Between 1979 and 1980, London nightclub Blitz was where New Romantics, from Boy George to Jean Paul Gaultier and Princess Julia would go to showcase their most extravagant looks. Mick Jagger was famously not allowed in, while David Bowie was greeted in amazement.
Milliner Stephen Jones tells Luxury about creating his look, why being dubbed 'fashionable' was the kiss of death and what happened inside.
"Britain was very poor in 1979, when I was 22. There were huge mountains of rubbish in Leicester Square due to no refuse collection in central London for a month and a half. The rats were unbelievable. I had been a punk, but I was a New Romantic by then, and we had to create a new world, because this one wasn’t for us.
I’d go to Blitz, the Covent Garden nightclub open between 1979 and 1980, with a group from Central Saint Martins on Tuesday nights. Week after week, people looked their most extraordinary. It wasn’t just about dressing up for the evening; we thought we were dressing up for life.
Steve Strange was our ringleader, and Princess Julia and Kim Bowen were at the centre of the scene. Boy George was coat checking at the time, but he was already a figure around town because he dressed more extraordinarily than anybody else - and he was amazingly funny. A lot of designers like John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier would also go.
We’d plan our outfits on Sunday afternoons. I put my look together from what I had and what I could make in that short amount of time. I looked like Little Lord Fauntleroy in a black velvet suit with britches, white stockings, patent shoes and a pleated beret.
It was about dressing up and working a look, never about attracting someone. If you copied somebody else’s look, you were drummed out to Coventry, and the kiss of death would have been someone telling you that you looked ‘fashionable’.
Steve and Kim’s door policy was very strict. If you didn’t look good, you weren’t coming in - no matter how famous you were. Mick Jagger got rejected, but David Bowie was greeted with wonderment. I don’t really know happened outside, because I always walked straight in.
Inside, everybody would pose by the bar. Nobody had money, so we wouldn’t drink much; our drug was fashion, not alcohol. Fade to Grey by Visage reminds me most of Blitz. My hats are in the video, Steve is in it - my silhouette is even in it, playing the trombone. I think I got paid £10!
Many of the Blitz goers are now leaders in their field, and a lot of them were my first millinery clients. It was quite something to make hats for Steve Strange, Kim Bowen and Diana Princess of Wales at the same time."
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