The fashion designer and musician talks exclusively to the Alumni Association about how his student years moulded him, his collaboration with David Bowie and taking the world by storm through being a risk taker.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp Remembers ’80s Fashion
from WWD issue 05/13/2015 By Jean E. Palmieri
Gary Kemp could have been a fashion historian. But he had another career in mind.
Kemp was the brains behind the Eighties supergroup Spandau Ballet. The band, which was formed in London in the late Seventies, emerged as one of the most successful of its time, racking up 10 hit singles, including “True,” “Gold” and “Only When You Leave,” and charting eight top-10 albums.
Spandau Ballet’s career is being chronicled in a new documentary called “Soul Boys of the Western World,” which had its premiere last week.
Although their music was part of the Eighties London scene, Spandau Ballet was just as well-known for its fashion. The band members — who include Kemp’s brother Martin Kemp, as well as lead singer Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble — helped ignite a major fashion moment in the U.K. along with Duran Duran and Boy George.
Called New Romanticism, the movement traces its roots to the nightclub scene in London around 1979 and is alternately known as Blitz kids. That reference comes from a popular underground club called the Blitz, where the Spandau Ballet boys spent their time and developed their style. It helped put London fashion back on the map in a way it hadn’t been since the Swinging Sixties.
But Gary Kemp’s interest in fashion started much earlier than Blitz.
“My dad was a teddy boy — he was a rock ’n’ roller,” he said. “He spent all the spare cash he could, as a young man, buying or finding clothes.”
It didn’t take Kemp long to follow in those footsteps.
“Your education wasn’t your statement; your job wasn’t your statement; your clothes were your statement,” he said.
Kemp said kids at that time were “looking for tribes,” and by hitting clubs such as the Blitz, they could find like-minded people. “There’s a line where pop culture and youth culture go hand-in-hand that goes back to the beginning of rock ’n’ roll in London,” he said. “For example, The Who represented Mod culture. It was a very English thing, with club kids dressing up in Italian suits, riding scooters,” he said. “It was acquisitive, aspirational.”
That moved into psychedelics with “the peacock look,” he continued, “and that would have been represented by Pink Floyd.” From there, it was the punk-rock-inspired outfits designed by Vivienne Westwood, for the Sex Pistols. “Punk was really an art-school-designed cult,” Kemp recalled.
But the real “seminal moment” for Kemp was when David Bowie emerged onto the scene with his “Glam Rock” fashion. “That’s when I came in really. I wanted to look like him. I wanted my mom to make me some pants that made me look like Bowie.”
He cut his hair and wore makeup and embraced Bowie’s androgynous look. “We’d all grown up with Ziggy Stardust,” he said. “But there were no stores to buy it. In a way, it was a mix-and-match dressing-up, stolen from history.”
Kemp said it was all about “looking outrageous, looking different, standing out from the crowd. It was definitely a combination of gay and straight, working-class and middle-class art student. We weren’t inventing clothing to be in a band, we were kids wearing those clothes and then stepping up onto the stage. This was youth culture inspiring pop culture,” said Kemp.
Once their careers took off, the Spandau Ballet boys became the trendsetters. “We were drawing the attention of news reporters and photographers and High Street stores. Princess Diana was wearing Pie Crust high-collar shirts and knickerbockers. Designers were looking to the street and Soho, and we were the focus of fashion coming out of Soho.”
During the band’s “True” tour, in 1983, their fashion changed and became dressier.
“Whatever we did became High Street, so we started to do something else.” Specifically, zoot suits.
But Kemp said he actually preferred the look that came after, during the group’s “Parade” tour, around 1984. “It was much more Baroque. I think what happened is that as we became a successful touring band, we were no longer those kids in the street, we were no longer going to those clubs. Even though London is an exciting place, all of those poor Blitz kids were becoming rich kids because they were becoming successful.”
So Spandau Ballet embraced the start of the designer movement, turning to Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons.
So what does Kemp think of fashion today?
“I’m disappointed at the homogenization of looks. You don’t see young kids coming up with many ideas of their own. They can create their identity on their Facebook page or their Instagram site. They don’t need to create it on the street. They don’t need to find their tribe by going out in a uniform and going to a club. They can do that on the Internet.”
But he still remains hopeful.
“I’d love to go to Soho and see a bunch of kids come around the corner dressed like they just walked out of a Dickens novel or something like that.”
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
BLITZ KIDS FLASH BACK: KEANAN DUFFTY
By the Students of Central Saint Martins
By the Students of Central Saint Martins
Monday, May 11, 2015
by David Laurie, MD of boutique record label, Something In Construction
Concerning my book, on the subject of David Bowie's not inconsiderable influence upon Synthpop, the olde worlde and the new and all of us...
DARE is the 1st book from David Laurie, MD of boutique record label, Something In Construction.
It’s about Synthpop and how David Bowie, Kraftwerk and cheap synths displaced rock'n'roll, forever changed what it meant to be "in a band" and invented Modern Pop: It focuses on 1979-1982.
