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God and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano

24 May

Book cover

A new biography that yokes Alexander McQueen and John Galliano is an exercise in muck-raking

Alexander Fury (

Book Review

Young John Galliano at the rightYoung John Galliano at the right

On 12 January, designer John Galliano – a former head of Christian Dior who was dismissed after a drunken anti-Semitic rant in a Paris bar in 2011 – showed his first collection for the label, Maison Margiela. Almost a month to the day, 11 February marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Lee Alexander McQueen, who died by his own hand.

How best to commemorate these events – marking the passing of one British fashion star and the restoration of another to the industry following an intense period of remorse and rehabilitation? By the publication of a glossy, gossipy tell-all biography running their two stories side by side. Tasteless? Definitely. Lucrative? Probably.

young Lee Alexander McQueenYoung Lee Alexander McQueen (ph. not in the book)

Dana Thomas, an American fashion journalist based in Paris, seems to have no qualms about the former, presumably in search of the latter. She publishes her latest work, luridly labelled God and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, to neatly coincide with not only the anniversary of McQueen’s suicide, but also the launch of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition, Savage Beauty, a British incarnation of the blockbuster show originally staged at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. That exhibition was the most successful of the museum’s annual Costume Institute shows (some 650,000 people passed through its doors), becoming one of the eight most-visited exhibits ever in the august institution’s 145-year history. The V&A has already experienced record-breaking advance ticket sales: over 30,000 have already shifted. The number is only set to rise.

What does that indicate? An enthusiasm for McQueen’s clothes, certainly – motivated by a number of factors. Not least of which is a morbid fascination with the recently departed. As for Galliano? His spectacular fall from grace has proved tabloid front-page fodder over the past four years. His rehabilitation and return to the fashion fold has been dissected by broadsheets and red-tops, outside the usual limits of said publications’ fashion pages. Why not capitalise on the curiosity surrounding both, and spuriously compare the two? I say spurious because, despite both coming from working-class London backgrounds and being educated at Central Saint Martins, there is little to connect the work of Galliano and McQueen. Galliano was raised in Gibraltar before his parents moved to London, McQueen born and bred in the city’s East End. Galliano graduated in 1984, McQueen 1992. And while the theatricality of their visions may seem to share a common thread of inspiration, Galliano was consistently more romantic and sensual, McQueen savage and macabre.

John GallianoJohn Galliano

All that, of course, is incidental. The important part isn’t drawing illuminating connections between McQueen and Galliano’s life and work, the parallels in their rise to the top of the fashion game without high-born advantages. Rather, Thomas’s book is about the salacious Schadenfreude she and her readers can enjoy at their mutual downfall. I feel there is a callousness to Thomas’s telling of the tales of these two designers, unpicking their shortcomings, their personal demons, their failures, and exposing the unravelling seams of their lives and work for all to see. Galliano, she tells us, was a man whose best work was behind him by 1994 – almost 20 years before his downfall. McQueen was his technical superior, but a man enslaved by his carnal needs. She gleefully recalls an assistant being advised that her job would involve washing McQueen’s sex toys – the Marquis de Sade meeting the surreal entitlement of the fashion world as depicted in The Devil Wears Prada.

Alexander McQueen behind the scenesAlexander McQueen behind the scenes (ph. not in the book)

That book was a bitchy, brittle and thinly veiled roman à clef. Thomas’s characters in Gods and Kings are real, but there’s the same feeling. She seems determined to undermine not only the legacy of McQueen and Galliano, but the entire fashion world, to prick its entitled, elitist bubble and expose that it’s nothing but hot air. Despite the fact that, as her website declares, Thomas has worked in fashion for over 20 years, beginning her career on the style section of The Washington Post and working as a cultural and fashion correspondent for Newsweek in Paris from 1995 to 2011, she seems to have no affection or affinity for the industry. Her last book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre (2007), ripped open the world of hyper-luxe handbag manufacturing, exposing the conspiracy of high-fashion conglomerates keeping prices soaring ever-higher whilst cutting on manufacturing costs. Deluxe was pithy and pitch-perfect, the perfect debunking of the contemporary fashion myth. Thomas crowned the French fashion house Hermès – whose made-to-order handbags retail for upwards of £5,000 – as the embodiment of true luxury. Her disdain for Louis Vuitton (whose parent company, LVMH, own both the house of Christian Dior and 91 per cent of the John Galliano label) is absolute.

John Galliano & Annabelle  NeilsonJohn Galliano & Annabelle Neilson

John Galliano at the catwalk after a Dior Couture showJohn Galliano at the catwalk after Dior Couture show s/s 2007

I am a fan of Deluxe, of Thomas taking the faceless conglomerates to task for their commodification of luxury. It won’t make any difference to their sales figures – neither did a 2010 ruling by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority that two of the brand’s print adverts, depicting artisans hand-sewing Vuitton handbags, were “misleading”: “Consumers would interpret the image of a woman using a needle and thread… to mean that Louis Vuitton bags were hand-stitched.”

