Books I'm writingArticles Back to the homepageColumnsInterviewsBiographyContact me.
Boy George Party
Richard E Grant

'Performing Clothes' is a fashion show with a difference (or three).

Fiona Russell Powell scooped the poop.

Time Out - 1984

'I'm going to have all my models supplied with drink and drugs before the shows. My models are rent-boys dragged up from the gutters of Piccadilly and a couple of them are smack addicts, so they'd rather score than get paid for modelling.' (Leigh Bowery re the ICA fashion show.)
'The elitist aspect of people like Leigh worries me, I don't see anything wrong in seeing a good-looking woman modelling clothes so long as they fit in the right places.' (Scott Crolla)

Two weeks of fashion combined with dance begins at the ICA on October 10 -an event called 'Performing Clothes'. The ICA press hand-out declares it to be 'A unique fashion event, bringing choreography, clothes and music into a new marriage ... an entertaining celebration of the current energy in young British fashion design.'
The idea of using dancers instead of the usual made-to-measure 5ft 10, 33/24/34, catwalk models, to show the clothes was first put into practice last year in 'Talking Clothes' which heralded the beginning of a different and refreshing approach to a fashion show and proved to be a great success. A young designer, Michele Clapton, was asked to select fellow designers for the show, and she chose Sue Clowes, Richard Ostell, Willy Brown and Dexter WongClapton (her husband!) amongst others. Although some of these designers were pretty much established already, the exciting presentation certainly impressed the media.
One enthusiast called it 'the most important fashion show since the '60s' and the show, which ran for seven days, was completely sold out.

This year, Michele is included again in 'Performing Clothes', which also contains the works of Rachel Auburn, Leigh Bowery, Scott Crolla and Georgina Godley, Judy Blame, Elmaz Huseyin, Bic Owen and Helen Littman. (John Richmond has also been billed, but unfortunately, he had to pull out at the last minute because his fabric failed to arrive from Japan in time to be made into outfits for the show.)
The designers were chosen by Michael Morris who has organised and directed the show. Up to 50 young designers were considered before 10 were chosen on the strength of their originality and general diversity. The only person who declined to participate in the show is Princess Di/Steve Strange hat-maker, the four-fingered Stephen Jones, who was overheard saying 'I'm between walking and running with my business at the moment. When you've got clients like Gaultier, Mugler and the Ascot ladies, I'm not sure the ICA has the right associations.' In fact, the ICA's own view of 'right associations' cost 'Performing Clothes' some commercial backing. Originally it was proposed that Smirnoff would sponsor the show, but then the vodka people insisted that Jeff Banks of Wharehouse should take part. The ICA reckoned he wasn't hip enough and boldly kissed the cash goodbye.
Piers Gough, an architect, was commissioned to design the set, and a team of 12 dancers have been choreographed by 'Company of Wolves' star, Micha Bergese. For an architect who is designing his fist stage set, Gough certainly has a sense of humour and seems to enjoy a free rein with visual punning. For instance, the swing doors have been made like giant lapels and an archway through which all the models have to make their entrance is in the form of a giant pair of baggy trousers. He suggested that the arrival on stage of each designer should be spectacularly arresting; one idea for designer Leigh Bowery's grand entrance, is to tie him to a clothes rail

Judy Blame: ‘ I’ve just been making some rubber jewellery for Duran Duran for some mini-epic video they’re doing for the album. It was good because it meant that I could spend hundreds of pounds in Pentonville Rubber. I’m doing a pink rubber piece which Dave Baby is going to model – I think it goes well with his tattoos. All my jewellery moves. –for the ICA collection I’ll be using materials like breeze block, grey foam-rubber , a car doormat and coral and suede (Her customers include Steve Strange, Helen Terry, Barbra Streisand)

