Meet Simon and Marijke – Two of The Beautiful People

1960s, Apple Boutique, Barry Finch, Boutiques, british boutique movement, celebrity boutiques, eric clapton, george harrison, granny takes a trip, Josje Leeger, marianne faithfull, Marijke Koger, mick jagger, Pattie Boyd, Rave, Simon Posthuma, The Beatles, The Fool

the-fool-1The world of pop artists Simon and Marijke is indeed strange—their philosophy is to spread the influence of art over every aspect of civilized society, to produce a world throbbing with colour, light and beautiful things—but are we ready for them and their way of life? Will they make it, or will they disappear into the realms of history? Jeremy Pascall visited them to find out!

Officially the street nameplate says “Montague Square”. Unofficially it says “George Harrison is the best Beatle” in felt-tip pen. Just up the road Patti Harrison’s orange and yellow mini is parked. Beneath the sun-hot pavement of the quiet London square is a cool basement area. Set into the wall is a blue-painted door with gold stars scattered across it. A small sign says “Love, special delivery!”

Behind the door is a large, calm flat, at the centre of which is a big, open room, bright with rainbow paintings, fragrant with incense and flowers, loud with music, and alive with happy, talking, laughing people.

Here two young Dutch painters, Simon and Marijke, hold court. Their boon companions are Barry and Josje. Their courtiers include the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Graham Nash, the Cream and the rest of London’s most beautiful people.

But this is not just a court, it is a painter’s power-house, a beauty factory. Simon, Marijke, Josje and Barry are part of a new generation of artists. Pop artists who are using pop music and stars and fashion to bring their work before us. If you’ve ever seen the Cream, opened the “Sgt. Pepper” cover, or bought the latest Hollies’ album you’ll have seen their work. And you’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the future.

Simon (pronounced Simone) Posthuma is twenty-eight. He was born the year that war broke out, and remembers the Germans being kind to him. “I turned them on”, he said and smiled. This is Simon’s mission, to turn everyone on to beauty and colour.

The son of a policeman (he admits to this with an ironic chuckle; his later life has shown that he and the police don’t always see eye to eye), Simon was an early drop-out, leaving school because “we didn’t under-stand each other”. He then went through every conceivable job. For a time he was an art student, “but they threw me out because they said I had no talent!”

Despite this set-back he continued to paint. “I’ve always painted, experimented, progressed, tried to find what I want to say.” At first his work was conventional landscapes and portraits, but he soon evolved his own highly individual (and now much copied) style of brilliant rainbow colours and patterns.

Four years ago the gently rebellious artist met Marijke (pronounced Marracca) Koger, than a commercial, but not very happy, artist working in an advertising agency. They clicked in every way and started creating happenings with the help of their growing circle of friends consisting of musicians, writers and artists.

Between them Simon and Marijke really stirred up Amsterdam. “We did some crazy, beautiful things, man,” Simon said in his soft, Dutch accent. “We organised evening happenings when we took over a house, and had music and dancing and action painting. One day we went out into the street and painted it gold. Crazy!”

Simon and Marijke were joined in their “rainbow circle” by Josje (pronounced Yosha) Leeger. Josje, an old school friend of Marijke, was already established as a designer in Holland, and her clothes reflect the beautifully bizarre, freely fanciful ideas of the group. The clothes are made of different coloured fabrics and materials. Like styled patchwork quilts and up-dated gypsy costumes, jesters’ motley and troubadours’ shreds and patches.

And so they were three—Simon, Marijke and Josje. They had good things going for them in Amsterdam — a boutique and exhibitions — but they wanted to get out and so Simon and Marijke went to Morocco and Greece and then decided that London was for them.

But at first London wasn’t sure if they were right for it! They weren’t readily accepted. “We got very annoyed about it at first, but then we got to know the people at ‘Granny Takes A Trip’, and through them we met hip P.R. man Barry Finch, who was looking for someone to design the programme for the Saville Theatre.”

Simon and Marijke came, he saw, they conquered, and that was the start! They designed the programme cover for the Saville, started meeting the most influential people in pop, fell under the patronage of the Beatles and never looked back.

Barry became manager of the romantic duo. The Beatles asked them to submit designs for their “Sgt. Pepper” cover. They did the full job, including a fearsome cut-out mask, but only the inner sleeve design was used.

