Book review Tommy Nutter Lance Richardson

The man who defined the tailored look of the 1970s, Tommy Nutter, is a little bit like Beau Brummell in so far as he always seems like an enigma, as a person, yet his name runs throughout the history of menswear and is continually name checked. Anything bold with large lapels is always a reminder of Nutter’s style. The classic Tom Ford suit is basically a rip-off of Tommy Nutter.

This biography doesn’t just look at one Nutter’s life, but two. Tommy’s brother, David, a photographer and also gay, is the main source of first-hand information and the book follows both lives, intertwining throughout. The comical jobs they both do and the situations they seem to find themselves in makes for a really fun biography.

While Tommy is the centre, it’s great to hear about both their lives at the whims of the rich and famous of that era. From Bianca Jagger to John Lennon to Elton John, they were all wearing Tommy’s clothes while being photographed by David.

Left - Tommy Nutter modelling his own design

Tommy feels like a true creative which means he lacked the business skills and ruthlessness often needed in the fashion business to get anywhere. You get a sense that while a pioneer of the suit, Tommy was also constrained by it. He was constrained to bespoke suiting, particularly, which, due to the quality and labour intensiveness, would only ever be on a small scale and his dreams of creating a bigger ‘brand’ was restricted by centring around this one garment. 

Whenever he tried anything else, outside of this area, he didn’t seem to grasp it or be able to make it work. The strong shoulder, huge lapels and contrasting fabrics became not only his signature, but his style straight jacket.

This book is great, you’ll speed through it. The best bits feature Elton John. I knew Tommy had created Elton’s 1980’s straw-boater, 'I’m Still Standing' era clothes, but I hadn’t realised he was there from the start. David became one of his inner circle and follows him around the world with manic energy. Everybody is in here: Beatles, Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, Diana Ross.

Unfortunately, having died from that big disease with a little name, Tommy’s voice isn’t here and it would have been nice to hear from Cilla Black as she seemed to have a lot of love for him. But, the main voices are: Edward Sexton, his main cutter and Peter Brown, his boyfriend and the Beatles' manager, even when conflicting, but, that’s, ultimately, history and people’s differing viewpoints.

I remember sitting next to Jeremy Hackett at a dinner once, he started his company selling vintage clothes, and I asked him if he ever came across any Tommy Nutter, as you never see it anywhere. He said he once had some from Andrew Lloyd Webber, but it wasn’t particularly interesting. It feels like all the best pieces were commissioned by the rock stars and celebrities of that era and are probably still languishing in their storage warehouses somewhere.

There was an exhibition at The Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey, a few year’s ago, which brought together some of Tommy’s best clothes. Cilla Black’s were there and I remember how small Ringo Star’s and Mick Jagger’s mannequins were.

This feels comprehensive and very well researched by Lance Richardson. The majority of the book takes place in some of the most exciting times and places of the 20th century: London in the 1960s and New York in the 1970s and this energy is what makes the book flow. 

I’d love to hear what Elton John remembers. His shopping addiction seems to keep Tommy in pinstripe trousers for a while and his partying and 1970s wardrobe are all off the chart. 

David Nutter is still alive and living in New York, and while Tommy died in 1992, this end segment of the book is very emotional, the glamour and era makes this a must-read for anybody interested in not only men’s clothes, but photography, music and the fashion business.

House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row by Lance Richardson - Chatto & Windus - £25

Published in Fashion
Monday, 19 March 2018 13:29

Label To Know Basic Rights

Basic Rights Freddie Cowan The Vaccines The Chic Geek menswear

When I was shown a few pieces from ‘Basic Rights’, at a recent press day, I thought it was just another rich boy trying to reinvent the white T-shirt. Do we need more expensive basics when we’re quite happy with what we’ve got from Uniqlo and various other affordable retailers? Fast forward a few months and it’s clear this is something far more thoughtful and serious.

Left - Basic Rights SS18 inspired by Marrakech

high waist linen trousers Basic Rights Freddie Cowan The Vaccines The Chic Geek menswear

Founded by The Vaccines’ lead guitarist, Freddie Cowan, what may have started as a desire for a good T-shirt and trousers has flourished into a full tour wardrobe. Like any clever fashion entrepreneur, he’s enlisted a master architect to help with the design and cut of the pieces. 

