Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark

There are certain designers so infamous that they have their own cult following, on top of the fame that the brand demands. Ossie Clark is one of them; I have a girlfriend and we spend a good chunk of our weeks DMing Ossie Clark pictures to each other on Instagram. His designs are that iconic, swoon worthy, and shareable.

What should you know about Ossie Clark? That he designed for the rich and famous? That he’s considered responsible for “bohemian” dresses? The Swinging Sixties? That he’s the English answer to YSL? Yes, all of that, and more.
Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark

Ossie was born Raymond Clark in England, 1942. He began making clothes for dolls and the neighborhood girls before he was 10. Through the encouragement of the art teacher at this school, Ossie found fashion; and poured over the Vogue and Bazaar his teacher gave him. Ossie also studied architecture, and the fundamentals of proportion, height, and volume would become paramount to his career as a fashion designer. After his basic schooling, Ossie studied at the Regional College of Art in Manchester. (Note, Ossie’s commute to school was so long his mother gave him pills to stay awake, beginning Ossie’s life long struggle with drug use). During his college days at Manchester, he met and fell in love with Celia Birtwell, and became great friends with David Hockney. Both relationships would be profoundly important in Ossie’s life.

After completing school in Manchester, Ossie attended the Royal College of Art in London. Here, Ossie used the influences of pop art and Hollywood Glamour to design a line (first carried by Woodlands 21). Ossie’s career was then on the fast track, he got his first feature in Vogue in August of 65; and was asked by Alice Pollock to be the co-designer at Quorum. Ossie partnered with his muse, and future wife, Celia Birtwell, who did the prints/fabrics while Ossie did the designing/cutting/patterns. Ossie Clark became synonymous with free following, prints, muted colors, crepe fabrics, snakeskin jackets; as well as the celebrities he dressed: Bianca Jagger (her wedding dress), the Beatles, Marianne Faithful, Liza Minnelli, among others.

When you think of Sixities Fashion you may think mod-the miniskirts, the shifts, the go-go boots. Ossie changed that. He designed to flatter a woman’s body. As the Telegraph put it:
“The square cut, mini shift dresses that projected an adolescent, coltish figure, all knees and elbows, gave way to a sinuous shape lines that celebrated women’s curves. The typical Clark gown boasted the sensuousness of the female form: the arched small of the back, the rounded haunch, an impossibly long neck, a rangy thigh, all slip sliding against satin or matte jersey.”

What I think of when I think of an Ossie Clark piece are the details: buttons, sleeves that puff or flare, the illusion of floating but the impeccable tailoring, the feel that the piece could be from the 40s, 70s, or today. Ossie Clark designs are a true collectors item, and make the woman wearing it look exquisite.

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark
Investemnt Piece: Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark

Ossie Clark was a “true” artist and creative: obsessed with art and music, not great at business ends, and he was given to bouts of depression (made worse by his drug use). His clothes and line were groundbreaking in many ways: they changed the shape of fashion, his was the first line to feature black models in their runway shows (in the UK), and his love life was the source of great joy and sorrow. Ossie married Celia Birtwell (they would have 2 kids, which by all accounts were the loves of his life), and when they divorced it ruined Ossie in many ways. His line went in and out of bankruptcy; the 70s gave way to Punk Rock and Vivenne Westwood, making Ossie obsolete. He had love affairs with both men and women, and finally seemed to be pulling himself together cutting patterns for Ghost Label, when he was stabbed to death by an ex-lover in 1996.

While his life read like the Hollywoof movies he so loved, what we should take away from Ossie Clark is the love and joy that he put into his collections. You can find Ossie Clark on Etsy, 1stDibs and many high end vintage dealers. The price may be high, but if you get an Ossie, you’re getting a true work of art!

XO RA

Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo

By now the Met Gala, theme of Rei Kawakubo, has come and gone–you probably have an opinion about the red carpet, and may agree with me that Rhianna won it (just because she stuck to the theme). What you may not have is a wide understanding of Rei Kawakubo, her designs, and her label Comme des Garçons. Loves, you should know. Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons are fashion in its highest form, and I don’t mean that you’ll find the perfect LBD; but in the sense that clothing will be playful, fantastical, experiment with shape, form, and gender roles, push boundaries, and be a calling to something higher.

Comme des Garçons and Kawakubo are known for original designs, big shapes, non-genderconforming designs, and mixing tailored pieces with corsets. The first few collections were done in only black, white and gray; and the runway shows to this day are more performance art than collection presentation. Comme des Garçons were the first to present designs that seem conventional now: unfinished hems, asymmetry, black, overblown and deconstructed silhouettes; what we wear today holds a debt of gratitude to these collections that read more like poetry than a standard runway. Kawakubo is known for playing with these themes:
-absence/presence
-design/not design
-fashion/anti-fashion
-model/multiple
-high/low
-then/now
-self/other
-object/subject
-clothes/not clothes
These these run through every collection and are on view in the 150 outfits on view at the Met.
Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo

Rei Kawakubo was born in Tokyo in 1942, the oldest of 3 and the only girl.After college she took a job in advertising/textiles, but also worked as a freelance stylist. With no design background, Kawakubo started her line in 1973, opening her first boutique in Toyko in 75. Comme des Garçons grew, adding a men’s line in 78, presenting in Paris in 81, and opening a Paris boutique in 82. Kawakubo now splits time between Paris and Toyko. Known for powerful and directional design that’s been called “radical abandonment of conventions” and “stunningly audacious”. Kawakubo not only dares to rework the relationship of clothes to the body, she involves herself in all business aspects from graphic design to advertising to shop interiors. However, Rei Kawakubo is till thought of as a recluse, an extreme introvert who keeps to herself; even though she is a fashion icon, she doesn’t think of herself that way.
Investment Piece: Designer Spoltight: Rei Kawakubo

Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons have inspired all aspects of fashion, as well as sub labels such as Junya Watanbe, Tao Kurihara, and Comme des Garçons Tricot. There are also several collaborations Comme des Garçons participated in including ones with :Fred Perry, Converse, Speedo, Nike, Moncler, Lacoste, Cutler and Gross, Chrome Hearts, Louis Vuitton, H&M, and Supreme (all of which might be found on a luxury resale site or eBay). Much of what we wear or think is cool is owed to Kawakubo.

Shocked that someone who is a self admitted shy girl can design clothes that make such loud statements? I’m not. Isn’t that part of the fun of fashion? It speaks for us, when we can’t? In fact my favorite quote about Kawakubo comes from Paul Gaultier, who said:
“I believe that Kawakubo is a woman with extreme courage. She is a person with exceptional strength. Moreover, she has a poetic spirit. When I see her creations, I feel the spirit of a young girl. A young girl who still has innocence and is a bit romantic. Yet she also has an aspect of a fighting woman, one who fears nothing as she thrusts forward.”
If your clothes can say all that, what else is left to say?

I’d love to know: what are your thoughts on Rei Kawakubo and the Met Gala?

XO

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Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo