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

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