Four go traveling.
It was 23 years
before I was to go back again to Tokyo. An invitation came unexpectedly
through seemingly random chance encounters with those ever-constant
connections. Now, after nearly two years absence, I’m in the castle
in Tuscany where I wrote of Luciana’s wish, reflecting on events
in between, notable to the happily housebound hermit not far from my
surface, by new travel and this return to Japan.
With Luciana, 1973
Luciana had introduced the 20 year-old designer Ozwald Boateng to Chelita
in 1987. We met at the start of their brief liaison, bonding across
a restaurant table through suits each admired the other wearing, and
unspoken but exchanged in a glance, mutual horror at the price to pay
for the food in a briefly fashionable, now closed, venue with menu like
a book, miniscule over-fussed portions and price what both would live
on for a week. A continuing friendship started then. On my way to have
lunch with him 20 years later, turning a street corner in the West End,
I walked into the encounter that led back to Tokyo.
Chelita in Stern Magazine, 1969, with painting bought soon after we
artist I think myself primarily a painter whatever medium I’m
working in, chasing line form colour and content to achieve some kind
of imagery that holds/traps my attention and sometimes others. To understand
the importance of the flat picture plane, either canvas or now the virtual
surface of a computer screen, I consider it also necessary to work outside
of that defined space, applying attention to immediate surroundings,
the walls of the rooms I work in, home I live in, and my appearance.
Each in some way informs the other. Surface remaining for me the place
of maximum potential, the ultimate point of expression, the actuality
from where sensation radiates through space and time, modes of perception,
the image all that we see.
This day on my way to meet Ozwald, a glorious rare spring one, I had
dressed in a bright turquoise summer jacket, bought beige from a bargain
store and dyed, over a t-shirt bearing
my ‘Thinker’ image, with three badges on it also made from
paintings, including the ‘Luciana’ portrait that adorns
the mouse-mat used here in Tuscany as I write this account.
Luciana portrait on badge and mouse-mat
Two days after first meeting Ozwald, I met independently at the Café
de Paris, his friend and style twin, Amos. For a while the three of
us would go out on the town together. In Japan earlier I had stayed
in the home of Joe Miura and through him met Pascale, whose agent he
was there, on her first night in London. Sometime later out with Ozwald
and Amos at the Taboo club, they were coincidently to meet, and she
became first Amos’ girlfriend, then a few years later Ozwald’s
wife. Amos disappeared in between to return changed. As Ozwald’s
career took off, Amos became paranoid, more and more a lost soul, beyond
reach however tried. He became convinced he was being followed, that
his neighbours beamed voices into his head. We didn’t hear of,
or from, him for another few months again, and when we did get news,
tragically was told he’d committed suicide, hanging himself in
his mother’s home.
PASCALE & OZWALD BOATENG, SUSAN, ANNE-MARIE, 1992
When Ozwald held his first show
in Paris in 1994, I was amongst the models on the catwalk, in an Yves
Klein blue suit. He also introduced me to Susan, who now as half the
band Gob Sausage, and the design duo Charles of London, had printed
the t-shirt worn that day, on the way to lunch with him at Cecconi’s.
Walking down Dover Street I had a chance encounter outside Comme Des
Garcons’ Dover Street Market building, with the designer Judy
In the blue, Sunday Times, 1999
One day in Tokyo years before on my last visit there, we had gone to
a concert together in a venue on top of a department store. Judy, in
Japan then as part of an '80s British fashion invasion, dressed eye-poppingly
head to toe in silver, face and hair included. My being there was part
of a round-the-world trip with Zandra Rhodes, after Australia and a
charity show where I acted as her assistant. Dressed more conservatively
than Judy, I was the one to get the attention, my Shisedio commercials
only recently out, especially from the lift attendants, who screamed
and squealed at me continuously to his amazement and my discomfort,
as we travelled all the way in the confined lift-space to the concert
Round the world with Zandra, 1984
Seeing my badges and t-shirt now, Judy exclaimed howl great they were.
