Ready To Wear: Ossie Clark
Monday 19 November 2007
Is it just me, or is it not a little strange that an Ossie Clark collection is being relaunched? Of course, the need to keep the world's big brands going, often for largely commercial reasons, is nothing new. The likes of Cristobal Balenciaga, Coco Chanel and Christian Dior may be long gone, but the houses they lent their names to are booming in the hands of some of today's most fêted designers - in this instance, Nicolas Ghesquière, Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano, respectively.
It's just that Ossie Clark's life ended so abruptly, and with such violence - he was murdered by his lover, Diego Cogolato, in 1996. Not only that, but to say that he was disenchanted with the fashion industry, and all that it represented, would be something of an understatement. Clarke had separated years before from Celia Birtwell, the mother of his children and a print designer who became his creative collaborator. Since his glory days in the Seventies, he had been struggling, largely unsuccessfully, to revive himself, both personally and professionally.
How peculiar, then, that Marc Worth, formerly joint-owner of the fashion website, Worth Global Style Network (WGSN), has bought the Ossie Clark name and secured the services of the little-known designer Avsh Alom Gur. He will head up a London-based team who will make up to 30 pieces to be shown at London Fashion Week in February.
"The problem with British design is that there's a lot of talent but just not enough investment," Worth has said of his move, seemingly without a trace of irony. The fact that Clark himself was desperate for just such support during his own lifetime and, despite extraordinary talent, was only offered meagre backing appear not to be an issue here.
It is not fair to put the dampeners on a collection before it has even been designed, let alone shown, and the team in question may well do a sterling job.
"I believe Ossie Clark has the potential to be a global British brand like, say, Paul Smith," Worth told WGSN last week.
It's just the most monumental shame that Clark himself isn't around to profit from his words. "We will respect the spirit of Ossie while pushing it forward into something new - it's really about thinking what Ossie would be designing if he were around today."
The brilliant Ossie Clark was absolutely a product of his time. His work, particularly the clothing that he designed with Birtwell, remains among the most accomplished and iconic that British fashion has ever known. With this in mind, and big business aside, it might be better to let sleeping dogs lie.
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