People and places I invest faith in
Glam god Bowie who changed the look of rock
A new documentary biopic was previewed in London in November 2015, titled Starman: Freddie Burretti – The Man Who Sewed The World. Eye-witness friends and colleagues tell how in 1970 David Bowie met the 19-year-old Burretti and immediately found a soulmate and a crucially influential tailor to make his costumes.
Raised in Hackney, Freddie described himself as “just a dress designer” yet he was instrumental in creating the provocative look of Ziggy Stardust. But the film poster reveals this fabulous previously unseen photo of Freddie modelling the lush crimson-and-blue suit that was to herald the arrival in February 1973 of Aladdin Sane…
MY REVIEW OF THE
AS-YET UNRELEASED STARMAN MOVIE
Starman: The Man Who Sewed The World gives a fascinating insight into the relatively unknown life of fashion future legend Freddie Burretti, who died far too young aged 49. This working-class lad had a creative mind able to absorb everything he loved about Mod fashion, having taught himself to make his own clothes at an early age. With enough dedication and focus to learn tailoring as well as the youthful dynamics of the dancefloor, he was obviously adept at observing styles and reworking looks to his own vision.
A chance meeting at the Sombrero gay disco in Kensington lead to the serendipitous collaboration with Bowie and the singer’s then not fully realised Ziggy Stardust wardrobe. These bold textured prints and coloured jumpsuits were, and are, extraordinary for capturing Bowie’s otherness at that time. Aladdin Sane prints that looked like Liberty worn by the androgynous male rock star blew our tiny minds back then.
What I loved about the movie was seeing the genesis of Freddie’s glamour vision in a mundanely drab landscape played out with the innocence of his mainly, it appears, female friends notably Wendy bf and Daniella protégée. Wonderful to hear their counterpoint stories of that inner ciricle involved in Bowie’s creation of Ziggy with Freddie’s ascendant talent and confidence.
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The pairing of Freddie and Daniella wearing his clothes is groundbreaking. Looking at those photos we see the androgynous beauty of Freddie (like a still from James Bidgood’s 1971 cult movie Pink Narcissus) teamed with Daniella’s Asian complexion and short spiky blonde crop. They had already created David and Angie’s classic image before the rest of the world saw it!
In fact, Daniella also anticipates Ava Cherry singing with Bowie in Young Americans several years later when we note the similar styling. How did that happen? Well, the pair met at an after-show party during the US tour of 1973 and Ava soon joined up as a backing singer.
From my own black perspective, a brown or black face was something I would immediately zone in on, seeing someone like you up there on a stage and hanging out with the stars. Marc Bolan having the black Gloria Jones as his wife was a big bloody deal to some black kids, for sure.
Freddie’s whole look seems to have been adopted wholesale by David Johansen of the New York Dolls, so the influence of this young British designer can today be recognised rippling out into the wider pop culture although it probably wasn’t acknowledged at the time. Maybe a parallel could be drawn between Freddie and Alexander McQueen – both gay and from working-class backgrounds – though McQueen came to work with Bowie as an established star, whereas Freddie created an image that made Bowie a star. Today it is unreal to imagine any designer could achieve such pivotal pop success without a massive team behind them.
* The first outing for the crimson-and-blue Burretti suit was Bowie’s interview on the Russell Harty TV chat show aired in January 1973, when he also wears the suit in the live clip singing Drive-In Saturday.
TAGS: Fashion, Film, gay issues, London, Pop music, Social trends, Angie Bowie, costume, Daniella Parmar, David Bowie, David Johansen, Freddie Burretti, Glam rock, Masayoshi Sukita, Starman, The Man Who Sewed The World, Ziggy Stardust
CREATIVITY IS ALL ROUND US
Inspiration for window displays can come from the simple to the sublime. Ideally a motif or an object of clothing or a design. Walking and travelling around a city like London you can see creativity all around you, from less than ordinary well-dressed folk to the department stores whose vast budgets are reflected in their imaginative windows, and to the independent shops and businesses who have created visual appeal with vivid colour and imagery.
One the most important stimuli is the cyclical rhythm of the fashion industry: vintage vs the future. Music and style icons of the past revisited, remade and remoulded for this generation. Each decade brings creative giants but fame now emerges from the street, too, with the stylish denizens acquiring impact via Instagram and Facebook.
Creative supernovas who have been a big influence over the years would include David Bowie, Grace Jones, Thierry Mugler, Elio Fiorucci, Alexander McQueen, J-P Gaultier, Bjork, Grace Coddington, Siouxsie, Marc Bolan, Diana Ross, Roxy Music, Catherine Deneuve, Pedro Almodovar, Debbie Harry… The list goes on.
BURBERRY’S SUPREME ACT OF PRESENTATION
The Burberry show is one of the hottest tickets at London Fashion Week and in September 2015 the luxury British brand caused a sensation by the sheer presentational chutzpah with which it showcased its Spring/Summer 2016 womenswear collection “Functionregalia”.
Most thrilling was the soundtrack provided live by the 1980s legend Alison Moyet, her voice as magnificent as ever, accompanied by a 32-piece orchestra seated in a pit in the centre of the runway.
Just as mould-breaking was the marquee erected in Kensington Gardens. This season the British Fashion Council declared that it wanted consumers to get a taste of the fashion industry with the aim of educating a new fashion-conscious audience. Result: the Burberry marquee was glass-sided and open-ended so that the public could watch the entire show from the steps of the Albert Memorial. Inside, the 1000-strong celebrity crowd included Benedict Cumberbatch, Kate Moss, Jourdan Dunn, Suki Waterhouse, St Vincent with girlfriend Cara Delevingne, Sienna Miller, Clara Paget, Holliday Grainger, Amber Anderson, Oscar Tuttiett, Harry Treadaway and Tom Odell. Not forgetting Anna Wintour.
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A SNAPSHOT OF PARIS IN THE AUTUMN
London windows I have personally enjoyed
in the recent past…
PORTRAITS BY ANDREW SALGADO