Having made odd items to wear infrequently but over many years, I’d
started to make the badges a year or so earlier, based on existing paintings
adapted digitally to a circular format. First making them by hand on
a child’s toy badge maker, discovering later a website for larger
one-offs. Wearing them out, frequently strangers in the street or at
supermarket checkouts commented enthusiastically on them, so often I
thought they should be sold somewhere.
Having used the badge website for sometime, one day I called it up.
The voice that answered, hearing my name exclaimed how much they liked
them. My response was to ask to pay less. Straight away they sent 100
free, and a price that enabled me to re-sell them. With Susan now producing
the t-shirt prints, both were suddenly ready for a retail outlet.
Hearing Judy’s enthusiasm and knowing he sold through the store
we were outside, I asked if he thought they would like them, and if
so who should see them. A man standing with him replied ‘Me and
yes’. He was the manager and although it took nearly six months
before getting on sale there, that was to be the start of my journey
back to Japan.
The first day, badges, t-shirts, and by now the watches also made via
the Internet using the same image files, went on show, coincided with
a retrospective exhibition there by the hat-maker Stephen Jones. He
also was in Tokyo on that earlier visit. We had met and became friends
sometime before in the Blitz club days. Stephen says one of the reasons
he’d come to live in London was seeing both Luciana and me in
a magazine, he’d realized that was where he belonged. There were
hats dedicated to both of us in this exhibition. On the opening
night I was briefly introduced to the designer behind Comme des Garcons,
Rei Kawakubo, and her husband Adrian Joffe. He later was to tell she
remarked I had the spirit she wanted for her next collection.
Meeting Rei, 2006
Not really happy
the way my pieces were presented at first in the store, rather hidden
in the basement, I said nothing, having no great expectation. Rather
without an active gallery presenting paintings at the time, thought
it good to keep some aspect of my work around whatever. At first sales
were negligible so meeting Adrian again, when he asked what I thought,
commented they could be better featured, and soon after was relocated
from there to a more defined second floor space where the work with
an expanded range is still today.
Dover Street Market space
A few weeks later I received a disconcerting phone call summoning
me to meet with him. On my way wondering what it could be about, wildly
mentally swinging between thinking they were to say it was a mistake,
embarrassingly they didn’t want me in the store after all, to
I thought the unlikeliest of scenarios, wanting to use me as a model.
This turned out to be close to the case.
Actually it was more flattering. He explained that Rei wanted to design
the winter men’s collection based on the individual personality
and styles of myself and friends Andrew Logan and Michael Kostiff, who
had also been at Stephen’s opening. She needed a fourth to make
the concept work, and although they did have someone in mind, they weren’t
certain of him. It would involve going to Paris, being on the runway
for Comme Des Garcons, in outfits designed specifically inspired by
our distinctive looks, followed by models dressed in her interpretations
of each. And would I do it?
Inwardly laughing, unhesitatingly I said yes, hesitations came after.
Promptly sworn to secrecy I was told they were concerned press in particular
couldn’t know before our appearance. Adrian wanted me to approach
Andrew for them. Michael they were confident of; since the start of
Dover Street Market he had a space there reproducing the atmosphere
of the World shop he and his wife Gerlinde had for many years until
her death a decade earlier. Also in Tokyo that earlier time Michael
had been back many times since. When the other person they thought of
dropped out, I was asked to help suggest another.
Andrew, due to be in India when needed in Paris, agreed to come back
for the event, returning there for the rest of his planned visit. The
request for the fourth had me googling the Internet to find photos of
possibilities. Recommendations included one at the same time I considered
the most dangerous, the artist Sebastian Horsley.
Sebastian was someone I met briefly some twenty years ago, and
only infrequently on and off since. Knowing his paintings, also his
penchants for suits, including shocking pink three-piece, he had the
strong individual take on appearance they were looking for. His extraordinary
autobiography published much later deserves reading to see, why if out
before, it would certainly have made the timid me hesitate. He became
their final choice, and this larger-than-life handsome dissolute character,
self-confessed dedicated dandy, later completely stole the show.
For the weeks between being asked and going to Paris, it was indeed
difficult to keep this secret. The few mentioned to, made aware not
to discuss the event, and it remained so, not even the Dover Street
staff knowing. We had to provide short written introductions to
ourselves, which later appeared on the invitations but gave no real
clue of what was to happen. And so we set off in January of the New
Year for Paris.
