johnson banks have designed a set of postage stamps that celebrate the last 60 years of british fashion.
— following text from johnson banks
the great british fashion stamps have been created by london-based graphic designers johnson banks, who commissioned highly respected fashion photographer sølve sundsbø to photograph 10 outfits chosen to summarise the last 60 years of british fasion. live models – as opposed to static fashion mannequins – were used to achieve dynamic postures and a sense of movement. the models had to embody the ideal silhouettes of the various fashion eras and fit perfectly into the surviving existing garments.
the two-day photo shoot took place at sundsbø’s london studio. some of the clothes were obtained directly from the designers, whilst others were sourced from specialist vintage fashion stores. johnson banks worked closely with the photographer and his assistants, stylists and hair and wig artists. following the shoot, the features of the models and the background were erased from the images in order to focus the viewer’s gaze upon each of the distinctive british fashion designs.
‘it’s hard to make clothes look interesting if no one’s wearing them,’ explains johnson banks creative director michael johnson. ‘on a tailor’s dummy they seem flat and lifeless. on the other hand, we didn’t want models or celebrities to distract from the design, which is what we are celebrating. for example, there’s a great photo of ringo starr wearing a classic tommy nutter suit in the 1970s, but you just think, ‘there’s a great photo of ringo’ and don’t look at the suit.’ johnson and co-designer kath tudball decided on a radical compromise: shoot the clothes being modelled for real but then digitally remove the faces and hands. first, however, they had to actually get hold of the precious artefacts, which meant the long process of persuading the designers or their estates to loan them out for a few days or sourcing them from obliging vintage stores (a task that took over three months). the striking images finally came together during a two-day shoot june 2011. afterwards, judicious cropping and retouching were used to bring out the lines, textures and movement of the garments – for once, it was the clothes that were striking a pose.
hardy amies sir edwin hardy amies KCVO (1909-2003) was born in maida vale. he became managing director of mayfair couture house lachesse in 1934. after world war ii he opened his own fashion business in savile row. amies was the first major european fashion designer to venture into ready-to-wear and in 1955 received a royal warrant as dressmaker to the queen. other commissions have included clothing for the 1966 england world cup squad and the 1972 GB olympic squad and the film 2001: a space odyssey.
the outfit shown on the stamp dates from the late 1940s.
norman hartnell sir norman hartnell KCVO (1901-1979) was born in streatham. he opened his first couture house at 10 bruton street, mayfair in 1923. in 1940 he received a royal warrant as dressmaker to queen elizabeth, subsequently royal warrant as dressmaker to hm queen elizabeth the queen mother. a royal warrant as dressmaker to queen elizabeth II was issued in 1957.
the stamp shows an outfit created by hartnell in the 1950s.
granny takes a trip granny takes a trip was a boutique opened in february 1965 at 488 kings road in london’s chelsea, by nigel waymouth, his girlfriend sheila cohen and john pearse. the shop, which was acquired by freddie hornik in 1969, remained open until the mid-70s and has been called the ‘first psychedelic boutique in groovy london of the 1960s.’
the jacket shown on the stamp was designed by john pearse using a morris & co. furniture fabric print called golden lily (1899).
ossie clark (print by celia birtwell) raymond ‘ossie’ clark (1942-1996) was born in warrington, lancashire. he was a major figure in the swinging sixties scene in london and the fashion industry in that era. clark is now renowned for his vintage designs by present-day designers and compared to the 1960s fashion greats mary quant and biba. he has influenced many other designers, including yves saint laurent, anna sui and tom ford.
the outfit shown on the stamp here dates from the late 1960s and features a print by celia birtwell.
tommy nutter tommy nutter (1943-1992) was born in barmouth, merionethshire. he recreated the savile row suit in the 1960s. in 1969, he joined up with edward sexton, to open nutters of saville row. nutter combined traditional tailoring skills with innovative design. his clients included mick jagger and elton john. nutter was most proud of the fact that he dressed three out of the four beatles on the cover of the LP abbey road.