Right - Basic Rights - High Waist Linen Trousers Brown - £160

Savile Row master tailor, David Chambers, who had previously made clothes for Freddie’s parents, and an expert with 50 years’ experience, is helping to translate Freddie’s ideas into form-fitting items.

Having learnt under Fred Astaire’s tailor and spent his apprenticeship making trousers at Anderson & Sheppard, he has made suits for David Hockney, Manolo Blahnik and Terrence Conran. Men who certainly know a thing or two about good design.

 

 

 

Basic Rights Freddie Cowan The Vaccines The Chic Geek menswear

Founded in 2016 in New York, Basic Rights is launching in the UK, this season, with a collection inspired by Marrakech. High waisted linen trousers, Western jackets and camp collar shirts are seen on a pair of models mirroring Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix.

Striped shirt Basic Rights Freddie Cowan The Vaccines The Chic Geek menswear

These items are simple yet have identity. Prices are good: £40 for a tee to £230 for a Western satin jacket. I’m excited about this brand purely because of the expertise of David. Finding a good pair of nicely fitting trousers is often very difficult. I have high hopes for these high waisted pairs and can’t wait to try them.

Right - Mick & Jimi fighting for their SS18 Basic Rights

Left - Striped Collarless Shirt - £110

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Published in Labels To Know

‘Potential’ is an overly optimistic word in fashion and there are many more disappointments than successes. When you work in this business you always have your eyes and ears open, listening and watching on social media, traditional media and on the street to see who people like and what they are doing.

Left - The pink suit is by Edward Sexton, one of the most stylish tailors in London

Somebody who I think has a lot of potential, in the realms of being a male clotheshorse, is Harry Styles. Apart from the social media hysteria, I didn’t take much notice of him when he was in One Direction, but he feels like he has huge potential to trail-blaze in menswear. Even as a five he always stood out, albeit slightly. 

Many of the things he wears are difficult or require believability and on most guys would look too try hard. Okay, so I may be reading too much into this, but, I remember Justin Timberlake leaving N-Sync, and he was on the cover of Arena Home Plus, the cover they had to reprint as it was too violent as Sept 11th had just happened, and I remember thinking "he was just another silly boyband member, he’s not cool enough for that magazine", but he quickly, thanks to that first album, graduated into an adult artist and so did his style. (Though his Tom Ford Suit & Tie section is still the best).

Back to Harry. Scream! He looks like a young Jagger, which is a plus. He’s sexy without it being about his body. It’s an intellectual form of sexy and the clothes correspond with this. 

Below - Harry on Graham Norton. He's partial to dragons on a flared trouser

And this isn’t just because there is no competition. Ed Sheeran, anybody?! Harry Styles was recently interviewed by The Sun and he was asked a few things about his appearance.

He said “I always love being comfortable. You should wear what makes you feel comfortable.

"It’s a really good opportunity to have fun - it’s clothes, it’s not a big deal.”

“It’s a good time to express yourself and have fun with it.”

“It’s one of those things that you shouldn’t take seriously. If you want to wear a pair of yellow trousers you can wear a pair of yellow trousers.”

Exactly. It feels a very relaxed approach and something that isn’t laboured over. Obviously he has a stylist, somebody has to do the leg work, but it feels like he’s choosing from the rail. It’s quite a British thing to not look at others and just do your own thing, instinctively in-sync with what’s going on.

At the moment it’s a mix of Gucci, which definitely isn't for the wallflower, and Edward Sexton, one of the greatest British tailors, who has dressed the majority of the Beatles and Mick Jagger over the years, but we’re hoping for an evolution as fashion moves on. It’ll show his eye and style/taste level if he can change without losing any of the cool factor.

Harry, TheChicGeek is watching you.

Left - Harry in those acid yellow trousers 

Published in Fashion

victoria & albert revolution exhibition mr fishThis major exhibition at the V&A will explore the era-defining significance and impact of the late 1960s upon life today. From global civil rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, consumerism, computing, communality to neoliberalist politics, the world we live in has been vitally influenced by five revolutionary years 1966 – 70. You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 70 will investigate the upheaval, the explosive sense of freedom, and the legal changes that took place resulting in a fundamental shift in the mindset of the Western world.