Meeting at the Eurostar terminal, the four of us, Andrew Logan, Michael
Kostiff, Sebastian Horsley and me, now excited but apprehensive designer's
muses, with Andrew’s partner Michael Davies and one of Sebastian’s
Rachel girlfriends, on the start of our adventure. At the check in I
bumped into Danielle Moudabber and Mohamet Eldaouk, and couldn’t
tell them why we were all going together. Later these two came to my
studio, Mohamet buying, despite not knowing her, my portrait of Luciana
in Alternative Miss World premiere outfit with bare-breasts, the one
on the mouse-mat. Its original now hangs in his apartment in Paris.
Comme des Garcons were to use badges of this. The other full-length
image of her, the one that was the first picture made on the computer
bought with her legacy, became part of a print design on fabrics for
shirts, and on a suit I wore in the show.
The first Luciana image ever drawn on computer
As ever life had a sting in its tail, or rather mine this time, at the
start of the journey. A few weeks earlier I had suffered a breakout
of huge ugly, highly visible uncomfortable spots on one side of my neck,
painful large and blotchy. My doctor prescribed antibiotics. These were
effective in reducing the condition, but had an instant side effect
of vicious diarrhoea that persisted though somewhat lessened through
the week prior to departure.
Leaving for Paris I hoped it over, but far from the case. The train
journey wasn’t too bad; its food maybe didn’t help. On arrival
at the hotel I headed straight for the bathroom, where I spent most
of my time over the next four days. At first the others thought me suffering
nerves, Sebastian, that I was a hypochondriac. Andrew had one dose of
Imodium he had for India with him. It scarcely made a difference. Next
morning we went for fittings in the Comme Des Garcons office in the
Place Vendome. Very glamorous, except I had to find a toilet first thing,
trouping back and forwards to it the whole day, embarrassed and trying
not to let it be apparent.
It was difficult to muster the required enthusiasm on seeing the outfits
to wear, only later did I come to enjoy them. At the time feeling physically
uncomfortable, I was becoming paranoid as to when the next call-of-nature
would happen. On a couple of occasions, thankfully only in the hotel
room, I didn’t quite make it in time. A novel experience for me
but one I didn’t appreciate then. Promised the clothes would be
especially made to fit, they all seemed standard model size, and already
out-of-sorts, I felt swamped by mine.
With Luciana, Steve Strange, Gerlinde and Michael Kostiff 1980
Sleeves covered hands, trousers so wide around the waist they could
fall straight off, belted they made me more irritated by the sheer volume
of fabric, with over-sized waistcoat I found uncomfortable. After overnight
alterations, next day still saw me being pinned in for the catwalk show
itself, difficult in my persistent condition. It was decided I wear
my own shirt, shoes and waistcoat, mine being a close colour match.
Only much later receiving the finally fitting three-piece did I see
how good it was.
had difficulty at the fittings also, his jacket being too tight to do
up. Seeing him upset, I suggested he add one of the bright red, too
large for me waistcoats, which disguised it whilst transforming his
previously monochrome two-piece look. My outfits compromised, in my
discomforted state, trying not to broadcast my affliction and show enthusiasm,
I was sure they thought me difficult.
Back at the hotel whilst everyone was keen to go out, I was scarcely
out of the bathroom. A night of bad sleep interruptions followed. More
anti-diuretic drugs found, the day of the show arrived, my being marginally
more secure, if for a few hours at a time. First thing when we arrived
at the venue was locate the lavatories as discretely as I could, going
back and forth frequently whilst there. For the run through I was fine,
quite enjoying myself. There was a long gap in between. For the show
itself I wore a somewhat pained expression.
Michael Kostiff was first on the runway followed by his group, then
me, Andrew, and Sebastian in turn. Michael sauntered down, a smile on
his face. Andrew, a casual stroll with look of benign grace. Sebastian
swaggered and gestured, whilst I marched it determinedly. The presentation
seemed to go down well. A packed audience re-acted to our appearances
with surprise and enthusiasm. Rei had managed to produce a show that
whilst reflecting each of our individual tastes, was hers throughout.
