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Wonderful Wizard of Ossie


The King is back! Well the King of Kings Road that is, as the fashion world is going back in time yet again seeking influence from no other than 60’s sensation, Ossie Clark.   Kyrsty Hazell reports.


Every fashion designer has a muse in which they seek inspiration from.  We have seen influences from the Hollywood era with Galliano’s Dietrich chic and even the Ancient Egyptians have had a look in on what goes on the catwalks and into our wardrobes.  Well it seems that they aren’t about to stop as designers are now in quest of inspiration in the shape of man called Ossie Clark.

From Issey Miyake, Kenzo and Valentino to Christian Lacroix and Vivienne Westwood, it is clear from all their recent collections that they had one designer in mind.  Following the shows in Paris, it is clear that Ossie Mania has been put back on the map.                        


Ossie Clark was one of the most famous names in the 1960′s where fashion was concerned.  With his dazzling, colorful and creative ideas timed with the general explosion of freedom, has made him a household name, helping to create one of the most fascinating and exciting decades of the 20th century.

Along with Mary Quant and Biba, Ossie Clark defined the fashion mood of 1960s London. Most famous for his bias cut dresses and impeccable tailoring, he was also an innovator. He was one of the first to popularise motorcycle jackets, hot pants, and maxi coats, and to mix unusual fabrics such as wool tweed and silk chiffon. {mosimage}

Clark’s clothes were worn by some of the most beautiful and famous women of the era, including Brigitte Bardot, Bianca Jagger, Marianne Faithful, Twiggy, Marsha Hunt, Jean Shrimpton, Elizabeth Taylor, and Liza Minelli. At the height of his fame he lived a jet-set lifestyle, designing stage outfits for his friend Mick Jagger and hanging out with Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, and Diana Vreeland whenever he was in New York.

Graduating from The Royal College of Art, Clark began to sell his work, both couture and ready to wear line from his Chelsea boutique and started to blossom as a designer. His success was mainly due to the collaboration with his wife and inspiration, Textile designer Celia Birtwell.  It was with her fabric and pattern designs that made Ossie a household name and together they went on to conquer the fashion world.

Clark had an incredible eye for the female form, creating the most flattering garments. Reputedly, he could cut a dress to fit any woman perfectly just by running his hands over her body. His understanding of form and proportion as well as his desire to make a woman feel like a true lady was where his brilliance lied. Clark dressed the woman every woman wanted to be in the 60’s and it seems that this is still the case in the Nineties with Valentino, Miyake and many more influential designers following suit.

Much of Clark’s inspiration came from the great Parisian couturiers of the 1930s, particularly Charles James’s perfectionist manner and Madelaine Vionnet’s bias cut designs. He also loved films, idolizing screen icons such as Marlene Dietrich and Mae West, who was one of Clark’s all time favourite women as her curvaceous body was reflected in many of Ossie’s models.

In his designs he used Chiffon mixed with cotton, Sheer and Muslim Voile with tulip, flower and even astrology patterns to name a few. All materials and patterns were transferred onto a selection of crepe dresses, culottes, and chiffon blouses. His clothes were fluid and precise as each garment oozed femininity and fitted the woman perfectly embracing her womanly physique and enhancing her feminine curves. 

With Clark being so volatile, endearing and acerbic back in the 60’s, it is no surprise that some of the most established and influential designers of our modern day would follow suit.  Valentino, Miyake, Kenzo and Westwood have all shown an interest in his work, however, they have not only used his creations as inspiration, but also the attitude that goes with it.

Valentino in his  2004/2005 Autumn/Winter collection stated his position as the modern day Clark as he embraces womanhood through his designs and keeps his creations ultra feminine.  Issey Miyake and Kenzo both adopted Clarks wackier side with more colorful and vibrant designs which wouldn’t look out of place in Clark’s boutique. 

Their patterns were clearly influenced by Birtwell’s great talent of beautiful prints and Ossie’s magic in bringing the creations to life.  Vivienne Westwood has used Ossie as inspiration in past creations and judging by her latest Autumn/Winter collection in Paris, his presence is still there.  Westwood has always been a rebel which is reflected through her designs, captivating Clark’s sense of rebellion back in 60’s.  It seems that every respectable designer have gone all out for fabulously frilly, chiffon chic and big prints this Autumn/Winter and all want a piece of the King of King’s road.

Kyrsty Hazell

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