the suit featured on the stamp was originally designed for ringo starr and has been recreated especially for the photo shoot.
jean muir jean muir, CBE, FCSD (1928-1995) was born in london. she worked briefly in a solicitor’s office before taking a stockroom job at liberty & co in 1950. despite her lack of formal art college training, she was given the opportunity to sketch in liberty’s ready-to-wear department, which led to her gaining a job as designer for jaeger in 1956. her own label jean and jane was launched in 1962 followed by jean muir ltd. in 1966. famous clients include former muir model joanna lumley, charlotte rampling and maggie smith.
the outfit featured here dates to the late 70s/early 80s.
zandra rhodes zandra rhodes CBE (1940-) was born in chatham, kent. she was one of the new wave of british designers who put london at the forefront of the international fashion scene in the 1970s. her designs are considered clear, creative statements, dramatic but graceful, bold but feminine. rhodes’s inspiration has been from organic material and nature. her approach to the construction of garments can be seen in her use of reversed exposed seams and in her use of jewelled safety pins and tears during the punk era. with her bright green hair (later pink and sometimes red or other colours), theatrical makeup and art jewellery, she stamped her own clear identity on the international world of fashion. rhodes designed for diana, princess of wales, and continues to design for royalty and celebrities. she notably designed several outfits for freddie mercury.
the early 80s gold ‘royal’ dress shown here comes from zandra rhodes’s personal collection.
vivienne westwood dame vivienne westwood DBE RDI (1941-) is largely responsible for bringing punk fashion into the mainstream. in the mid-1970s with malcolm mclaren, westwood created clothes drawing inspiration from bikers, fetishists and prostitutes, which mclaren sold from his kings road boutique. when mclaren became manager of the sex pistols, the band wore westwood and mclaren’s designs. the ‘punk style’ included bondage gear, safety pins, razor blades, bicycle or lavatory chains on clothing and spiked dog collars for jewellery. westwood’s work includes the adoption of traditional elements of scottish design, such as tartan fabric, and the reinterpretation of 17th-and 18th-century cloth cutting principles. her first catwalk show was presented in 1981, featuring the collaboration of westwood and mclaren. the first major retrospective of her work was shown in 2004–05 at the victoria and albert museum in london.
he 1993 harlequin dress shown here was famously modeled by naomi campbell.
paul smith sir paul smith RDI (1946 -) was born in beeston, nottinghamshire. he left school at 15 with the ambition of becoming a racing cyclist. a cycling accident put an end to his cycling hopes, and during the six-month hospital stay that followed smith made some new friends. after leaving hospital he arranged to meet them at a local pub that was popular with art students. it was then that he realised he wanted to be a designer.
smith took evening tailoring classes with gordon valentine tipton, who showed him how to cut cloth as well as taught him all the basics. later smith joined lincroft kilgour in savile row, where his designs were worn by celebrities, including george best. he opened his first shop in 1970. in 1976 smith’s first menswear collection was shown in paris, under the paul smith label. in 1998, he showed his first women’s collection at london fashion week. paul smith remains fully involved in the business, designing clothes, choosing fabrics, approving the shop locations and overseeing every development within the company. he has showrooms in london, paris, milan, new york and tokyo.
the suit on the stamp dates from around 2003.
alexander mcqueen lee alexander mcqueen cbe (1969 – 2010) was born in lewisham, london. he was a fashion designer and couturier best known for his in-depth knowledge of bespoke british tailoring, his tendency to juxtapose strength with fragility in his collections, as well as the emotional power and raw energy of his provocative fashion shows. he worked as chief designer at givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and founded his own label under the name alexander mcqueen. his achievements have earned four british designer of the year awards (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003), as well as the CFDA’s international designer of the year award in 2003.
the piece shown on the stamp is ‘black raven’ from mcqueen’s horn of plenty 2009 collection.
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