Left - Examples of 60s fashion including this striped suit by Mr Fish

Mick Jagger jumpsuit ossie clark exhibition the chic geek TheChicGeek says, “What a trip! We can never get enough of the sixties; a decade we look back at so fondly and one that defined modern Britain and revitalised London. The Victoria & Albert Museum certainly know where the money is these days: the baby-boomers who have all the time and leisure can reminisce here and let the memories come flooding back, or not depending on how hard they went for it during that decade.

Right - The moves like Jagger! Ossie Clark's velvet jumpsuit for Mick Jagger

beatles sergeant pepper lonely heart suits V&ATuning in and dropping out was for the wealthy, but we won’t let that spoil a good story. What makes this exhibition is the headphones and the soundtrack. Much like the Bowie exhibition before it, it allows you to be fully immersed and get lost in the sights and sounds of the decade.

Left - Two of the Beatles suits from the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover

woodstock fashion v&a museumThere’s nothing here that is particularly new, but it’s so well put together it’s a bit like watching a favourite film: you know what is going to happen but you still love it. From Carnaby Street to Vietnam to Black Power to Woodstock and finally Lennon’s Imagine, the exhibition looks at the idea of challenging the establishment and looking for alternative ways of thinking and living, many of which still resonate today.

Right - The Woodstock area features fake grass, bean bags and costumes and footage from the 1960s most famous festivals

John Lennon Imagine jacketThere is plenty of menswear here too. From Mr Fish to Ossie Clark’s jumpsuit for Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix’s festival costumes.

I can’t recommend this exhibition enough. I think it was the longest time I’ve ever spent in a V&A exhibition. There is so much to look at and read, plus the headphones really allow you to zone out and tune in!”

Left - The jacket John Lennon wore in the Imagine video

#RecordsandRebels

Published in Fashion
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 10:42

Book Review The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton Review A Life in FashionCecil Beaton was a true original. From the moment he arrived at Cambridge University in 1922 wearing an evening jacket, red shoes, black-and-white trousers and a large cravat, to his appearance nearly forty years later at Truman Capote’s 1970 Black and White Ball, Beaton expressed unmatched sartorial flamboyance and nonchalance. He held accounts with many Savile Row tailors, bought his hats from Herbert Johnson and Lock & Co and his shirts from Excello in New York. A testament to his stylistic significance, many elements of his wardrobe are today held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the V&A, London.

Below - Cecil Beaton & David Hockney in the conservatory at Reddish House, 1970

cecil beaton david hockney reddish house

Cecil Beaton Rabbit CoatTheChicGeek says, "This book came at a perfect time as I was already Pinning images of Beaton and his conservatory on my ChicGeek Pinterest page - here - and wanted to know/see more. A confirmed snob, photographer Cecil Beaton is better known for his subjects then for the man himself. Benjamin Wild's does his best with, in what I can only imagine to be, a limited supply amount of information, physical items and photographs. These things just weren't documented as much in those days. You almost want to bring Beaton into the 21st century and gorge yourself on images. I'm sure he'd be one for the selfie, if only to double check himself.

Left - 'Rabbit' coat made by Beaton, 1937

One of the best segments of the book is his reaction to his portraits. Showing his level of vanity, he didn't even like David Hockney's drawings. I'm pretty sure that Francis Bacon would have been a wise investment, if he'd liked it! 

The image of Beaton in his conservatory with David Hockney - above - is one of my all time favourite menswear images. It sums up the eccentric side of the English gentleman.

The book is a quick glimpse of one the 20th century's greatest social climbers and the taste level that allowed him to progress. Starting as one of the early 20th century's 'Bright Young Things' and living and working through a very exciting time in Britain, he seems the type of opinionated character worthy of reading their diary".

mick jagger chic geek cecil beatonThames & Hudson - £29.95 

Right - Beaton, James Fox & Mick Jagger on set of film Performance, 1968

Published in Fashion