Suit with Luciana print, pinned, on the runway
For my section I was followed by models dressed in red or black, some
wearing painting based prints including the Luciana one, and all with
three badges on. Having taken a hundred or more with me, I gave
the extra to the staff. Rei decided after to include some in the collection
being offered for sale. Two sets of five were chosen and orders later
came to over 5000, since spotted being worn from L.A to Milan, Berlin,
and Moscow, as well as in the UK and Japan.
After show pictures on the Dover Street Market website
The finale had all four come out on the catwalk to Syd Viscious’
‘My way’. But the real highlight was Sebastian’s entrance
to Marc Bolan’s ‘Dandy in the underworld’. Striding
the catwalk this six foot two handsome roué in the elongated
Edwardian look made for him, with his own Lobb platform boots, the Stephen
Jones’ stovepipe hat, and his fuck you attitude, was the true
giant of the night. The press and buyers seemed to love it. Backstage
after was a quick chaos of congratulations, and toilet visitation. Not
the most glamorous of timing, whilst everyone else went out to dinner
after to celebrate, I retired to the hotel with boiled rice, and another
night full of further watery eruptions.
All four on the runway, photo International Herald Tribune, Paris, January
Next day in the offices with press and buyers viewing the collection,
the video on show, the four of us had the opportunity to try on and
choose an outfit to keep. Unfortunately I’d gotten to the point
of not coping, having quickly to return to the hotel, and my now over-familiar
toilet. A doctor came to see me in the evening, and I took lots more
re-hydrating salts and stuff to stop me up. Back in London I saw my
own twice more in the next ten days, all the time troubled, losing weight,
weakened. The runs persisted for over three weeks. It took sometime
after to be back on form. Ironically one of my verses has the lines
‘we can never encompass all that we aspire, the piles of shit
just get higher and higher’. They did for me in Paris.
Coincidently in the Sunday Times the day afterf the show
It seemed though the collection had gone down well. Sales were better
than expected, media comments enthusiastic. We were invited on, to go
to the in-store launches in Tokyo and Kyoto, later that year in August,
required to stand round wearing our outfits and do the odd bit of press
for this. There was a bit of negotiating about travel plans and schedules.
Sebastian couldn’t make the first day departure because of his
book launch, Andrew wanted to bring his partner Michael, and the three
of us decided to stay longer. Andrew, who had not been to Japan before,
wanted to stay for three weeks, I settled only on a 10 day trip, but
would travel with them for those extra days, Comme Des Garcons needing
us only for four.
In between we did photo shoots for several magazines
wearing our ‘looks’. One most enjoyed for GQ Style, shot
in my studio at home. Opening the front door confronted by three young
models in bright red suits, one with a matching curl on his forehead,
I burst out laughing. This was Jordan Bowen; first encountered the same
night I had met Rei. Finding him sitting alone on the platform at Green
Park underground station on my way home, I remembered noticing him at
the opening and thinking he must be someone’s child.
He turned out to be the nephew of Kim Bowen, one of Stephen’s
earliest muses, one of Luciana’s models, someone I met at about
the age he was now, with something of that same spark. He became the
subject of a portrait, and the model I used in my own Dover Street Market
GQ STYLE Magazine, autumn/winter 2007
Arriving in Tokyo in august I was shocked by how much I didn’t
recognize. Gone were all the Shiseido signs seen on top of buildings
previously. Vast swathes of the city had been re-built and built upwards.
From my hotel window appeared a panorama that more echoed Manhattan.
The first job, a group photo-shoot with interviews, in our new finery
felt a parody of the oddest pop group on tour. Sebastian towering above
all in his platforms and stovepipe top hat, amongst the smaller Japanese
crew, as we were whisked off from place to place.
Sadly my three-piece suit hadn’t materialised quite as hoped.
The trousers and jacket were smaller, but hems still remained unfixed,
and the sleeves were still over-long. The waistcoat now too tight and
in the wrong fabric, I wore only a two-piece with ‘Di Again’
tie, not getting to wear the whole suit until assembled back home after.
