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Innovation

Detail of snakeskin jacket Detail of dress 1971 Detail of dress 1970 Detail of photograph of Quorum show 1970

Ossie Clark attracted style-conscious clients to London, offering them a fresh alternative to staid, traditional couture and reinforcing the city's position as a leading fashion centre. Clark was an explorer, discovering new shapes, silhouettes and textures. The same imagination that designed the midi- as well as the maxiskirt also composed romantic gowns of gauzy chiffon. Trousers for women, still forbidden at the grand hotels, were transformed into fashion essentials.

Like other designers of the period, Ossie Clark used an extraordinary range of surface decoration - embroidery, appliqué, beads and lacing. But beyond the typical enthusiasms of 1960s dressing, Clark welcomed the challenge of working with unusual materials such as snakeskin. In addition, he fearlessly mixed different prints in the same garment and branched out to design a limited but popular range of menswear.

Photograph of dress combining variety of prints

Dress 1970

Ossie Clark was unafraid to combine different prints in a single garment. The dress in this photograph uses a bold floral pattern combined with a star motif for the waist tie and a grid pattern for the bodice ruffles.

Photograph courtesy of Norman Parkinson Ltd, Fiona Cowan

Elaborate glam rock jacket

Ensemble 1979

By the end of the 1970s Ossie Clark had stopped designing commercially. Alice Pollock dissolved her partnership with him in 1973 and his marriage ended the following year. Clark attempted to revive his career, but without success. Nevertheless, the elaborate quilting of this glam-rock jacket is characteristic of some of his best work.

Kid leather and lace
Given by Ossie Clark in memory of Professor Janey Ironside
Museum no. T.231-B-1979

Dress from 1971

Dress 1971

The skirt of this dress is cleverly pieced together from two different lengths of fabric, a small multicolour floral print and a bolder red poppy print. They coil around the figure in two continuous strands. This construction demonstrates Clark's superb understanding of the interaction between clothes and a woman's body.

Printed crêpe de chine
Print by Celia Birtwell
Lent by Alfred Radley
(This is not on display)

 

3 models one wearing the 1971 dress described above

Photograph of three models

The model on the right of this photograph is wearing the dress featured above.

Photograph courtesy of British Vogue. Photographer David Montgomery
(This is not on display)

brown and black snakeskin jacket

Jacket 1967

Shown here is one of Ossie Clark's innovations: snakeskin clothing. In 1966 Clark discovered rolls of unused snakeskin in a warehouse. The designs that resulted - subtle exoticism in classic shapes - were an instant success. The unexpected material updates the bomber shape.

Watersnake jacket
Lent by Celia Birtwell

suit with embroidered strawberries, modelled by Jean Shrimpton

Lounge suit 1971

Ossie Clark experimented with different embroidery techniques. Here a scattering of embroidered strawberries animates a lounge suit modelled by Jean Shrimpton.

Photograph courtesy of British Vogue.
Photographer Clive Arrowsmith

Dress, black chiffon and red tulip print

Dress 1971

An Ossie Clark design could be both delicate and complex. In this romantic creation, he enlivens a simple shape with a single spiral of ruffles. Winding its way around the body, it creates the impression of layer upon layer of fabric

Printed chiffon
Lent by Celia Birtwell

Cream dress with purple floral print

Dress 1970

Cream chiffon dress with purple floral print.

Lent by Alfred Radley
(This is not on display)

PHOTOGRAPHY 1968-1969

Ossie Clark was interested in the power of photography as a creative medium. In the late 1960s he collaborated with the photographer Jim Lee in finding new and unexpected ways to present his clothes.

With suggestions from Clark and unfettered by editorial rules, Lee produced a series of provocative images. These narrative scenes contrast markedly with mainstream fashion photographs of Clark's work. Lee used some of Clark's favourite models such as Kerri-Ann Jagger and Gala Mitchell. Several of these images became posters in the Quorum shop.

Photograph 1968-1969

Photograph 1968-1969

Courtesy of Jim Lee

Photograph 1968-1969

Photograph 1968-1969

Courtesy of Jim Lee

Photograph 1968-1969

Photograph 1968-1969

Courtesy of Jim Lee

Photograph 1968-1969

Photograph 1968-1969

Courtesy of Jim Lee

Photograph 1968-1969

Photograph 1968-1969

Courtesy of Jim Lee

CATWALK SHOWS

Breaking free of traditional fashion shows, with their calm, measured presentation, Ossie Clark turned his shows into theatrical events. They were held at venues like the Albert Hall and Dingwalls dance hall in Camden. In attendance were rock stars and artists, the rich and the fashionable.

The Vogue photograph shows celebrities and top models dancing down the catwalk. The programme for the 1971 show at the Royal Court theatre was designed by David Hockney. Fashion journalist Suzy Menkes said of the show,'It was the most extraordinary moment in fashion history.'

Quorum show, Spring 1970

Quorum show 1970

Quorum show, Spring 1970 at Chelsea Town Hall. Amanda Lear at the front of the runway, wears a silk chiffon wrap-around dress, printed in charcoal grey and pale pink. Janey Ironside is at the far left with her arms raised. It was at this show that one of the models had to be dragged off the stage because she wouldn't leave.

Photograph courtesy of British Vogue.
Photographer Annette Green

Poster for Quorum show 1973

Poster for the Quorum show at Dingwalls, 1973 featuring Josephine Baker.