5 gennaio 2023
by Laura Antonini

Mr & Mrs Clark

Jim Lee, Ossie Clark, Aeroplane
Jim Lee, Ossie Clark, Aeroplane

Between the mid-1960s and early 1970s, Celia Birtwell developed prints inspired by nature and the artistic avant-gardes. Ossie Clark applied his mastery in cuts and modeling to create sensual and feminine garments. Celia and Ossie were a couple in their private life but they were also the creative duo behind the explosion of shapes and colors that set the fashion trend of the period. A new aesthetic code – Swinging London – which was the start of an unmistakable style that left its mark on fashion in the period between Mary Quant's miniskirt and the subversive punk movement of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.

On the 80th anniversary of the birth of Ossie Clark – who died in 1966 – a successful exhibition has been dedicated to the couple, which is also the first in Italy, entitled ‘Mr & Mrs. Clark. Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell. Fashion and Prints 1965-74.’ After going on display at the Prato Textile Museum, the exhibition will open from 16 January to 10 April in Milan at the Sozzani Foundation under the patronage of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana.

 Ossie è stato forse il primo a mettere la musica in una sfilata di moda, coinvolgendo modelle di diverse etnie, persone interessanti da ogni dove, che danzavano durante lo show

The curator of the exhibition is Federico Poletti, in collaboration with Massimo Cantini Parrini, Lauren Lepire (Timeless Vixen in Los Angeles), the Clark family and Celia Birtwell herself, who have made available as yet unseen, rare materials of great historical-artistic value.  A story in clothes and images that also includes a video featuring the words of Celia Birtwell herself: “Ossie could have been an architect. He was great at making three-dimensional shapes, which I've never been able to accomplish. I do flat patterns... and he could make shapes and volume… Ossie was perhaps the first to put music in a fashion show, to involve models of different ethnicities, who danced during the show. An avant-garde, multicultural phenomenon that gave birth to an entire movement.”

The garments on display include the Lamborghini Suit from 1969 – an oriental-inspired suit (1968) worn by Amanda Lear – the ‘airplane’ mini dress (from 1969 and photographed by Jim Lee) and the Monkey Puzzle print dress, inspired by medieval carpets. But also those inspired by Kandinsky (1974). “For the first time, both in the exhibition and in the catalog,” says Federico Poletti, “the work of Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark is presented together, because Ossie's shapes and cuts would not have had the same impact without Celia's prints. Thanks to extensive research, we have recovered rare materials of great historical-artistic value, creating a unique exhibition that sees 30 iconic pieces from the period of their height in fame (1965-74), 7 of Ossie and Celia’s precious notebooks, numerous unseen drawings, editorials shot by leading international photographers, as well as rare memorabilia and also the videos of the incredible performances/fashion shows by Ossie Clark.” In fact, the volume published and distributed by Silvana Editoriale is also available for the Milan exhibition. Mr & Mrs Clark. Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell. Fashion and Prints 1965-74 tells the story of the artistic and personal partnership of Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell through essays, interviews and a wide variety of iconographic documents.

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