It didn’t seem to matter; at the opening party we were mobbed
Entering the Comme store we plunged straight away into a melee of having
our photos taken, signing autographs and hellos. The store itself was
themed into sections for each with look-a-like mannequins in surreal
poses. Curves of the building and volume of people made it difficult
to get any grasp of the layout and I frequently felt lost. There were
some familiar faces from the past, others clutching press features from
then, with mobile phone cameras in every direction and pleas for attention.
Andrew’s section in the Tokyo store
Next morning we took the bullet train to Kyoto, on arrival bundled into
people carriers, rushed on a sightseeing trip to the Golden Pavilion,
a street-market and other tourist spots. If Tokyo had been hot, Kyoto
was even more so and humid, within seconds of stepping out of air-conditioning,
dripping. Later a local was to describe the weather as evil. We couldn’t
thing I bought was a parasol against the sun’s rays, later a fan,
and sweat-towel to catch the drops. My choices, a child’s bright
blue parasol, fan from a shop full of exquisitely decorated subtle styles,
basic red and white plastic, and sweat-towel that featured Mickey Mouse.
Lunch in a somewhat claustrophobic enclosed private room had course
after course, many of which, not eating meat, mushroom or shrimp, I
couldn’t eat. The evening was the launch at the Kyoto store, the
group arrival involving a short stroll from the hotel dressed despite
the heat in full winter finery.
We arrived to stunned silence. In the packed store, later even more
crowded, we were just stared at like animals in a zoo, only from the
wrong side of the fence. The quiet quickly thawed after champagne began
flowing and it was suddenly back to being photographed, signing autographs.
Here the party was more style conscious, chicer than Tokyo, many head
to toe in Comme Des Garcons, including from the latest collections.
More intensely interested in us not content with autographing invitations
people wanted signatures on anything.
Whatever they were buying, clothes they had on, shoes, shirts, t-shirts,
skin, Polaroids, even mobile phones, and so many badges where I tried
somehow to squeeze it on the back. As in Paris, I’d taken some
to give out. In Tokyo well received, people pleaded here as they ran
out, especially the ‘Tit’, surprisingly most in demand.
We gathered both events were better attended than anticipated, that
the crowds had stayed longer than usual. But constant smiling at strangers,
along with an inability to communicate, in their territory feeling ignorant,
though at first charming, can soon get tiring, and with insistence,
draining. Having a solo experience before with the Shiseido events,
I knew what to expect. This time I had more fun sharing it with the
Then all was over or almost. Andrew, Michael Davies and I, headed to
the new hotel we were to pay for ourselves during the extended stay
in Kyoto, whilst Michael Kostiff and Sebastian left for home. This was
somewhat more downmarket accommodation than we had gotten used to. My
room, not ready until the end of the day due to a booking mix-up, certainly
much smaller, crawling into bed around midnight, I found decidedly smelly.
The sealed room was for smokers. Despite empty ashtrays, it smelled
Getting dressed to go down to the check in, I managed to explain it
should have been no-smoking, to discover them unable to do anything
about moving me until the following morning. Next day I was relocated
to an even smaller room on the other side of the hotel, but with a nicer
view overlooking the river, though a large ugly black armchair, with
even less space, replaced the sofa the other managed to squeeze in.
Trying to move it, in order to open my suitcase, I discovered this to
be an electric massage chair. Testing it, not being able to understand
the written only in Japanese instructions, I leapt back out, thinking
something wrong. My second try found more control and then I was addicted.
It gave the best, most forceful, deepest, yet varied massage I’d
ever had, and I loved it, becoming one of the trip’s highlights.
Free, also something unexpected and not in the other rooms, more than
consolation for my night in the ashtray.
Our Kyoto visit was greatly enhanced by a local librarian, Hanako, asked
to look after me by a couple from Tokyo I had met over lunch in London
a month or so earlier. She took us places and at a pace we would never
have come across or managed to get to on our own. From temples and shrines
to arcades and graveyards, from Philosopher’s Path to Victorian
aqueduct, local little restaurants and tea shops, so that despite the
heat and humidity it was easy to love the city.
In the Gion district, the oldest part of the city, turning a corner
I recognised again the entrance to the Ryokan with performing Maiko,
stayed in on my Shiseido weekend there those years earlier. We also
walked endless kitsch shopping arcades teeming with people and colour,
finding to my relief something lighter to wear for despite over-stuffed
suitcase, I still managed to bring nothing suitable for the assault
of the weather.