and bring him in `like a pig on a spit'. The piece de resistance for Piers, the last straw for Leigh!
Another interesting feature of `Performing Clothes' is that throughout the fortnight several talks will be given by notable fashion experts and style commentators. Amongst the speakers will be Peter York, Brenda Polan (fashion editor of The Guardian), Lynne Franks (PR consultant), Paul Smith (clothes designer) and Paul Morley (marketing executive). The designers themselves also get the right to reply and the audience are invited to ply both speakers and designers with questions.
Top of the ICA list, Rachel Auburn, has been featured regularly in Vogue, sells to Bloomingdales in New York and is currently working round the clock to supply a massive order from Japan. Her customers include Brooke Shields, Farrah Fawcett and Cher and she cites 'prostitutes, pimps, princesses and my mother' as some of her major influences. Rachel trained at Brighton and Harrow Schools of Art and served an apprenticeship with Jean Muir.
On her desk is an invitation to Number 10 - apparently, every year the Government like to show their support for the fashion industry (which is the fourth largest in Britain) and Rachel has been chosen to witness this token gesture/lunch attended by Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit. Would she give the same reply to the Premier if asked about her inspirations? 'Prostitutes? Well, my mother was on the game you know. That's why I'd never be one - that's the one thing that me and that half-caste Bruce Oldfield have in common, we were both raised in Dr Bamardos homes.' Her part in the ICA show is going to be called 'Modern Neuros' -'as in New Romantics, not neurotics! It's going to be a bit punky, like where Prince has those studs on the shoulder of his jacket mixed with lace and velvet ... oh, have you heard the latest about Bodymap? An American company is going to sell Bodymap throughout the States. They've already estimated the figures at £15 million for 1985, and they're going to have two lines, one is called B-Basic and the other is Bodymap, they'll be in all the chainstores ... still, they've certainly changed the face of British fashion.'

Bertram, the Circus DJ has just popped in and points to Rachel's Japanese Isitan T-shirt, a one-off screen-print photo of herself stretched across her large breasts. 'Yeah, look at it, it's so disgusting, they've got no idea; still, at least I got £15,000 for a day and a night's work...
'I first met Michele Clapton at Cha-Cha's about three years ago, which says it all. You might as well know that there's no-one else in the whole show that I like or that likes me either, apart from Michele, Leigh, and Elmaz maybe. Bic doesn't like me because the first time I went to New York with Leigh, Bic was the star, she was like Bodymap, she was doing the whole number. I mean nobody knew me. Anyway, everything went wrong for her bit in the show and her clothes came on when John Richmond's name was still up and they got her music mixed up. When it was my turn, they rewound the tape and it went perfectly. Well, she's never spoken to me since.
'I sell my clothes to this shop in LA called Comme les Garcons. I got this message that Farrah can't wait for my new collection! Blancmange wear my clothes but I think that film stars are much better than pop stars, don't you? I supply the Hollywood set!' The phone rings, it's Fatima from New York. 'Oh, I love transatlantic conversations ...d'you know Blancmange, a group, yes? Well, one of the boys tried to score some hash and he got licorice sticks. You have to be careful these days...'
What does Rachel expect from her part in the 'Performing Clothes' fortnight? 'Well, it's at the same time as Olympia and I want lots of people to see my clothes and it's a cheap way of having a show. I'm not doing it for any arty-farty reasons, like Leigh, but the clothes aren't tasteless either. Look I'm not1985, I'm 1995!'

Scott Crolla “ Most talk about London is directed at the street. Paris has been copying us for the last three years. Gaultier has copied off us. People are like lemmings, they have no imagination, they wait until someone like Gaultier gives them approval. I’m not a great believer in fashion that is designed just to shock. I like confrontational clothes but I prefer to beat the system from within.”

Leigh Bowery “Ill be showing my “Mincing Queens Stroke Prince Charming” collection. I think the IUCA’s a good place for people to see things because it’s like a forum… I don’t like Rachel Auburn’s things because she copies off me, but what motivates her is that there’s going to be cash at the end of it: Rachel would die if she didn’t sell her stuff…Crolla are supposed to be the sensation of 1984. I’m not surprised because they’re so boring…is Bic Owen still around? I thought she’d had a car crash, maybe she ought to and then she could have plastic surgery and come back as another person…I feel that John Richmond’s clothes are too polite, too frightend to offend although they’re quite well made…Helen Littman is dreadful, you couldn’t believe how awful she is. She thinks she knows what’s going on, but her fluorescent stuff was so naff. Still there’s a lot of naff girls out there with money.”