“Fashion shows are a little bit more serious now aren’t they?” Says Kari Ann Jagger, ex top model and original Roxy Music girl, drawing stark comparisons with the days she used to dance down the catwalk to a rock and roll soundtrack, wearing nothing but the latest Ossie Clark creations. “They were brilliant shows that really inspired the fashions of the day- and they looked a lot more fun then!”
The name Ossie Clark itself is evocative of the sixties, his legacy tied up in the headiness of the era – the birth of rock and roll and a riot of wild, unabashed creativity. During his heyday, Clark produced some of the most innovative designs of the 20th century; combining elegance with bohemianism and deftly sculpting wonderful shapes; subtly manipulating fabrics and textures and collaborating with textile designer (and wife) Celia Birtwell to create some of his most idiosyncratic work. “It was his cutting and his patterns that were just so incredible” says Kari Ann, “and being able to use Celia’s prints just really worked, the two things together, didn’t it?”
But, Clark’s story is also a bittersweet one; one that saw him fall from fashion- both literally and metaphorically- and end up destitute and drug dependent by the late seventies. “He was such an eccentric, an inspiration but he certainly wasn’t a person who kept his business side together,” Kari Ann recalls, to account for his misfortune.
A well-documented tragedy, Clark was killed at the hands of his lover in 1996, at a point when some thought he was on the brink of a comeback. Twelve years on, however, the rights to his name have been bought, and the Ossie Clark label is, at least, on the ascendant again. A recent St. Martin’s Graduate, Avsh Alom Gur, unveiled his first Clark collection two seasons ago, amidst a haze of controversy and anticipation. They were met with positive, albeit not all together ecstatic responses; the task of remaining faithful to Ossie’s legacy yet carving a new identity a hard one to get right.
Alom Gur will certainly be feeling the pressure again ahead of his A/W 09 show, but perhaps he needn’t be. After all, he is simply helping to perpetuate Clark’s great legacy and bring it to a new generation. What’s important, Kari Ann feels, is “to keep his name alive and to keep his designs going. They’ll never be anything like his- but at least there’s an inkling of Ossie there.”