Lloyd Johnson: The Modern Outfitter Chelsea Space 24/1/12
Scenester is rarely driven to do anything by a sense of pure nostalgia, but this evening, he thought he’d make an exception. With Mme. Scenester at his side, your pal and man about town, took a short tube trip from his vile chambers to Pimlico, to catch a sneak preview of this timely exhibition of the classic work of Lloyd Johnson, The Modern Outfitter.
Curated by Paul Gorman, whose style tome ‘The Look’ is reviewed elsewhere on Scenester’s website, this exhibition celebrates Lloyd’s long career in fashion, from the sixties right through to the nineties. Utilising printed material, a replica shop front, video, but first and foremost, the clothes themselves, your narrator was transported back to several fashion eras he remembers with affection, and several he barely remembers at all, in the space of a few footfalls.
The entrance lobby houses some of the earliest work available, with highly patterned tank tops and wildly printed shirts, all a long way from the often sterotyped fashions that feature in most look- backs to the fertile decades of the sixties and seventies. The ‘Soup Cans’ print shirt is so emblematic of the sixties; it ought to have a preservation order on it. The stunning ‘Sea Cruise’ jacket, from the ‘Johnson & Johnson’ era, with its multiple palm tree motifs, is a design classic of its own kind. The ’Top Hat’ print suit, covered in images of Fred & Ginger, is pictured worn by none other than Fred Astaire, in a shot from 1973. Such outsize motifs would later become much common in mainstream fashion, and usually on shirts, rather than suits. The shirts of this era threw all caution to the wind, with spaniel-ear collars, and shades and hues that guaranteed they would not be worn by the average fellow, even if he knew where to get them.
In this age of digital business cards and online shopping, it’s easy to forget that business was once a much more word-of-mouth, hands-on affair. The curling business cards for ‘Cockell & Johnson’, ‘Johnson & Johnson’ and’ Johnson’s‘, and the browning press clippings from long-folded newspapers were welcome survivors from an age of letter compositors and offset litho printers.
Elsewhere in the rooms, editions of ‘The Face’, ‘Ms London’, and others, show off Johnson’s increasingly broad range of clothes for the modern gent, and more rarely, lady. The statuesque figure of Siouxsie Sioux models the Japanese-influenced designs of the early 80’s whilst the youthful members of Madness walk low in box jackets and, what else, but baggy trousers.
Johnson’s enthusiasm to revisit classic designs is nowhere better demonstrated than with three stunning examples of Rock ‘n’ Roll revival clothing, set up as if for sale, in the turned wood and red plate glass reproduction shop front that adorns the main room. A T-yoke jacket in leather and hide, as worn by Jerry Lee Lewis, is set aside a riotous gold fringed leather jacket that both Lux Interior and Liza Minelli have sported, with an easy on the eye powder-blue 50’s suit making up the more restrained part of this trio. These striking outfits were displayed on vintage mannequins, with quiffs to match, as were some of the leathers Johnson’s made for the ladies, the figures complete with beehive hairdos.
High on the walls, we see a wide selection of Johnson’s imaginative take on the leather jacket, with layered leather shapes, often in contrasting colours, applied to the jacket’s body, and painted images from war comics and rock ‘n’ roll iconography all contributing to a near-unique garment for the biker with more than a touch of individuality. Many of the jackets had an aged look applied to them, to give the impression that they had been made in an earlier era, and so it was a double delight to see how well they are now ageing, this time for real.
The earthy, fetishistic imagery of Rock ‘n’ Roll pervaded much of the exhibition, with vintage record labels and totemic motorcycle manufacturers logos printed onto the backs of jackets, panels of animal print fun-fur inserted into leathers, bristling with studs and clanking with chain mail, and t-shirts heavy with all-over prints of skulls, guns, knives and grimly fiendish patterns, all paying tribute to the era that inspired them, but with added camp twists that were only for the brave. Some readers may remember that 80’s pop royalty dressed from the store, from the Stray Cats in their peg trousers and short sleeved shirts, to Paul Young in his shiny blue suit to George Michael in that biker jacket. Perhaps you did too?
Lloyd Johnson: The Modern Outfitter runs at the Chelsea Space, 16 John Islip Street London SW1P 4JU until 3rd March 2012.
Scenester – 29/1/12
Originally posted 2012-02-03 12:15:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter