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 met


          As an 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 accoun

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.


                   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 Blame.

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 hall above.


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.

Early Badges

                  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.



Gerlinde 1990’s

                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.  
           Sebastian 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 29 2007

               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 in Paris

             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 collections.


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 whatever.
                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 agree more.
                  First 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 others.
                   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 like one
               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 Go Poo.


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.
                  Dinner 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 London correspondent.


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.

                 Eventually 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.
           Yamacham 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 first met.


Zandra in 1975 in front of painting “Style” of her with Chelita from 1971

           At 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 in dreams.’
              Yossy 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

                     Since 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 gallery


                  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


               Luciana 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