Duran Therapy (Or, Where Have All The New Romantic Boys Gone?)

1980s, Duran Duran, John Taylor, Ms Peelpants' rants, new romantic

Being as I am rather in a bad mood with men at the moment (but only the ones who’ve actually ‘done me wrong’, dear possible male readers -assuming I have *some* male readers- not you sterling chaps) and the weather is making me flop rather than pop, I’m seeking therapy in all forms. My current favourite type is Duran Duran.

I’m in a bit of an Eighties mood at the moment. Proper Eighties though. Proper New Romantic extravagance which could, quite frankly, be from any era and was itself a version of Glam Rock (my usual homeland). But the electric beats and boys with big hair and make-up are currently floating my boat. Although, saying that, a gift-wrapped Gene Hunt wouldn’t go amiss either.

A few weeks ago I went to Liverpool to see the Durans and, thankfully, my slightly obscured view of the stage (get some raised seating, Echo Arena!!) had one exception of a nearly perfect tunnel view of John Taylor. Who might just be the most beautiful man ever to have lived.

I’ve had a thing for him ever since View To A Kill, and that naughty little eyebrow raise after his shooting frenzy. My main squeeze as a five year old (I started young) was Morten Harket, so I never obsessed about John T. as much as I might. My taste has also, latterly, tended to lean towards the slightly more unconventional looking men of the world. But when Double D made a comeback with Ordinary World and Come Undone in the early 90s, I completely fell in love with his slightly more rugged prettiness and *that* excessively ruffled shirt from the latter video. I’m not sure it gets much sexier than that?

[Some kindly soul has also created a compilation of swoonworthy John Taylor moments on YouTube (for serious fans only).]

Now, thanks to the lovely Miss Senti and Penny Lane [the best possible type of groupie and the loveliest gals I could hope to meet], I’ve taken to occasional forays into New Romanticism at Electric Dreams nights. There’s nothing more wonderful for someone like me, who was born at completely the wrong time, than to dress up authentically with kindred spirits without a care and to lose yourself in music which makes your heart skip a beat. I want to do it with every era I possibly can. It’s the most amazing feeling.

My profile picture to the right is from the last time we went (I wore Sarah Whitworth and had the side hair-do) and this time I wore a dress by Symphony of Shadows and unfortunately it was so hot I had no choice but to put my hair up (which feels desperately unnatural to me…).

We do totally lose ourselves in the era. Watching Duran Duran and Adam Ant videos, laughing at Nick Rhodes’ clear revulsion at location filming (regard the length at which he holds his sparkler away from his hair in this video) and what it must do to his hair and make-up, cooing at John Taylor’s cheekbones, running away screaming in horror at Simon’s hair and clothes in the All She Wants Is video and booing every time possible Duran screentime is wasted on models, children and Andy Taylor.

So on Sunday when I emerged from the Eighties cocoon we had created this weekend, I found myself anticipating people looking a certain way. I was expected to see big, highlighted hair and mascara on each and every man I walked past. Oh! the crushing disappointment when each and every one failed me. I don’t even want to go to Hoxton,
before anyone says it, because they just don’t do it properly. In fact, no one does it properly. Even at the Electric Dreams night. The men just don’t make an effort.

Where are all the New Romantic boys?

If you find one, please return him to me immediately. A-thank you.

Le Sigh

Ms Peelpants' rants

Mes amies,

I have but one word for the, I assume, competitor who clicked my Google sponsored link 18 times in the space of five minutes.


That is all.

Miss Peelpants

Word to the wise…

Ms Peelpants' rants

…if you’re going to engage in a bit of label-swapping, which of course is fraud and completely illegal – not merely a ‘folly’ of vintage dealing, when it comes to Biba it would help if you didn’t use the relaunch label from the 90s. That’s all I’m sayin’……


Leelee Sobieski: Very fab, not very fug

celebrities in vintage, Ms Peelpants' rants

Cherie over at Shrimpton Couture has already ranted about how wrong and occasionally narrowminded the Fug Girls can be. For the most part, yes the clothes are ridiculous and deserve a public fugging. Sometimes though, you can detect a mild aroma of desperation with some of the choices. After all, the girls must be struggling to fug enough times in a day.

