When it was announced last year that Marc Worth, founder of the Worth Global Style Network, had bought the license to Ossie Clark from Alfred Radley (who bought Clark's business in the late Sixties) with a view to resurrecting the label, anyone with any knowledge of the subject could have guessed that it wouldn't be plain sailing. After all, Clark, a wild-spirited and brilliant designer, had tried himself to revive his own line on numerous occasions. If he couldn't pull it off then why on earth would anyone else be able to?
And so it was with considerable reservations that guests filed into the Serpentine Gallery last Monday to see what Avsh Alom Gur, the designer charged with the onerous task of designing clothes that lived up to the mythical man, would come up with. Inevitably, the result was flat.
It is simply not enough to cut a decent, though far from exceptional, pair of wide-legged trousers, craft an unremarkable skinny-skirt suit in peacock-blue python and a chiffon dress that (I say without wishing to sound unkind) a clown might wear. Had the collection borne only the young designer's name, nobody would have taken much notice, but the name Ossie Clark is loaded, evocative of times both emancipated, happy and hopeful and then, conversely, terribly sad.
If any designer was a product of his era then it was Ossie Clark, and it would take a far more established talent than Gur's to translate Clark's heady formula of carefree hedonism and superb technical ability for a contemporary audience. More bizarre still, Celia Birtwell's prints, currently enjoying a second life at Topshop, were conspicuous in their absence. Even the simplest black-crepe vintage Ossie Clark dress reads "Design by Ossie Clark; prints by Celia Birtwell" – an indication, if any were ever needed, of the significant part that Clark's ex-wife played in his most fruitful years. Worth, presumably, did not know what he was in for when he suggested Ossie Clark could be the new Paul Smith, but the comment ultimately only undermines both names.
Not long after the show, Clark's sons issued a statement threatening legal action over the "unauthorised exploitation" of their father's name. However things turn out, this is a far from enviable position from which to launch a new collection. The venture so far has only served to underline that the real deal – in this case, vintage Ossie Clark (and not vintage Ossie Clark for Radley) – is a precious commodity indeed.Reuse content