Continuing our series profiling some of the great names in collectable vintage clothing from the 1920s to the 1980s including Ossie Clark, Zandra Rhodes, Lanvin, Versace, John Bates, Chanel and many many more.
This week we profile the Iconic Ossie Clark...
One of the most influential designers of the 60s and 70s, Ossie dressed the famous and the fashionable in designs as flamboyant as his personality. Clark didn’t have a head for business but he knew how to make women feel beautiful, earning his singular talent the title of ‘the master cutter,’ and a client list that reads like a who’s who of the post-war international jet-set: Twiggy, Penelope Tree, Marianne Faithfull, Talitha Getty, Bianca Jagger, Jean Shrimpton, Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minnelli.
He met his future wife and collaborator Celia Birtwell when they were both art students in Manchester; they went on to become one of the most successful design teams of the period, with Birtwell designing the prints that Ossie scissored into his trademark floating dresses. Clark’s 1965 MA graduation collection from the Royal College of Art, inspired by Bridget Riley’s Op Art discovered during a trip he took across America with friend David Hockney, launched his career and his clothes were featured in Vogue months after his student show.
Inspired by the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age and stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Ossie Clark’s dresses subtly retro evening dresses were sensuous and sinous, often bias-cut to cling to the body. His ensuring trademarks were painstaking workmanship and technical expertise, and he often boasted he could make anything, from a bra, to a dress, to a pair of shoes, entirely with his own hands. Unfortunately, this technical wizardry was also coupled with complete disregard for all financial matters: despite investing his considerable talents in a number of design labels, Clark was bankrupt and almost invariably scrabbling for funds throughout his career.
- 1942 Born Raymond Clark in Liverpool June 9
- Evacuated during the war to Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, hence nickname ‘Ossie’
- Making clothes by the age of ten with help from his mother
- 1958 Gained a place at the Salford School of Art in Manchester where he met future future wife and textile designer Celia Birtwell, and artist David Hockney
- 1962 Won a scholarship to the Royal College Of Art in London
- 1965 Graduated with the only first class degree awarded that year
- Three months later his graduation collection appeared in the August issue Vogue
- 1966 Creative collaboration begins with Celia Birtwell designing for Alice Pollock’s boutique, Quorum
- 1968 Quorum is burdened with debt and sold to fashion house Radley where the duo continue to design a diffusion line for the high street
- 1969 Clark and Birtwell get married
- 1975 Divorced from Celia
- 1996 Ossie is killed by his former lover Diego Cogolato