave them an identity, and a connection to something outside of what can be quite a suppressive society.’

Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, Let It Rock, 430 King's Road, Chelsea, 1971. Credit: David Parkinson

Throughout his book lies the acknowledgement that this generation of people from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s were disappearing without their work ever really being recognised. He was lucky to have placed interviews for his book before it was too late with people such as Douglas Millings, the creator behind The Beatle’s suits, and John Stevens who launched some of the first ‘trendy’ boutiques and was commonly known as ‘the king of Carnaby street’.

One of the successes that evolved from his book was the collaboration with Max Karey for Topshop in 2008: ‘I got to know some people very well like Nigel Wayne who formed Granny Takes A Trip and a couple called John and Molly Dove who made clothes worn by Mark Bowlen, Iggy Pop, Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and Anthony Price who made clothes for Brian Ferrey, Duran Duran and David Bowie. I wanted to do something with these guys because it was part of this mission that their stuff is still great, but it was nowhere to be seen. Topman has this thing where a lot of fashion is sold allied to music. To put it in a cold hearted way – big business knows its appeal.’ However, Paul disbelieves the notion of buying new clothes and claims that there’s far too much clothes out there which is unworn – fantastic pieces. He encourages buying from charity and vintage shops with it being ‘a healthy and much more environmentally aware way of approaching things.’

This passion for small boutiques is continued throughout ‘The Look’ with several references to ones such as Demob, Alkasura, Granny Takes a Trip and Bazaar. The present culture we live in has no boundaries in regards to fashion, meaning anything can be worn since there’s ‘no prevailing trend’. Paul talks with regret of fashion designers, sympathising the process of having to design and showcase a new collection every season. Marc McLaren, who was a designer himself and a great friend of Paul’s said ‘well what happens if you don’t have any ideas. What happens if your great idea 3 years ago is still great now? I don’t like that.’ People are beginning to see this, one example being Peter Brooks. Having owned a shop in Soho for the past 15 years selling brands such as Marquille and Eley Kishimoto moved to sell in a junk shop in East London with her boyfriend: ‘he does all reclamation stuff – stuffed birds and design items. Now he remakes clothes out of 40s and 50s shirts and makes them into dress. I believe that’s the way forward.’

Peggy Noland, Berlin pop up shop, 2009.

This only provides one with a small insight into the many things ‘The Look’ has to offer with contributions from Malcolm Mclaren, The Sex Pistols, Boy George, Dougie Millins, Bernard Lanksy, Wayne Hemingway, Johnny Moke and John Stephen. It thoroughly investigates the links between fashion and music over the last half-century and examines the influence of designers on individual artists and trends. One not to be missed, featured several photos and illustrations which are rare and never before published. Essentially ‘The Look allows the invocation of a more innocent time, when ambition, creativity and serendipity combined to make clothes which McLaren has describes as ‘like jumping into the musical end of a painting’’.

Elvis + Bernard Lansky 1954.

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