The photographs of the Sue Clowes vintage 80’s collection are from the creative world of Samuel Guerrier, Parisian fine art photographer. We met up in Paris to ask a few questions on Samuel’s work and the ideas behind his creative and thoughtful shots.1) Why did you choose to photograph Sue Clowes and her daughter Marta Melani in the 80’s vintage clothing? Considering that Marta had taken over the brand with her mother, I wanted to develop some theme around filiation. Staging a mother and daughter who share artistic endeavors and a passion for fashion felt like a dream opportunity to me. I did my best to magnify this relationship and hope I succeeded, however feebly. I remember the day I discovered a statue of Marta as a child in their Empoli family garden. The plump, slightly sullen facial expression was reminiscent of Auguste Renoir’s sculptures, especially those representing his son, Jean. When I learned that this was actually Sue’s own work, I couldn’t resist including it in our portfolio… the symbol was too beautiful to be discarded. The whole thing is actually rather troubling to me, since my own father – whom I never met – also sculpted clay. A potter and a ceramist, he taught ancient techniques at the Tunis Academy of Fine Arts. How I would have loved to be able to collaborate with him the way Sue and Marta do, passing down know-how from generation to generation… 2) Do you have a title (also in French) for this collection of creative work ? What did you want to transmit to the people who discover it? Tribute to Sue Clowes is the title (Hommage à Sue Clowes in French). As a genuine early-day fan, I wanted to pay tribute to Sue Clowes’ multicultural prints, highlighting the spectacularly atemporal graphic quality of her designs (as evidenced by how successful her reissues are). To me and many others, Sue Clowes is one of the iconic figures of the 80s, when multiracial, sexy streetwear reigned supreme, and each and every budding pop star in London simply had to wear her clothes, from Boy George & Culture Club to Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan through Wham, Bananarama or even Kylie Mynogue. Incidentally, this did not escape the attention of the Victoria & Albert Museum, which devoted an exhibition to her in 2014, focusing largely on vintage pieces. Still, in spite of these honors, she remains fairly affordable – a lesson in fashion, really, teaching us that style does not have to be a matter of money… Continue Reading →
1984 was a body conscious year when I seriously started to think about menswear and focus attention on physique. The entire summer collection was given a racy look. Vests had cutaway backs that exposed taut muscles and had 84 printed between the shoulder blades.
Men photo by Mike Owen taken at Wembly stadium. The Times Tuesday July 17th 1984
I styled the collection as if it was for boxers and put an aggressive spin on traditional sportswear. The prints were M.P.H. AIR-OIL, FUEL-FLOW, TRANSMISSION and FLESH AND STEEL, slogans that likened the body to a car. Heavy zips were featured around necklines and up the back of slim cut track pants in acid yellow, blood red, steel grey or white jersey. Accessories were silver Lonsdale boxer boots and mirrored sunglasses.
A group of designers were chosen to participate in a unique event called ‘Performing Clothes’ held at The Institute of Contemporary Art, London on October 10th 1984. The idea to use dancers instead of models was an innovation that brought choreography, clothes and music into an exciting mix. The dancers who danced in my collection were Claud Paul Henry, the beautiful Bunty Mathias and Carolyn Choa who choreographed Madam Butterfly in Anthony Minghella’s spectacular opera
The piece of music I chose for one of the choreographed pieces was by 23 Skidoo called ‘Coup’, a brilliant innovative fusion of industrial, post-punk and funk from the early 1980s.
Jenny Bellestar looked fantasic wearing the Flesh and Steel collection on her sin
Marta Melani, lives in Italy and is the artistic director and owner of the Sue Clowes label. She talks about her ideas for the future of the label and what it was like growing up in a fashion and artistic environment with an Italian father and English mother and the roles they both played in shaping her point of view and fashion career.
What were your earliest fashion memories in your home life?
My father, Riccardo Melani, worked for a company that made Italian mens suits in luxury fabrics. I remember watching him laying out outfits on the bed for work for the following day – making sure his socks matched the tie, the shirt and the handkerchief in the top pocket. He was a stickler for style and perfection. He himself had grown up in a menswear environment because my grandfather, his father, started a business making raincoats for men just after the Second World War. “MELTRIS” was the name of the company, a combination of part of his surname (Melani) and his Christian name (Trieste).