Take, for example, this stunning red dress worn by Leelee Sobieski (errrr…who? I have a feeling she was in Never Been Kissed…..but that’s about it for my knowledge of who she is). I would point out to Leelee that visible bras are occasionally fine (just occasionally, mind!) but certainly not with a plunge dress. And certainly not with a plunge dress so damn fabulous in its own right. Is it vintage? It certainly has a slight Ossie vibe to it, but honestly I’ve given up trying to spot real vintage from the modern repros….I’m sorry, I mean, original designs which just accidentally happen to look like vintage designs. Cough.

Anyway, take away the cruddy bra and you’ve got a fabulous look there. The red dress, the red shoes, the billowing sleeves…mmmmm. The kind of ‘together’ look to which I aspire, and which the fug girls usually claim to promote.

Ossie Clark’s Sons May Sue….

celia birtwell, Ms Peelpants' rants, ossie clark

My flatmate left this article out this morning for me, and I must admit that I punched the air a little bit. I can’t even begin to imagine how painful this all must be for them, it’s painful enough as a fan of the great man himself, to see your father’s memory being tainted and exploited by a tacky relaunch. I also read an article with Celia in the Independent where she skirted around the gross insult that this relaunch is with her trademark steely tact. Yet, in an article in the ES magazine (which oddly fell into my hands on the tube on Sunday night, and entertained me when I noticed the fallen frayed hem on one of the dresses in the background) the twosome spearheading this revival bleated on about how Celia had come around to the idea.

“Celia came along to meet Av and she was absolutely fine with it.”

Not the impression I got, that’s for sure. Especially in light of today’s news.

Anyway, to the collection itself. The snippets I have seen have proved to me that a substantial proportion of the collection is a poor remake of some of Ossie’s original designs. The yellow plunge neck which seems to be being used as the key image so far, more resembles one of his Model T Ford plunge necks with some of the neckline stitched up (you see them on ebay occasionally, courtesy of some very modest original owners). Like they designed with the big plunge in mind, but chickened out at the last minute (either that or poor cutting meant it didn’t sit properly on the body and modifications needed to be made).

Everything else? Yawn. Sorry, most of it looks like bog standard attempts at avant-garde-inspired-by-Ossie (like this puffball of a piece below). The designer is not, as some lackey who posted on my blog a while ago likes to insist, showing any independence of thought or proving to me that he is a creative and powerful new talent in the design world. He may well be, but how am I suppose to know that from all this bobbins?

Oh and that brings me to the prints. Now I know Celia couldn’t or wouldn’t be involved, and I’d have been just as aghast if they’d attempted to duplicate her work but…..seriously? Is this the best they could get? Smudgy, tie-dyed blobs in super dull and dreary colours? I don’t suppose I’d particularly notice the prints in any other collection but when it’s attempting to recreate the Ossie Clark magic, they really do draw the eye and then beat it with a big, dull stick.

I’m a cynic I know, and cynical folks out there will smirk and comment that I always set out to loathe this collection. They’d be right. But I’m also prepared to admit when I’ve been wrong. But this time, I wasn’t wrong. My instincts were all right. This wasn’t about the creation of new and beautiful works of art inspired by the legacy of Ossie. This wasn’t even the duplication-fest I thought it would be. It’s worse than that, it’s fallen between the two stools very, very hard on its bum.

Nice try, but no biscuit.

Price on request? Please! Spend your money on an original. They’ll be a lot cheaper, last a lot longer and you know what? Ossie Clark actually designed them.

I have no words

alice pollock, biba, british boutique movement, Ms Peelpants' rants, ossie clark, topshop

Well, I have some….but they don’t seem sufficient. The UK fashion industry is giving me anger fatigue. I almost don’t have the strength to express my fury any more.

I fear I may bore my dear readers with my irregular but frequently feisty postings on these things, but if I cannot vent to fellow vintage lovers then….well, who can I vent to?

Yes, in case you haven’t guessed yet….the Ossie Clark relaunch saga.

Imagine my spluttering and gobsmacked face when I heard the news from dear Senti, followed up by reading all the fatuous spoutings of the press about how ‘wonderful’ this was and how so much money was being invested in it.