But I am not a fan of Gods and Kings. I doubt many in the fashion industry will be. Not because the line between biography and hagiography is especially blurred when it comes to fashion (although that is undoubtedly true) but because the fashion industry interacts with John Galliano and Alexander McQueen as three-dimensional people, not two dimensional labels. Thomas does, too.

Alexander McQueen & MumAlexander McQueen & his beloved Mum Joyce McQueen, 2004

Alexander McQueen & Isabella BlowAlexander McQueen & Isabella Blow

Gods and Kings is one of those odd books that makes you wonder why the author wrote it, so obviously does she loathe her subject matter. You also wonder what she said to urge McQueen and, to a lesser extent, Galliano’s confidants, to share their secrets and rip apart their legacies. There is a vengeful, spiteful tone to this book, redolent of the unpleasant sniping and gossiping that is, alas, endemic in the fashion industry. Thomas closes with a chapter plucking at the heartstrings and bemoaning the demise of true creativity in fashion. “There is no poetry,” she muses. “No heart. No angst. It’s just business.” Maybe that’s how she justifies this sullying, sneering, muck-smearing book to herself, alone, late at night. I hurled this book away from me. I urge you to do the same.

Alexander Fury  (


John Galliano 

Gods & Kings

Gods & Kings

Gods & Kings.

 Alexander McQueen

Gods & Kings

Gods & Kings

Gods & Kings





Robyn Beeche, Before Photoshop

25 May

robyn beeche

As someone who has the desire to document, I become the stable factor in the chaos around me

Robyn Beeche



Robyn Beeche moved from Sydney, Australia to London in the mid 1970’s. From catwalk shows to clubs, she captured the leading artists and designers of the time and works extensively with the artists and designers including Zandra Rhodes, Viviënne Westwood, Leigh Bowery and Mary Quant, collaborating with famous make-up artists Richard Sharah, Phyllis Cohen and Richard Sharples. Her Photographs explore a decade of the change in London in the 1980’s.

Since 1985, she has based herself in Northern India, documenting the festivals and culture of region known as Vraj.

Robyn Beeche

make-up Phyllis Cohen, collar by Richard Sharples, courtesy of Vidal Sassoon

About the documentary

More than seven years ago Australian Filmmaker Lesley Branagan came across Robyn Beeche’s images in a magazine profile and was immediately struck by her work and her story.

And, although Beeche was spending most of her time in India, she happened to be visiting Australia at the time, and they met.

”I instantly knew I wanted to make a film about her,” Branagan says. ”It was the life story, that leap of giving up the commercial success for something deeper in India”, but it was also the power of the images themselves.

Leigh Bowery by Robyn Beeche

Leigh Bowery, 1984

Leigh Bowery (right) and Fat Gill as Miss Fuckit, swimwear, Alternative Miss World 1985 EarthLeigh Bowery (right) and Fat Gill as Miss Fuckit, swimwear, Alternative Miss World 1985 Earth



In London in the ’80s, Beeche was drawn to people who were part of the intersecting worlds of art, music and fashion, and who were fascinated by the possibilities of physical transformation. They included Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery, fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, singer and club figure Steve Strange and artist and provocateur Andrew Logan.

Some of her most striking photographs from this time are of the painted body, the self-transformed with elaborate, detailed tromp l’oeil inventiveness – the body becomes a canvas, a site of exploration, a work of art.

Beeche’s images are often creative collaborations, but they also have a recording imperative. For Branagan, Beeche’s impulse was to put others at the centre, and to build an archive, of their work, of the scene, of the times. ”It was a very useful tendency to have by the time she came to document the festivals in India.”

Zandra Rhodes by Robyn Beeche

zandra Rhodes


Zandra Rhodes

Vivienne Lynn for Zandra Rhodes

Vivienne Lynn for Zandra Rhodes by Robyn Beeche


It was a collaboration with Rhodes that first led Beeche to India, and to another life and sense of purpose – but always with a camera in her hand. For the past 25 years, she has lived in an ashram at Vrindavan, a pilgrimage city in Uttar Pradesh. And part of her spiritual practice is to document the religious life around her. This can vary from serenity to ecstasy, particularly when it comes to the ancient Hindu festival of Holi, and its kinetic, uninhibited rituals.

For this kind of work, Branagan says, ”You need tenacity, a sense of roundedness, a sense of egolessness, as well as the photographic skills. It’s not about you, you have to surrender to the chaos to get what you can get.”