Our cameras were ever active, Andrew in particular being the ever-consummate
showman he is, with his unique sense of the absurd, finding a constant
back-drop everywhere, frequently had us in fits of laughter at the props
he spotted for poses. From giant green gorilla hands matching his silk
hat, to nodding mechanical geisha heads he bowed in time with. What
fascinated me in the throng was that I noticed no-one walking with less
than a lurch. It seemed they staggered rather than strolled. Becoming
fixated on the knock-kneed, pigeon toed, flat footed, bandy legged figures
passing by, I couldn’t help remark on however elegant and graceful
the upper torso, most fell apart below.
Andrew in Kyoto
Over the years we’ve known eacthother, Andrew and Michael are
the friends travelled with most; countless excursions in the UK, to
their museum in Wales, France several times, Los Angeles, Palm Springs
and New York. They are more intrepid travellers, I am much the stay-at-home
in comparison, and I left them in Kyoto to continue their travels in
Japan, whilst heading back for two days alone in Tokyo.
Michael Davies in my bathroom, 1981, Andrew in the mirror.
The Comme staff saw me to the train station. Someone from the Tokyo
team met me the other end, taking me first to their offices to do another
magazine interview, then to the Comme store for a photo shoot, and after
to their Dover Street Market store. A t-shirt from my painting of Sayoko
now featured in the window there. Sadly, almost the first news I had
heard arriving in Japan was of her sudden death.
Sayoko and I had met in Paris in the early 1970s, and I did her portrait
after seeing her again in Tokyo in the 1980s. She was Japan’s
first international super-model. Never forgotten in a show were she
came out alone, followed by ten models wearing variations of her outfit,
impossible each time to take one’s eyes of her, such was her presence.
The canvas painting had Japanese lettering along side a ghostly three-dimensional
amorphous form made of the expanded polystyrene foam Andrew used making
his sculptures. Randomly chosen words, to reflect the use or miss-use
of English in signage in Tokyo then, I later found translated as Spring
Sayoko re-visited, digital image, 2007
From the office put alone in a taxi to a new hotel, I asked for someone
to accompany me but was told it would be no problem, the taxi driver
knew where it was. This proved not the case, and seeing the same road
junction over again, before long I realised the driver was lost. We
ended in a station goods yard and had to back out before stopping to
ask someone the way. This didn’t seem to help him either, and
unable to communicate, not having a clue where I was, let alone where
I was going, nor could I.
By now dark, starting to rain, tired from the journey, I was more than
a little un-nerved. Fortunately my mobile had the office number and
there was someone still at work able to give him further directions.
These got me almost there. Left in the street and pointed in the direction
of the mainline station, I discovered the hotel entrance up several
floors in one of its buildings, and eventually my new room.
that evening was with Yoko and Mogi, the couple who asked Hanako to
look after us, in a small group that seemed to grow in numbers as the
night progressed. The one person who spoke fluent English, by now a
relief to discover, was moved further and further away as the numbers
expanded, adding to my day’s alien overload. Eventually went to
bed exhausted, to be woken at 4:30 in the morning by non-stop noise
from the commuter trains pulling in directly below, and I lay there
grumpy until about 8:30 when all fell quiet again.
The last day in Tokyo I wandered the streets around Shinjuku where the
hotel was, and then went to Omote Sando. Only after passing by the same
building for the third time did I know where I was, recognising it for
the landmark building it had been when last there. Surrounded now by
new larger ones, where once it had been the standout tallest, it appeared
insignificant, shrunk so much the growth having occurred around. Nearby
I met with Keiko Hirayama who had been the editor of Shisedo’s
Hanatsubaki magazine, and commissioned my first Diana portrait years
before. She had also accompanied me throughout that whole adventure,
and later, after my introduction to her, gave Chelita work as their
Lady Di , acrylic 1982, for Hanatsubaki magazine,
Digital re-make, 2002
Back to the Comme offices for a final meeting, arranging stuff
to be shipped back to England and goodbyes, before what was perhaps
the strangest experience of all my time there. My new accountant had
introduced by email a Japanese associate of hers, who sent me several
and then phone-calls about someone she wanted me to meet in Tokyo. Apparently
he had started out an artist some twenty years earlier, now very famous
and very very rich, as she kept telling me, selling products with his
images on. This was Tsatsori Tsuda, and he and an assistant came to
pick me up.