Simon, Marijke, Josje and Barry have created their own little world, a prototype for what they want us all to have. It’s a sprawling, open flat, centred around a long hallway and communal room. Most of the business of living is carried on in this room, where visitors are made welcome. Unlike the classic picture of an artist’s home, the apartment is remarkably clean and tidy.

In the main room, be-decked with samples of their work, Simon and Marijke hold court. A record player in the corner drones Ravi Shankar, “a present from George”. Marijke hands round sweet little Indian cakes—”A present from Ravi”. Somehow the tiny community seems utterly cut off from the bustle of London and it is no surprise when Mick, Marianne and Patti wander in to savour the tranquillity.

Surrounded by the things and the people they love, they gently, persuasively expound their philosophy, and outline their plans.

It is a philosophy based on love. “The essence is love. Love will grow, spread until the whole world is turned on to it. Love will not die. Everybody must turn on.

“There are people who don’t understand and walk away, but the next day they find out a new part of what is happening. To them it appears that it’s all happening at once, but in fact it’s the culmination of years. People react to us; in Paris they shouted rude words at us and we smiled back, but it didn’t happen in London. Anyway we’re in a different society, we mix with people who think like us, we stay in our headquarters all the time, work all the time.

“What is the ultimate? Paradise, living for each other. No dirty cities. We will change back to country communities where money won’t be necessary, we’ll work for each other. Who’ll do all the work? Computers. Eventually computers will show we don’t need computers!

“The old leaders are dying. Soon there will be new leaders. No, not leaders — spiritual mentors. This is the divine plan,” said Simon.

The philosophy sounds muddled and naive but it’s spoken in all sincerity. Simon speaks wonderingly of Eastern mystics who can perform miracles, produce castles out of the air. Charmingly childlike, but they have exciting plans afoot.

There will soon be an exhibition of Simon’s work, followed by the opening of a boutique and a film or theatre venture.

Boutique isn’t quite the word. The shop will be more of an environment. Simon and Marijke think that pop, fashion, art and design have been too separate in the past. They want to bring them all together under one roof. It would be nice to see people walking around in their fabulous clothes, hanging their beautiful paintings on the walls (posters will soon be available) and accepting their philosophy. But are we ready for it yet?

All colour, fun, love, beauty. Gold streets! Why not? That’s how it feels to be one of the beautiful people!

Some wonderful photos of The Fool which I hadn’t seen before. Interesting to read about their plans for their boutique (the-here-unnamed Apple Boutique) which would open only a couple of months after this was published and closed six months later.

Photographer uncredited.

Scanned by Miss Peelpants from Rave Magazine, September 1967.


Cathy McGowan’s Boutique

1960s, biba, british boutique movement, cathy mcgowan, celebrity boutiques, Foale and Tuffin, ossie clark, personal collection

One of my treasured pieces of fashion ‘ephemera’ is a flimsy paper catalogue for Cathy McGowan’s boutique range of clothes, which launched in 1965. I was pleased for it to be used in Richard Lester’s new book Boutique London: A History: King’s Road to Carnaby Street but, since only the front page was scanned and featured, I thought I ought to scan and share the rest of it!

Cathy ended up getting married in an amazing Celia-print Ossie Clark dress, but at this point she was alternating between Foale and Tuffin and Biba for presenting Ready Steady Go!. You can see a definite Foale and Tuffin influence in these clothes, I think, and I have often wondered how ‘proper’ designers at the time felt about these strange new celebrity “boutiques”.

Twiggy: more than a keyword….

british boutique movement, celebrity boutiques, sixties, twiggy, website listings

Twiggy’s own label was a brief, beautiful contribution to the world of the British Boutique Movement. Click here to see my previous blog about it. The pieces are rare enough, but it can often be hard to find them online when her name has become merely a ‘keyword’ for the masses of unlabelled minis and hacked off maxis floating around in vintage land.

However, Vintage-a-Peel always seeks to bring clarity to the vintage world, so I don’t use such keywords. Except now I have an actual Twiggy dress for sale, so I can. Hurrah! Stunning striped cotton mini with blue satin buttons down the front to match the blue satin ribbon around the waistline. I love the tiny, ever-so-sweet detail of the top button though, which is covered to match the fabric of the dress. It’s even lined in cotton; a detail which would simply never occur to anyone nowadays (and is far nicer than supposedly high-end designer pieces even from the Sixties!). Wearable and so sweet, but also immensely rare and collectable.