Beeche is also uniquely placed to understand the religious dimensions of some of the most spectacular, chaotic aspects of what she’s portraying. ”And I think she is trying to capture the transcendence she has experienced herself.”

‘Body deformation’ photographs by Robyn Beeche

Scarlot by robynbeeche-



At the same time, she adds, Beeche’s endeavour is backed up by hours of hard work. ”It’s incredibly pragmatic, and she has to stay very focused to achieve what she has achieved. She has been there for 25 years and created this large archive as a legacy which scholars from around the world are now accessing.”

It took time, Branagan says, for Beeche to become accustomed to being the subject. Yet she feels that Beeche was ready to have a film made about her. ”She had a couple of approaches around that time, she was starting to have a few exhibitions and retrospectives. I think she felt she was coming to a certain point when somebody could document her life and pull it all together in that way.”

Vivienne Lynn by Robyn Beeche

Vivienne LynnJapanese model Vivienne Lynn became the mannequin for Willy Brown’s Modern Classics collections, and a beautiful canvas for Richard Sharah’s make-up. 
Vivienne Lynn, makeup Richard Sharah
VIVIENNE  LYNN, make up richard Sharah
Vivienne Lynn & make-up artist Richard Sharah

Interview with Robyn Beeche

You made your mark while living and working in 80s London, in the very thick of the fashion world. Tell us about that era?

Robyn Beeche: There is a saying, “being in the right place at the right time” and to be in London in the 80s was just that. Remembering that there were no computers nor Photoshop and our collaborative pursuit was not for financial gain, we set the parameters to explore each and everyone’s individual talents. I ran my studio as an open house to share and achieve the best possible image and to have a good time doing it. We were propelled on by the street scene and there were no boundaries which creative directors impose, it was freedom to create.

Of course this did not pay the rent so other work had to be found and gradually after the Observer magazine put Sonia Shadows on their front cover, it was the commercial seal of approval and we began to get some advertising work. Working with designers such as Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood and artists Andrew Logan and Carol McNicoll; it was really very exciting and fulfilling on so many levels. The androgynous Divine became my best friend and what with Andrew Logan’s ‘Alternative Miss World’ events, there was never a dull moment!

Divine by Robyn Beeche



Who are some of your favourite designers?

Zandra Rhodes is my favourite designer as her talent is inexhaustible to this day. Her inspiration comes from her environment and her textile design comes from those impressions of landscape or whatever. I loved her 70s designs which carried no buttons or zips — free cloth, moving beautifully. Vivienne Westwood is also a great talent and I would also add Issey Miyake to that list. It is hard not to like Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen. Nowadays I like Manish Arora in India.

As part of your exhibition Fade to Grey, your documentary A Life Exposed – Robyn Beeche: A Photographer’s Transformation will be playing. What can we expect from that?

It is quite daunting to be the subject of a documentary film and to be on the other side of the camera, but Lesley Branagan has done a very good job of weaving all the strands of my life together and after my initial nerves I realise it has had such a good response from the general public and many have written to say how they have been inspired. So that makes me believe that the importance and purpose of sharing my work is for others to perhaps try a different approach to their own photographic talents.

Faces by Robyn Beeche


Mannquin designer Adel Rootstein, 1987
Anand, 1985
Art historian, curator Sir Roy Strong, 1987
Fashion designer Bill Gib, 1987
Your work is often described as treading a line between fashion photography and art. Is that fair to say?

It is fair to say that my work is often described as treading a line between fashion and art photography. The collection of 80s photographs initially came into the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra via the fashion curator, Robyn Healy. After 30 years some of them are hanging alongside Bill Henson’s work so they have taken on a new meaning, I think, due to the fact that they have a timeless quality and are viewed in a different way. That was always uppermost in my mind when I did the shot; that it had universal appeal and remained timeless.

What’s been the biggest learning experience in your career?

Learning about myself has been the biggest learning experience in my career. I mean by that, there is so much learning to do with regards to relationships with others and in order to practice my craft this became paramount. India has taught me selfless behaviour and service and they remain the anchors in my life.

What does ‘fashion’ and ‘creativity’ mean to you?

Fashion means many things to me — a sculptor can fashion a stone into an exquisite piece, a face can be adorned by a ‘fashionable’ look, it does not mean that I should change my wardrobe every season! I believe that everybody possesses ‘creativity’ whether it be a highly priced artist or it can be a craftsman in India designing and creating the most beautiful textile. It is the anonymity which is the key — some have the opportunity of making money from it and some don’t even get exhibited, but the fashion and the creativity which lasts is that which remains so inspirational and if we seek to find it, it is all there.