My father was born in 1945 and working alongside his father lived through all the Italian styles from bum freezer jackets to seventies fist sized tie knots to eighties padded shoulders. He indoctrinated me on sartorial points from a young age. The first being “before all is said and done fashion begins with cleanliness. The all important key to a man’s presentation is first to be combed, barbered and smelling good.” Then the dressing began – with rules. There were rules for socks. Socks that go with a suit are dictated by the colour of your trousers and not by your shoes. Most importantly they must stretch up to the knee. Button-down collar shirts are never, ever to be worn under a suit jacket. Button down collars are a sport’s wear attire reserved only for picnics boating or seaside trips in the ‘automobile’. The necktie was the cherry on the cake for him and the handkerchief in the top pocket must never, note never, be of the same design as the tie. To pull this all off was true elegance. In Italy he said “To eat, you eat for yourself. But to dress you dress for others”.
My mother, Sue Clowes, is the total polar opposite to my father and my childhood could be judged as a schizophrenic experience! The irony is that both my parents tried to dissuade me from being a fashion designer. I did some fashion drawings when I was about eight. A top with one sleeve and trousers that unzipped into shorts. My mum said: “That one sleeved design will be a bitch to manufacture and what happens if you lose one of the zipped trouser legs!??”. She’d lost her company due to a season of manufacturing mistakes. But what I discovered through my mother’s eyes was painting, colour and a love of surface decoration. As kids my brother and I were given wads of grocery wrapping paper, bottles of paint and mounds of clay and we’d spend hours doing potato prints and making terracotta busts. My father’s perfectly creased ‘fresco di lana’ trousers and silk and linen shirts would have little coloured finger prints all over them!
So now you have played around with the Sue Clowes style what direction do you intend taking it in. Strickly menswear?
Menswear is the springboard for all my designs. I’ve work on sneakers and handbags for women’s wear companies which I love doing. But for my own line, menswear is my niche. I love prints and patterns on garments, and colour. It must be in the D.N.A. Fabric design is an art form for me. I’m really excited about the new collection of summer prints and garments about to be launched. I’ve worked hard to maintain the quirky Clowes printing style but for summer 2014 I’ve injected into the look a ‘high roller’ Vegas mob print with characters who drink dirty Martinis and float on lilos in kidney shaped pools. You could say I’ve maintained her unique printing style, which I’ve shaken, but not stirred!
“I truly believe in beauty. The colors that are inside the person , not just the visible ones , but the interior ones we don’t see . To show these colours on the exterior you need to grasp the essence of the person through their character and then make them visible, tangible, like on a canvas. The human body lends itself to multiple expressions of thoughts from inside the individual which allows us to communicate in a more direct way of who we are, what we want, and what we expect in life. Communication is the key that allows us to co-exist with others but is sometimes underestimated. Our image says a lot about our intentions. For this reason we deserve to be at ease with ourselves and our real self is revealed through our eyes- the interlocutor of our beauty.”
Elena Polvani graduated in Fashion Design and Culture at the University of Florence. She has since collaborated with photographers and filmakers producing fashionable weddings including Cristiano Brizzi Photography and S-Bros Video. Elena did an internship with the company called MD Florentine Theatre of Elena Mannini and also Italo Dall’Orto. This is when she fell in love with the theatrical milieu and began as a make-up artsit at the Arena of Verona during the Opera season 2013. Elena currently lives in Milan, where she is specializing in theatrical makeup and wigs at the Academy of the Teatro Alla Scala.
Elena Polvani was Sue and Marta’s make-up artist for Alphabet Milano night (see photos)
Click on the IMAGES above and read Sue Clowes INTERVIEW in Italian by Luca Crescenzi on TOH! Magazine
The fanzine of TOH! and Sue Clowes will be hosted by ALPHABET on friday February 21st in Milan!
We hope to see you there!
I began introducing sculptural elements into my silk screen prints during the 1990’s. I made life size sculptures of heads and torsos sometimes weighing up to 30 kilos. I photographed the statues and composed the images into collages using blocks of colour or painted very large canvasses in oils. In 1995 I had two exhibitions resulting in a commission in bronze and the culmination of working in these new mediums began experiments of printing onto wood.
In this photo-gallery there are Sue Clowes’ sculpture and silkscreen print exhibition at Palazzo Lanfredi, Firenze 1995.