With no idea what to expect, I was greeted by the somewhat surreal sight
of two men, one wearing an amazing black and white checked suit, bright
red tie and slicked back hair, somehow impeccable and plastic at the
same time, he was Tsuda: his companion in gleaming white had flowing
black locks and samurai-like beard. Their voices were deep and guttural,
like cartoon movie macho baddies, and we zoomed off at high speed in
a white, large, very ostentatious Mercedes. Sitting in the back, such
the speed of travel, I was thrown off my seat more than once, all the
while the one with better English firing off questions as to whether
I had a good lawyer, an agent, or copyright protection. We make lots
of money, was said repeatedly, lots of money. Maybe we do business.
pulling into the building he owned, I was led into a large glossy white
space, with glossy white furniture, more assistants to be introduced
to, banks of computer screens, and with walls covered in brightly covered
framed prints, mostly pictures of cats in girls school uniform. After
the obligatory photographs, I was bombarded with products, watches,
knick-knacks and booklets, with more pictures of dressed up cats. ‘I
sell 2 million this, 5 million this, 30 million this’ he said
thrusting more and more at me. ‘I make lots of money. Lots. Maybe
I can be producer for you.’ Then before I knew it, was back in
the car, speeding through traffic, and deposited at my last appointment
of the day.
This was with Yamacham at his Pink Dragon building. In the 1980’s
he featured the billboard with the copy of my painting on over some
of his chain of shops. The pink building now painted back, once also
a free standing unique ‘50s/deco inspired design, was now somewhat
submerged in unrecognisable surroundings. Inside instantly offered the
choice of outfits to take, less seductive than on previous visits, I
took only two, more out of politeness than desire. Dinner was in a small
private restaurant. We had the only table, around which we sat with
legs tucked, its centrepiece a large open brazier, feet disconcertingly
resting on tennis-sized balls that made standing tricky.
was with Mickey, from the Black Cats group I’d been photographed
with years earlier. Yossy, the English speaking young man from the night
before, and also Saco, a stylist and the first ever Japanese to visit
me in London, joined us. She produced a copy of her just published autobiography,
which featured photos I’d never seen of Chelita, the one to bring
her to my studio, wearing some of Zandra’s clothes from when we
Zandra in 1975 in front of painting “Style” of her with
Chelita from 1971
some point I thought my phone rang, its ringing tone is on of my own
tracks. When I realised it wasn’t, I puzzled as to where the music
came from. As a surprise Yamacham had arranged with the restaurant to
play my cd given him at the Comme opening, and so it became the soundtrack
to that last night in Japan. ‘We are art it seems, in life and
saw me back to the hotel after, and the taxi got lost again. This time
even with someone who could communicate in the cab, it proved still
elusive, until suddenly I recognised a corner from earlier in the day.
We got out there and walked the rest of the way. Inside I took photos
of him, having decided earlier to do his portrait, in part influenced
no doubt by meeting with the marketing mogul.
Again the early morning trains woke me, and after packing, it was time
to leave for the plane home. At the airport, presenting my passport
the check in girl exclaimed how cute she thought my photo. She asked
could she show it to the next desk. This one, pointing to my eyebrows
and curl, said I was like a magician and then decided to upgrade me,
leaving me smiling my way home. Back in the 1950’s, in early teenage
years my brother and I had a double act. We were ‘The Mystic Brothers
– Masters of Modern Magic.” My magic wand though was soon
to give way to the paintbrush.
Comme Des Garcons produced a brochure to go with the collection. We
each had a double page spread, one a full-page photo from the catwalk,
the other a collage of our histories. Mine included a picture from Vogue
of 1975, me in the first t-shirt I ever made. It bore the slogan ‘Earls
Court Elegance’, an ironic phrase considering the area and my
taste. The red t-shirt had cut sleeves and holes, black paint-splash,
and was worn with a stiff white collar, fastened by a thumb shaped thumbtack.
