Ossie Clark e Celia Birtwell. The couple who designed the fashion of the Sixties, after miniskirt and before punk
After the Prato Textile Museum, the exhibition dedicated to the English creative duo is now hosted by the Sozzani Foundation in Milan until 16 April 2023
From 1965 to 1974 the so-called "fashion duo" of creative Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell was the reference in Swinging London with their unmistakable style Flower Power in the period between Mary Quant's miniskirt and the subversive punk movement of Malcolm MacLaren and Vivienne Westwood. The exhibition Mr & Mrs Clark, Ossie Clark e Celia Birtwell, Fashion and Prints 1965-74 on display until 16 April 2023 at the Sozzani Foundation, in Corso Como 10 in Milan, is dedicated to them, which designed it in collaboration with the Prato Textile Museum, which shared it until mid-January 2023.
The exhibition set-up, curated by Arianna Sarti, offers an immersion in a creative style that combines art and fashion. The design talent of Clelia Birtwell, who developed prints inspired by nature and the stylistic avant-garde, combined with Ossie Clark's skill in cuts and modeling, gave life to sensual and feminine dresses made of crêpes, silk and chiffon that conquered the international jet-set and the music scene of the time. From Brigitte Bardot to Liz Taylor to Verushka, everyone was fascinated by their fashion. Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Bianca Jagger and Marisa Berenson are just a few who have worn the creations of the creative partnership.
Stylized geometries, floral bouquets and patterns inspired by the art world enhance fluid and colorful creations with a slender cut that let you glimpse the décolleté between sensual movements and transparencies. While Clelia Birtwell's designs embodied a bold new way of life, Ossie was also the first designer to rethink the idea of "occasion": for him, evening dresses could be worn during the day and vice versa, while with his sheer chiffon invented the “nude look”.
Made in the period of maximum notoriety of the creative couple, the exhibition itinerary offers 40 iconic dresses, 10 paper dresses, 7 notebooks that allow you to understand the creative method of the couple, more unpublished drawings, photo shoots made by the most famous fashion photographers and published in the magazines of the period up to videos of performances and fashion shows that see their creations as protagonists.
The fashion that he defined an era in a book
A book edited by Federico Poletti is even dedicated to the creative duo: Mr & Mrs Clark Ossie and Celia Birtwell | Fashion and Prints (Silvana Editoriale). The volume tells the context and evolution of the two artists with a selection of clothes, fabrics, drawings never published until now, video testimonials, photos and period editorials. «Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark Clark are part of the famous couples where it will never be possible to tell where one's creativity ended and that of the other began. The Botticellian clothes of one and the dreamlike prints of the other lived together a complicity that gave birth to a revolution in dressing and a magic that defined an era of fashion», writes Carla Sozzani in the preface.
In the volume there is also the contribution of the journalist and essayist Renata Molho who highlights the more experimental aspects of her production, which more or less consciously inspired numerous stylists. «The female trouser suit anticipates “Le Smoking” by Yves Saint Laurent from 1966». «It was purchased by Quorum in London in 1965 and brought to Paris by some of Yves' collaborators», says fashion historian Judith Watt in an interview. «I'm not saying that Saint Laurent stole it - he specifies - but he certainly drew inspiration from it».
The text by the English fashion journalist Suzy Menkes is short but full of ideas «The young couple produced images for a rapidly evolving society, creating a new epicenter of design in west London. The Portobello Road area was the place where the "young generation" was starting to sow and grow».
Leafing through the book, one can also read the considerations of Amanda Lear who thus recalls her friend and the stylist: «Ossie was a revolutionary because he went against the trend. While everyone used the newly discovered acrylic and synthetic fabrics, he played with crepe, silk and chiffon. While everyone was looking to the future, he was inspired by the past, reinventing it. His creations were comfortable and, at the same time, creative and seductive. The Sixties, with Sofia Loren, were the era of corsets that tightened your waist and emphasized your shapes. On the contrary, Ossie Clark's clothes were “free”, light, played on transparencies and never vulgar».