Ossie Clark: The King of the King’s Road Reigns Again

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For this year’s London Fashion Week, Ossie Clark takes the throne once again: bringing floaty florals, skin-tight crepe and structured snakeskins back to the forefront of British fashion.

Designer, artist, photographer; Clark dominated 60s and 70s style, his iconic pieces embodying the freedom, love and peace associated with this eminent era.

For the release of a new collection from Ossie Clark London, Clark’s legacy turned label, a collection of original photo shoots, candid portraits of the designer himself and a vintage Ossie Clark are premiering at Proud Galleries, Chelsea (kingdom of Clark). The star of the show, a vibrant emerald dress, actually hangs delicately and rather unassumingly at one corner of the room; but as we see in his photographs, it is the wearers who truly bring these garments to life.

Although Clark’s designs are absolutely emblematic of 60s culture, it is his unparalleled understanding of the female form which is most noticeable. His pieces cinch, drop and crease in all the right places, celebrating the dainty curves of his models.

This designer’s photo shoots are not the made-up, doe-eyed images you might expect – his women frolic on rocky beaches, flit around stately homes and roll around luxuriously on marble floors. Rather than stiff studio photographs, these are images of heat, confidence and enjoyment.

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Peeping through the glass doors of Proud Galleries, this exhibition appears to be like any other regimented commercial show; but once you step inside, a wave of soft, dreamlike music hits and Clark’s ethereal imagery draws you into a calm and peaceful state.

The designer’s otherworldly style is said to be a mishmash of Pop Art and Surrealism – a bright, brash colour palette coupled with organic shapes and, in his photographs, gentle poses which breathe of Surrealist paintings and performance. Clark may be predominantly a designer, but there is no denying a definite nod to the art of his times: his garments inspired by his girls, like artist and muse.

While Clark’s bizarre shoots display his collections, they celebrate his women further. Working with beauties Ingrid Boultin, Lynn Sutherland and Maria Berenson, the models absolutely wear the clothes – unlike contemporary designers, for whom the clothes often seem to wear the women. In the way that Clark’s gothic silks sever just above the waist; or in the way that his sheer pieces stretch taught across the chest then flutter around the neck as lightly as curled hair, it is patent that this designer really does understand his audience.

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Never too overstated or adorned, Clark’s clothes function foremost to portray the feminine form in the most flattering way possible.

His supremely artistic approach to fashion is unsurprising considering the company he kept: David Hockney appearing repeatedly in an array of intimate photographs of Clark with friends and family. Other particular gems include a portrait of Clark with a young boy, the two wearing almost identical fur coats: Ossie standing tall, cigarette in hand, whilst the little boy – less sophisticatedly – licks a dripping ice cream; or another elegant image of the designer, asleep in a lounger and warmly lit by the afternoon sun.

Not only does Proud present the designer’s past and future collections; but gives an honest insight into his life, both professional and personal. Clark’s clothes were wearable and becoming, very much part of a particular lifestyle – and that lifestyle was his.

Although the exhibition is only on for another two weeks, a new collection inspired by this member of fashion royalty is now available online from label Ossie Clark London, and in Debenhams stores very soon. Prepare for a summer of fancy-free frolicking and a wardrobe of strong colours, swirling prints and sensual shapes to match.
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