It continues to baffle me how these people could possibly think these relaunches are a good idea? Please, please do invest money in the British fashion industry. God knows it needs it so badly. But please, please invest your money in new, talented designers with a mind of their own. The true Ossies of this world, if you will.

Ossie himself would have been horrified beyond words to see his legacy thus violated and cheapened by these money-grabbing cretins. I never met the man (certainly my fantasy dinner party guest of honour) but surely the notion of some poor new designer just barely out of their degree show re-issuing his genius creations would have been abhorrent to him.

They speak of the ‘House of Ossie Clark’ as though he were a couture house in the manner of Chanel or Dior. The V&A exhibition may have conferred the title ‘couture’ upon his own label creations, but Ossie was no ‘house’. He was a maverick, a genius with no head for business and a complete lack of consistency in his output. It was only really the guiding hand of Alice Pollock which managed to keep things ticking over, and the creative input of Celia Birtwell which continued to inspire his work.

But this is no re-opening of the ‘House of Ossie Clark’ as they try to persuade us. This new designer, whoever the poor sod may be, will no doubt be simply producing carbon copies of the originals. A puppet designer with someone else pulling the [purse]strings. A la Bella Freud for Biba. And look at how badly that relaunch is doing. This is duplication, as cheap and tacky as the Kate Moss Topshop/Lee Bender debacle. They see the prices vintage sellers get for hard-won and rare originals, and they want a piece of the action. But needless to say, Ossies don’t turn up around every corner…

…so what to do? What to do?? Hmmm……

Yes! Let’s copy them and sell them for the price of an original. Who cares that we’re cheapening the originals and the Ossie legacy?

Well I care. I know it’s crap that vintage Ossies are so pricey, and that not every girl who wants one can afford one. But how is this going to help matters? They’ll still be only for the select few who can afford them, or even get hold of them, and eventually everyone’s bored of Ossie Clark and the magic will be lost. Then it’s a case of why bother taking care of the legacy, the originals, if no one wants them anymore? These ventures are damaging and self-indulgent.

Power to the People: The True Meaning of Vintage

Ms Peelpants' rants, topshop

Vintage clothing is the ultimate expression of individuality. Vintage sellers are those who have fallen in love with vintage and want to work with vintage (as well as eat, drink, sleep it….well, some of us…). Vintage shouldn’t be about big business.

Unfortunately, big business always seems to want a piece of vintage. Displayed clinically, major flaws unmentioned and with designer information taken wholesale from places like the Vintage Fashion Guild label resource with no credit and no genuine research, big business doesn’t see the soul of a dress. It doesn’t feel the bizarre, beautiful touch of moss crepe or the sensuality of draping satin. It doesn’t appreciate the time machine element of an Ossie, instantly transporting you back into the heady days of Marianne, Mick and Anita. It can never understand how a Biba dress will make you skip down the road or how a pair of perfect patent shoes can transfix you for hours.

Perhaps I’m too emotionally involved in vintage for my own good, perhaps I’m an old romantic and a daydreaming thorn in the side of the cynical world of fashion. But that’s why I do what I do, and it’s why all independent vintage sellers do what they do.

Why does a multi-million pound fashion empire like Topshop start selling vintage? Why do they crush the spirit of small business by invading our world? I certainly can’t think of a good reason.

But then why do they also duplicate original vintage clothes and make money out of designers who always put creativity before profit?

(oh the irony that they’re now selling vintage Lee Bender pieces, bearing in mind they shamelessly copied her work for the appalling Kate Moss collection)

I’m resigned to it, I’m far too much a small fish against the mighty shark of big business. But I feel my opinion is valid, and I hope some of you fellow lovers of vintage will agree with me.

Kate Moss at Topshop….what a joke

british boutique movement, bus stop, kate moss, lee bender, Ms Peelpants' rants, ossie clark, topshop

I queued patiently to buy some of the Celia magic, I tried to zone out the people standing around muttering “No idea who this woman is, but I know this stuff will sell on ebay”, I narrowly avoided being ripped to shreds as the rails were pushed out and all hell broke loose. I bought the pieces which had some manufacturing integrity (did anyone actually ever wear that botticelli print silk monstrosity?? so badly made I wanted to weep….) and put my years of hardened vintage shopping to good use as I walked around clutching the dress everyone was wetting themselves over and ignoring the black market-level dirty looks and whispers of ‘are you buying that?’

