Designer who made London swing

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The Independent Online
When Ossie Clark graduated from the RCA in the mid-1960s, his work had an instant impact. His first collection, de- signed for the King's Road boutique, Quorum, sold to New York store, Henri Bendel, much as John Galliano's graduation collection sold to Browns of South Molton Street.

Mr Clark was the only student in his year to graduate with a first-class degree, and from the late 1960s to early 1970s, he was the driving force behind the fashion explosion of that period. His label became as sought- after as Mary Quant. Mick Jagger's smock and trousers worn on stage at the famous Hyde Park concert in 1969 were by Ossie Clark.

Mr Clark's partership with his wife, the textile designer Celia Birtwell, produced some of the most lasting images of the London fashion scene. His clothes were daring and controversial, always pushing forward the boundaries of fashion. A seemingly demure crepe dress would have semi- sheer chiffon panels over the breasts. His zip-up biker jacket was one of the first to be made of snakeskin. And details such as stitching on shoulders were as much of a signa- ture as Westwood's orb is today.

Mr Clark was a versatile designer, remembered as much for his romantic, bias-cut, floaty tunics and trousers as for his modern tailoring and ingenious use of Ms Birtwell's prints, mixed and mismatched with the eye of an artist.

To fashionable women of the period, Mr Clark's clothes still mean a lot. Affordable by today's designer standards, they were worn and loved by thousands of women from London to his place of birth, Liverpool, where he opened a boutique called Cream in the early 1970s.

Ironically, while his later career suffered for his identification with a single period in fashion history, Mr Clark's time has come again, with designers like Gucci's Tom Ford looking to 1970s labels in search of the glamour he generated.

At this year's bi-centenary exhibition of the RCA, Susannah Handley, a tutor at the college, worked closely with Mr Clark. She said: "He made the Sixties in fashion terms, as much as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones did in music."

Zandra Rhodes said yesterday: "Ossie Clark represents swinging London at its zenith. The things he did together with Celia Birtwell - were the flowering of British fashion. One collection with prints inspired by the Ballets Russes would have made him as big as Galliano is today if he had shown in Paris. Only the history books will give him the credit he is due."

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