Designing patterns on the computer robs a designer of the sensation of touch colour and the flow of fabric. It’s like cooking without tasting the ingredients. My local town has been producing Continue Reading →
Samuel Guerrier is a fine art photographer whose distinctive style appears to be a hybrid between painting, photography and silent movie scenes. The actors that he uses to create his unique and surreal artistic style/mood appear to be caught in the action of a dramatic moment that transcends photographic poses to become a theatre of Samuel’s vision. We go to Paris to meet him.
Tell us a little about yourself, your childhood, where you were born, where you live now? I grew up in France, not far from this part of the Normandy seashore that is mainly remembered for the D-day landing beaches. Now you won’t be surprised if I tell you that my name means “Warrior” in French. In actual fact, though, this name is the closest I get to being a warmonger, except maybe for my everlasting rage in fighting prejudice. With my Jewish first name, Tunisian Muslim father, and French Catholic mother, you could say I was born from a melting pot and as such, I have always been open to other cultures. I would find it really painful, however, to dwell on my childhood, which could be summed up as a mix of violence, violence, and more violence… Thank God I managed to emerge from this ordeal relatively unscathed. I might just as well have resorted to drugs, ended up in prison, sought refuge in analysis before ultimately being saved by transcendental meditation in Kathmandu… instead of which, here I am, a life-long soya milk addict quietly living out in Paris his passion for the arts in general and photography in particular.
When does a photograph become art ? When François Pinault buys it! Seriously… I have hardly any idea. It could be whenever a picture is taken at just the right time and place, a lucky strike you might say. Or, according to some purists, when the photograph works with no need of being retouched… A never-ending debate which actually amounts to nothing more than petty squabbling. Retouching is all very nice, but if my actor displays no inner feelings and embodies nothing, all the photoshopping in the world won’t prevent the model from remaining a hollow shell. Images can be tweaked, feelings cannot.
Elisa Sergent, the beautiful French actress with sparkling blue eyes and red hair is nicknamed Ladybird in your portraits of her. What is it she captures for you? What I am interested in is not so much photographing beautiful people as making them beautiful. I love enhancing and magnifying them. I think I missed my calling in life, actually: I should have been an image makeover coach (laughs). Just joking… Elisa is first and foremost an actress I admire, as she can play just about anything. She is like a muse to me – which is why I call her Continue Reading →
I received a phone call from my bank summoning me in the following day for an urgent meeting regarding my overdraft. My ever forgiving bank manager that I’d had since art school had suddenly retired and I found myself seated on the opposite side of the desk to a very handsome man in a pinstripe suit.
I’d got myself into debt to an alarming degree with the previous seasons deliveries not yet paid for. A debt of £30,000 to be precise. Overdue payments from some department stores were in arrears. It seemed the bigger the store the later they paid. “Overspending! Over reaching! Overdue!” he repeated. His lips were moving but I wasn’t listening. I stared blankly across the desk envisaging him in a gold lurex tuxedo surrounded by an assortment of bank clerks dressed in silver top hats and tails playing violins.
“You can’t go on like this Miss Clowes,” he said, an electric necklace of pound signs sparkling around his neck. “It really is beyond the pale.” He somewhat reluctantly gave me another month. The imaginary violinist’s disappeared and he stood up and smoothed down his tie; the gold tuxedo replaced once again by his dull city suit.
I got up to leave and promised earnestly to pay back the overdraft by the end of the month. I had to begin work on the textile design print for the following season’s collection. As soon as I got home I taped a huge piece of paper to the floor and sketched enormous devils in oil pastels with shadows scribbled behind them. In between the brick like repeat assemblage I drew kisses, massive love hearts and tiny hearts in rows. I also wrote Hello Honey and the number 666, upside down and back to front.
It was designed to be printed on soft satin so it would drape. Asked how I came up with this print design I’d say the provoker of the pictorial outpouring was due to an afternoon encounter with my devilishly dashing but no-nonsense new bank manager.
From Sue Clowes bio.
An italian blogger talks about Sue Clowes and Marta Melani! Read more on the website
The Night Sky Junkie collection can also be worn by girls.
Both genders can puts their own personality into the Sue Clowes look because in the end,
trends disappear, and what remains is a timeless style.