It was fun as a one-off. Something to tell the grandkids about, since I don’t have a Biba experience like that to share.

I didn’t bother second time around, the second collection was a poor relation and I don’t need the hassle. I’d rather spend my time and money getting an original.But at least she designed the prints and had some claim to the copied shapes of Ossie’s. The woman has talent.

Kate Moss in the original (left) and the Topshop copy (right)

Kate Moss at Topshop is a travesty. Normally such a non-event would barely register in the world of Ms. Peelpants. I couldn’t care less about Madonna at H&M, Lily Allen at New Look or even some of the least talented designers in the world getting deals with the same shops (naming no names, but I’ve heard some very interesting first-hand things about one of them lately and am suitably smug that I guessed they had no talent years ago). But Kate Moss at Topshop has affected me on a very personal level, and opened eyes to the true extent of the shallow money-grabbing at the heart of the fashion world these days.

I remember noting with amusement that Kate Moss had a vintage Bus Stop dress I also have. Much like the Ossie jacket she once wore, it’s always a nice little nod to the vintage community that vintage is still cool and it can do wonders for the image of what are, to most people’s minds, just someone’s old cast-offs. We know they’re not, but sometimes the challenge is to change other people’s perceptions. Kate Moss did the vintage community a lot of good in the past, but now she’s cheated on us.

For she has now ‘allowed’ (inverted commas to note that it is not her place to allow such a thing) Topshop to copy the aforementioned dress for her ‘collection’. A travesty so awful, on so many levels it’s taken me about a week to calm down enough to write this. They’ve copied the dress exactly, even down to getting the print copied and the detailing around the neck and on the sleeves. To add insult to injury, the dress in her closet had been hacked with what looks like nail scissors and is now a bum-skimming mini dress. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see how badly out of proportion even the remake is. They’ve remade a ruined dress.

Lee Bender should sue Topshop. Her work has been copied stitch for stitch. It’s one thing to be inspired, Bender herself would have to admit that the dress was heavily inspired by dresses of the Forties, but there’s no room for the word inspiration here. This is duplication and it’s disgusting.

On a more personal level, one of my absolute favourite dresses has been ruined for me. This year everyone will think I’m wearing bleeding Kate Moss at Topshop. Next year, everyone will think I’m wearing two seasons old bleeding Kate Moss at Topshop. Two years time, perhaps the fashion world with its attention span of a gnat might have forgotten all about Kate Moss at Topshop (or perhaps Kate Moss herself, we can but hope).But my dress will still be tainted by the association and I resent the fact that I will always have to think carefully about whether to wear it or not. To sell it now would be to cash in. To sell next year, well no one will want the same problems I would have. But really, I don’t want to sell it. I bought it for me, and it fits me like it was stitched to my body.

Yours truly in the original dress

I get the strangest feeling….

Ms Peelpants' rants, topshop

…when I walk into Topshop and I start to wonder if they’ve been rooting around in my wardrobe. They’ve crept into my flat, in the dead of night, and swiped patterns from my favourite vintage clothes. At least, that’s how it feels.

Let’s face it, mainstream fashion ate itself a long time ago but are they really trying to tell me that they have NO original ideas to rub together at all?? I might be walking around in fashions of the past, but at least I’m honest about it. High street shops are meant to be peddling modernity; even the Forties revival in the Seventies was done with real glam rock relish and refreshed, somewhat modernised. The Sixties/Seventies/Eighties/Nineties revival we’re currently seeing is a pale imitation of those eras. They can’t even make up their minds, one decade revival at a time is simply not enough anymore. Fashion moves so fast, it must regurgitate its past five times a year.

Where are the fresh ideas? I might not wear them, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to see them. What’s the look of the noughties? Is it a fashion stew? All bitty, overcooked, trying to cater to too many tastes and just winding up bland? I swear I’m even seeing Topshop reproduce pieces I remember seeing in there circa 1993. Stop it, stop it, STOP IT!!!

If you’re going to copy something line for line, at least take it to another level. Try something different with it. There are only so many ways to cut a dress, but don’t just go for the easiest option. It’s dull and usually very poorly made.

Another good reason to keep buying vintage 🙂