I was really excited to read about the new exhibition held at Manchester Gallery of Costume which was reopened in 2010 after a full renovation & refurbishment.
The exhibition show cases 25 outfits designed by the late, great, Manchester born designer Ossie Clark, who was in his heyday during the glamorous 1970’s. Together with his wife Celia Birtwell, a textile designer, who he met at Manchester Art college, they dressed the bright young things of swinging London and were immortalised in a painting by their best friend David Hockney “Mr & Mrs Clark & Percy”
When my children were little I dealt in Vintage clothes & textiles as a way to make a living and still be a stay at home mum. I loved finding beautiful clothes from the past and giving them a new lease of life by passing them on to a new owner. It was 12 years ago that I started buying and at that time there was a renewed but fledgling interest in vintage clothes and I picked up a couple of Ossie Clark dresses along the way. Even then though, they were recognised as the work of a genius with even the plain black full length dresses, without a print designed by Celia, trading for hundreds of pounds and his creations for the manufacturer Radley, which he designed later in his career, almost equally highly sought after.
Most of the dresses I bought ended up in the vintage stores of Los Angeles. Our American friends seemed to get into the vintage trend much sooner than us and even today some of the best vintage clothes can be found in the US.
Sadley Ossie fell into a life of decadence and is no longer with us but it wasn’t long before the talents of Celia Birtwell, were recognised by a younger generation and collaborations with Topshop & John Lewis followed. Some of her signature prints from the 1970’s are probably recognised as incarnations in her new designs?
Many of these designs are part of a permanent collection owned by the V&A London.
If you visit Celia Birtwell’s online shop you will find a vintage selection of some of her & Ossie’s original designs for sale. The young models wearing them, show just how current the designs still look and how wearable these dresses are for a new generation.
Although I’ve been lucky enough to come up close and personal and even wear some of Ossie’s designs, I can’t wait to see the exhibition in Manchester back home where it all started for him.
If you want to find out more about Ossie, Celia & their designs, this is a great book which was bought for me many years ago. Full of interesting photos, sketches and facts about the designers & the glam rock era, that they reigned in.