Something In Construction [aka SIC Records] is celebrating its 10th year in 2015. SIC has released music by AIR FRANCE, MEMORY TAPES, THE CONCRETES, LONEY DEAR, ANR and more recently HOLY STRAYS, ENJOYED, PIANO WIRE and the legendary SHAUN RYDER. It has been nominated for a Grammy and developed into a management company and now a music publishing company (in partnership with Beggars).
A fresh look at how the arrival of synthesizers fuelled an incredibly creative time for Pop Music and why the "plastic music" of the early 80s is so very durable and influential.
Go on, I'm listening....
DARE focusses on 1979-1982 and takes a look back to the dizzying excitement of this time in Pop Music.
After the endless drab and grey of the 70s - microchips were suddenly everywhere: in the home, on your wrist and powering the Synthesizers that changed everything in Pop.
The Top Twenty filled up with all kinds of weird and wonderful hits, week after week. Each new Smash Hits and the Top Of The Pops was an unmissable feast for the eyes and ears.
It really felt like the sic-fi future was finally arriving.
How so, David?
A handful of ambitious electronic albums from David Bowie and Kraftwerk in the late Seventies, coupled with newly affordable computer technology, forever changed what it meant to be "In A Band" and taught Pop Music a whole new language.
This is the tale of how Synthpop rendered Rock’n’Roll redundant almost overnight and how Britain fell in love with the Bleep.
The unprecedented genius of The Human League, New Order, Simple Minds, ABC, OMD, The Cure, Japan, Duran, Depeche Mode et al achieved what Punk had failed to. A massively successful and largely British musical revolution, packed with freaks and weirdos that redrew the generation gap and took Pop on a much needed quantum leap into the future.
This New Pop reached its dizzying creative peak in 1982 as band adfter band rocketed from the relative obscurity of a John Peel session into the flashbulb glare of Top Of The Pops. These Pop peacocks were splashed in brilliant technicolour over the covers of both Smash Hitsand NME and soon set their sights on America...but at what price?
This very entertaining book describes how the exotic and enduring records of this incendiary Year Zero changed everything and continue to inspire your favourite new artists today.
Are you in the book, then?
No. Not really. OK, a little bit. Music has been my life and this period changed everything for me. I was 14 in 1982, living in an endlessly damp, grey South Wales. This glittering New Pop music blew my mind week after week and led me down the rocky path to becoming an A&R Man and running my own record label, SOMETHING IN CONSTRUCTION.
I'll tell the story of this computerised musical revolution, examine the records and the effect they had and continue to have. I'm an "insightful Music Biz veteran" now, with a fresh perspective on the art and business of Pop, but still addicted to buying new records every week and still very much in touch with that wide-eyed teenager.
01. “HEROES” 1974-1978: The Back Story Of Modern Pop Music.
KRAFTWERK NEU BOWIE MORODER BLONDIE SPARKS
02. DAWNING OF A NEW ERA 1979-1982: After the grey Seventies, dour English eccentrics start to reach for the fun, the colour and the glamour.
THE JAM, THE SPECIALS, ADAM AND THE ANTS :
03. THE SOUND OF THE CROWD 1979-1981: Synthpop arrives. Pop Music takes a quantum leap into the future.
GARY NUMAN, OMD, ULTRAVOX, SOFT CELL, THE HUMAN LEAGUE
04. TEMPTATION 1981-1982: Funk Gets Serious, Disco Is Exhumed. How Synthpop, Funk and Disco hypnotised all the cool guitar bands
ORANGE JUICE, NEW ORDER, PiL, GANG OF FOUR + NEIL YOUNG
05. MAD WORLD 1982: The floodgates open; brilliant new Pop groups spring up all over Britain. Smash Hits bounces them into the Top Twenty.
ABC, ASSOCIATES, TEARS FOR FEARS, YAZOO, TALK TALK
06. GHOSTS 1982: The Top Twenty welcomes all sorts of odd things. How did these non-singles become massive hits?
JAPAN, MONSOON, GRACE JONES, LAURIE ANDERSON
07. FLOORSHOW 1980-1982: Even Goth’s moths are drawn to the bright light of the Top Forty.
BAUHAUS, THE CURE, THE SISTERS OF MERCY, SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES
08. DUCK ROCK 1981-1982: Punks import Hip Hop and Electro from New York. Black culture freshens up Pop music. Again.
MALCOLM MCLAREN, AFRIKAA BAMBAATA, THE CLASH
09. NEW GOLD DREAM 1982-1984: Rejecting Rock’n’Roll, The Big Music, Shimmering & Modern. The new European Canon tilts at stadiums.
SIMPLE MINDS, THE BUNNYMEN, U2, PETER GABRIEL, KATE BUSH
10. AVALON 1982-1985: In Pursuit Of Production Perfection. Months in Montserrat. Luxury as commodity. The real Eighties kick in.
ROXY MUSIC, DURAN DURAN, SCRITTI POLITTI DARE:
11. THRILLER 1983-1985: Economies Of Scale. Kajagoogoo vs Prince. Corporate Pop, CDs, Now That’s Not What I Call Music.
MICHAEL JACKSON, MADONNA, PRINCE, CDs, MTV
12. MANY HAPPY RETURNS 1980-2014: The persistence of Duran Duran and the perpetual Eighties revival
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, LA ROUX, HOT CHIP, THE KILLERS