Ossie Clark has risen from the grave!

Well, no, the actual man hasn't, just the clothing brand. But in the same way that Hammer's Dracula films got slightly worse with every sequel, being resurrected doesn't seem to have done anything for the Ossie Clark label.

I've been wondering why I've been so against it: people who have a genuine love and knowledge of 1960s and 1970s fashion have been very vocal about the relaunch of both the Ossie Clark and Biba labels, but I freely admit the 1970s is probably my least favourite decade, and I've been more than happy with some other phoenix-brands, such as Grossmith, who are remaking perfumes again. Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel... all passed away, their fashion houses headed by other designers, and I don't have a problem with that. So what can it be that's got me so set against it?

It's a matter of care, and attention to detail. Grossmith are, as far as possible given current regulations, making scents that are close to the originals. They even got Roja Dove, the Nose de tutti Noses, to work with them on the formulations. The designers at those major fashion houses work within the spirit of the original house. Saint Laurent is still known for its tailoring, Dior for its romance. In all those cases there is talent at the top. Who's currently designing for Biba? Who's doing the designing for Ossie Clark? Who's supposed to be embracing and renewing the spirit of the house?

Then there's materials. I know we can't all afford designer label clothes made from silk and cashmere – if I didn't buy so much in charity shops, I'd be stuck with the cheaper end of the High Street myself, as it is I mix secondhand with repro labels and mid-range High Street clothes. Even so, there's been a real drop-off in the quality of High Street clothing just in the twenty years or so that I've been buying my own clothes. I swear cotton jersey was more substantial in the 1990s, and it was actually possible to buy real wool knitwear at the cheaper end of the High Street. Not tooth-squeaking, less warm, synthetics.

I find High Street fashion pretty depressing. There is some really nice stuff in there, but it's mostly overwhelmed by a fast turnover of shoddy, badly-cut garments in hideous prints. I feel like retailers have hit the point where their shops don't express a style, more a desperation to put as much as possible out there because some of it has to sell. And yes, I know we live in quite an eclectic age, with much more fashion freedom than in the past, and yes, I'd hate it if style DOs and DO NOTs were handed down from a great height so one year we all felt we had to wear mini skirts and another year maxis, not because we wanted to but because we were told to. However, I would like it if shops had their own distinct styles. I would like it if their garments didn't give the impression of being cut and sewn as quickly as possible, with as little attention to fit and shape as they can get away with. The big designer brands still retain their character. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Biba and Ossie Clark did have their own styles. And now the latter two names are used to put a veneer of style over the bog-standard High Street characterless clobber. The glamour of the names, the illusory magic, is being cast over garments that simply can't match up to the legends.


  1. I couldn't agree more about the quality of clothing in high street shops these days.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  2. I agree, there is some truely shoddy stuff on the high street! Especially for those who are on the rotund side. I didn't think much of the Barbara Hulaniki stuff at ASDa, wonder if the Ozzie Clark stuff will be similar?

  3. ..." a veneer of style over the bog-standard High Street characterless clobber"

    I've got to somehow fit that marvelous line into conversation soon!

    It's purely about using a famous name to sell clothes. The same thing has happen in the States with Halston, and in Paris they are STILL trying somehow to resurrect Schiaparelli.


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