Faces by Robyn Beeche

Robyn Beeche



Robyn Beeche

Robyn Beeche


A life exposed



To watch the whole documentary go to:



To buy the dvd go to:



Book cover

Australian photographer Robyn Beeche discovered a new world when she went to London in the late 1970s. From catwalk shows to clubs, Beeche captured the leading designers and artists of the time, becoming an important photographer of the fashion world and working extensively with designers such as Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Bill Gibb and Mary Quant.
Working with legendary make-up artists such as Richard Sharah and Phyllis Cohen, Beeche took fashion photography to a new level, creating surrealistic masterpieces. While the Blitz club was the place to be at the start of the 1980s, a few years later Beeche discovered the beauty of India, particularly the region of Vraj, which she visited on many occasions to document local festivals and culture.
She moved to Vrindavan permanently in 1992. Through Beeche’s superb photography, this book conveys the vibrancy of London and the richness of India, beautifully capturing the tapestry of life in both countries.



information Robyn Beeche:
 The Sydney Morning Herald (Philippa Hawker)
 Oyster magazine (Introduction: Jerico Mandybur   interview: Melissa Kenny)

PopUp & Garage Sale

28 Apr


A.G. Nauta couture label

A.G. Nauta couture label

PopUp Sale A.G.Nauta couture 

“One (or Two) of a Kind” Collection

The A,G,Nauta couture collection will be available for 15% off!

Date:    Sunday May 4

Adress: Chassestraat 26, Amsterdam

Time:    11 hrs untill 17 hrs

 .Popup sale

A.G.Nauta couture

A.G.Nauta couture

A.G.Nauta couture



a GARAGE SALE of the clothes I made for myself over the years (dresses, skirts, petticoats, winter & summer coats),



Paul Harnden Shoemakers (Additional)

13 Oct


Paul Harnden

October 13, 2013

This comment I got on the Paul Harnden Shoemaker I posted on February 5, 2012

Just read your very interesting article on Paul Harnden…………..I worked with him, and Helena, in 2005 and 2006 when he was doing specially commissioned fabrics with Fox Bros of Wellington (Somerset), where I was Designer at that time.       He liked to go through the archive books (some dating back to 1779), looking for his ‘inspirations…..and he really could ‘tweak’ original new concepts from those old swatches….we made some amazing fabrics for him during those years.       The other thing that stands out for me, is that he used to take the fabric from us straight from the loom (unwashed!!!, unfinished!!!) which was almost unheard of because it is during finishing that fine woollen / worsted fabrics transform from a raw, rough commodity to a thing of beauty!! — not for him though, he explained to us that he would “bury the cloth underground for several weeks and let nature do the finishing work”!!! — which is how the fabrics achieve his ‘antique’ appearance.

Finally, I left Fox Bros myself in 2007, after six VERY interesting years, (so I don’t know if they are still doing fabrics for Paul) and I am now based in Yorkshire, near Huddersfield, where the old pattern weaving mill is located…….Gordon Hawley is now retired, but the mill is still going strong – now run by a very nice guy called Adrian (sorry his surname escapes me)…… fact they are weaving some of the blankets I design for my current employer, Lassiere Mills, of Bradford.

Hope this info is of some interest, Pete Cunningham.




Bullfighter costumes photographed by Peter Müller

11 Aug


Matador César Rincón after a bullfight in Seville. This must be the sexiest picture ever taken of a bullfighter!

The photograph is made by Peter Müller, who was born in Peru. He studied art and architecture at Zurich university before working as assistant to photographer Bert Stern and chief camera operator under director Eddie Vorkapich. After many years living in Spain, working on major advertising campaigns and for various magazines including Vogue, he decided to look more closely at the crafts and lifestyle of southern Spain.

Two books by Peter Müller have been published, featuring photographs of Spanish bullfighter costumes.

Oro Plata: Embroidered Costumes of the Bullfight

Oro PlataCostumes of light


According to Spanish tradition, the bullfighter should never wear his costume outside the bullring. Published for the first time, the greatest stars of the Corrida, resplendent in their elaborately embroidered costumes, are brought to readers in a series of stunning studio portraits. Matadors dressed in gold and banderilleros wearing silver re-enact the dramatic gestures and intricate choreography of their profession, displaying the most artistic, appealing aspects of the bullfight as seen today in Spain, France and South America. Oro Plata and Costumes of light are the perfect showcase for both the colorful history and tradition of these costumes, and for the living legends of the men who wear them.










Bullfighter’s costume influence on fashion

Ann Demeulemeester ‘matador’ jacket


Jeremy Scott designed  these sweaters for Adidas Originals



Jeremy Scott in his matador inspired Adidas Originals jacket 


Matador inspired jacket


Moschino 2012



Sarah Jessica Parker in Matador look

Sarah jessica parker moda taurinav

Sarah jessica parker 2 moda taurina

And last but not least, the king of dress-up, John Galliano as a Matador