Now listed over at Vintage-a-Peel

Sandie Shaw Boutique

1960s, cathy mcgowan, celebrity boutiques, jeff banks, personal collection, sandie shaw, twiggy

The other day I promised to show my Sandie Shaw dress. It’s a navy wool crepe with a very nifty little double layered collar (the top layer being in white moss crepe).

I can’t promise this will be a terribly long or informative blog post, because there’s so little information out there about the label. It opened in 1967 and, needless to say, Sandie didn’t design the dresses and shoes (although she had full ‘approval’). I suspect it didn’t last very long, much like Twiggy and Cathy McGowan’s boutique labels. Perhaps there was deemed a conflict of interests when she married designer Jeff Banks in 1968?

Sandie opening her boutique in 1967

I will make Sandie one of my Fashion Icons at some point, whereupon I shall write more comprehensively (if I ever do such a thing) about her and her style. But if any of you are not familiar with our girl, I should probably tell you that her trademark was to sing barefoot. So much was made of the fact that her label was producing shoes!

The images have been taken from footage shown in the BBC’s Queens of Pop programme.

Yes Sandie, I’d be grimacing if they put me in a wig like that!

A screengrab cannot truly capture the seriously groovy Sixties dancing going on at this point.

Ouch, bunions ahoy!

Little Miss Hornby and a gap now filled

1960s, british boutique movement, celebrity boutiques, eye candy, personal collection, twiggy, vintage fangirl squee

As many of you know from reading my blog and my website, I’m quite a keen collector as well as a seller. Together with the fact that I love wearing British Boutique-era clothing as well, it’s a wonder I ever sell anything. But thankfully, for you, I do and I don’t hold back the good stuff either. But occasionally, with something magnificent and as yet unrepresented in my collection, I do decide to buy something for myself and myself alone. It’s my ambition to have a representative collection of British Boutique designers and boutiques, some designers I will always have more than others because I have more of an interest in their career. But for some, one representative piece is all I can possibly hope for (or even afford). Like Thea Porter, or Bill Gibb…….or now, Twiggy.

Twiggy’s own label started in 1966, designed by RCA graduates Pam Proctor and Paul Babb, as one of the many ways in which Twiggy and her manager/boyfriend Justin De Villeneuve could utilize her fame and bankability. Twiggy was eager to be involved in the entire process of the clothes production, as a keen home dressmaker and frustrated designer herself, and this means that it was perhaps one of the better made and most genuinely stylish celebrity boutique labels of the time. Originally the idea had been mooted by Berkertex, but when Twiggy realised they were simply wanting to put her name on an existing range of clothes with no input by her, she turned to the Taramina Textiles firm. Smaller but happy to leave the creative decisions to the Twiggy camp and the two designers.

“We made sure the dresses were really good and they were all things that I would be happy to wear. I still think it was a very good, young collection of clothes–cat-suits, print shifts gathered under the bust, Bermuda-length jump suits, shirt dresses with long pointed collars, jersey culotte dresses, a pinstripe gangster style trouser suit–and all for between six and twelve guineas.” Twiggy by Twiggy (p51)

The launch was promoted by Twiggy’s only catwalk appearance and photographs taken by the legendary Barry Lategan.

Sadly, the small British manufacturers behind the label were unable to keep up with the demand the Twiggy line had produced in both Europe and the USA and the line eventually folded by the end of the decade. This leaves the label as one of the rarest and most highly sought after boutique brands of the time, due to the iconic status of Twiggy and the brevity of its existence.

I was overjoyed to finally get me a piece of Twiggy’s range, it had been a glaring hole in my collection so far. Then a few days later, I was sorting out my image files on my computer and found these photos of Twiggy actually wearing the dress in question. Unfortunately it does show me that the sleeves have been hacked off at some point…..but honestly, I care not! I have photos of Twiggy in my dress and as any regular readers will know, I’m slightly obsessed with original photos and particularly of the designers in or with the garments in question.

Don’t mind me, I’m just doing a little happy dance here!