The words were the title of an earlier painting, the first to feature
a figure of Luciana then living just around the corner from me. This
was on the back of the leaflet, I also had the front cover. Sweaters
bearing this phrase were part of the collection. It made me smile to
see this tongue-in-cheek idea of then, on sale in the West End over
30 years later.
Comme Des Garcons brochure 2007
Coming back to London after, the first thing noticed was fat. After
the Kyoto staggers, Tokyo appeared almost uniformly full of svelte,
slim graceful figures, so much, the obesity of the west hit me in the
face before even exiting the airport. Arriving home, instead of unpacking
and going to bed as I usually do, I found myself at the computer most
of the night working on Yossy’s portrait. Also a new self-portrait
conceived on the plane home. It was invigorating, the whole experience
left me loving Japan in a way I hadn’t before, at the same time
more than happy to get back to work.
Yossy, digital image, 2007
The collection turned up on sale in London shortly after, as did
my finally fitting outfit, the suit stunning with Luciana’s image
all over it. Walking past the store one night soon after, with Ozwald,
we discovered in the window near life-size cut-outs of the now famous
four from the catwalk. It seemed our turn as icons was soon over though,
come the end of season all vanished, the fickle finger of fashion having
inexorably moved on.
Cutouts in the Dover Street Market store in London 2007
then I’ve added bags, clocks, and mugs, to the t-shirts, badges,
prints, cd and dvds on sale at the Dover Street store. Just now delivered
1000 badges to Denmark, and receiving requests from new stockists in
the USA and Dubai. Kanye West recently wore the Michael Jackson badge
in Estelle’s video of ‘American Boy’ an instant number
one here. Strangers asking about them still stop me in the street. The
paintings, that everything comes from, and because of, go on show in
Denmark later this September.
New head, digital image, 2007
Appearances it seems spark a myriad of different responses. In the ‘50s,
at school, I was hauled up for being scruffy in my hated hand-me-downs,
humiliated, prompting a reaction into a pursuit of my own sense of taste.
By the ‘6os I was being photographed in the street by the first
wave of American tourists who’d come looking for Swinging London.
The end of the ‘70s saw me labelled with Luciana, Zandra and Andrew,
as one of ‘Them’. Whilst in the ‘80s a well-known
fashion journalist whispering in my ear, asked how it felt to have everyone
going round looking like me. In the ‘90s another told me how dis-appointed
she was seeing me dressed the colour shops were featuring as that season’s,
when in fact I’d been wearing the same suit for twenty years.
With Luciana, Zandra and Andrew in 1976
at the opening of Andrew’s Goldfield exhibition at the Whitechapel
The way I look, a reflection of what I experience inside, outside,
has caused reactions from admiration to disgust. Because of it I’ve
been followed, spat at, chased, beaten up; instantly admitted to some
places, occasionally turned away at others. It has had me analysed,
stigmatised, interrogated over, stared at, jeered at, sneered at, avoided,
rejected, found intimidating, photographed, filmed, admired, desired,
now selected to inspire, and be discarded again. Fresh flattering attention
never fails to come it seems, in Paris this time literally, without
an obligatory degree of shit. Through all this, simply trying to make
myself a better version of me, for me. It helps focus on what I am,
how I live, and most importantly on what I do. How others react is just
how they react. At best I am only a catalyst, the principal beneficiary
of the action, myself, keeping me on the edge of integration with the
outside, and the disintegration through isolation from the essentially
solitary nature of the work I do.
Portrait of Luciana with Rose, 2007
had an intuitive visual sensibility, part of her inner essence. Even
when naked it was her point of view she exposed. Her legacy, materialised
in the form of that first computer, from which her image seemed to jump
first onto canvas, now broadcast around the world on clothes and badges,
led me to return with others to an earlier experience still echoing
ever forward. Like a time traveller, friendships, ideas, images from
decades past, lifetimes ago, spiral about us continuously, weaving intricate
webs and interactions. The external manifestation perhaps, wearing one’s
art on one’s sleeve, or wherever.
The suit with Luciana print as I didn’t get to
wear it there, and the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto