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February 15, 2011

Frankly Frankland

Judith in her living room

 Judith in her wonderful living room. When we shot, she felt the decor may not be 'enough'! Skirt and tie by Judith Frankland; jacket, shirt, and shoes are charity shop finds. Photo: Denise Grayson

Style guru, self appointed expert, critic, preacher? No way! I'm an upstart and a woman like many who loves - and in my case 'lives' - fashion and the world that lurks around it, a world I have stepped in and out of all my life living in London, Vancouver, Milan, Los Angeles and my beloved Paris. I have an excitable, excruciatingly inquisitive mind; I never stop thinking, plotting and some would say talking!

I am not a lover of the term "On trend"; I like to say "On form". Micro mini to maxi. If it feels right on the day I'll wear it - no sheep mentality for me. The only thing I follow is the weather - a hard job in Olde England. I, like zillions of others, love to wear clothes, dress up and be noticed, and I shall be incorporating a weekly look alongside my banter. I mix bargain buys, charity shop finds and my own creations. I'll be begging a hairstylist friend once in a while to do me a 'do as I'm not good with tongs unless provoked.

When Denise offered me this weekly spot on The Swelle Life I was so flattered and jumped at the chance to let off some creative steam and share my experiences, past and present. And we'll have a good old romp through my ever-expanding wardrobe, so come join me every Tuesdsay as I throw myself back into the lion's den to launch a new collection later this year.

Judith in her two-tiered skirt Judith in one of her fantastic creations, a two-tiered skirt in a bubble of 'school boy' fabric over plaid ruffles in pink and purple.  Photos: Denise Grayson

A Brief History

My life so far has been full of surprises and more than my share of drama, which I seem to attract! My roots - well, the ones on my head are grey now - but the ones from my past were very colourful, from punk to New Romantic and a lot more along the way. Now you may think "Aha - trends!" but at the time they were fresh. I was in the right place at the right time at the right age. These were groundbreaking times, full of self expression and the desire to have a unique look. Often peoples' perception of punk is different from mine. In the early days, the look was bright, not just black, ripped and safety pinned. One of my outfits was an orange lurex two-piece, purple tights, odd dayglo socks, pink kitten heels. Bows all over my head, a plastic mac with small kids' toys attached (ok, with safety pins). That was one way I would troll up on Bromley high street on my way to college. I loathed college, and it wasnt keen on me either, at least the boring head honchos weren't. We would buy boiler suits and dye them bright colours, all very DIY and inexpensive. As my mood darkened mainly due to my dislike of that dreaded place, I started to embrace the all-black and tartan style and a bit of a bad attitude that was to become the punk stereotype.

 163156_138792132846953_100001485016473_238208_3913804_nJudith in the mid-80s with friend and artist Tim Southall. Photo: Richard Sawdon Smith

The Blitz

Then the Blitz and Steve Strange came hurtling into my life where weekly we paraded around proud as peacocks. It was out and out glamour as we danced to the brilliant DJ Rusty Egan. Steve and Rusty started this night in the small wine bar in Holborn that held around 250 people. Lucky fashion plates, it changed the course of my life and gave chances to many others. I had met Steve through my degree show which was later labelled New Romantic and he bought several pieces from this collection.

Every week in the (less than) palatial South Kensington bedsit I shared with my friend, designer Richard Ostell, we would spend hours coming up with what to wear. Poor Richard had the labourious task of using a can of Elnette and a lot of elbow grease to create a bouffant for me without a hair extension in sight; in fact I'm not sure they existed then. We were optimistic, fame hungry, party animals with a fondness for cocktails and the fine things in life, but booted back to reality when the bank statement came as the majority of us were students. Apart from that it was a fantastic time!

At the Blitz you would rub shoulders with luminaries from the world of art, music, fashion, journalism and photography: Gilbert and George, Brian Clarke, model Marie Helvin, even John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten, and many others. But not Mick Jagger. Steve Strange famously denied him entry one night - his look didn't pass! And then of course there were the stars of the near future strutting their stuff: Sade, Spandau Ballet, George (later to become Boy), and Midge Ure to name a few.

I had my "15 minutes" when I was handpicked to appear in David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes video. I followed this with a video for Visage's Mind of a Toy single, designing and making the costumes - more on both in a future post. The site Shapers of the 80s gives a very accurate look into this era with some great pictures. A few colourful if somewhat chaotic fashion shows were next and then off I was on my travels.


Milan and Onward

After a few moves I settled into running clubs in Milan and one-nighters throughout Italy. We brought from London the fabulous Gerlinde Costiff and hubby Michael with the "girls" and DJs from their legendary club, Kinky Gerlinky. Leigh Bowery hosted a night sporting two pairs of shoes at once and a toilet seat around his neck for starters. Showcases followed for Seal, Right Said Fred, Dee-Lite, Ru Paul, Lahoma van Zandt and super DJ Larry Tee from New York. Fashion shows, parties for MTV, the list is long. It was a crazy, fast time.

After some years in Milan I flew the nest to LA where I started a clothing label selling in various shops around the city. Next it was Paris where I happily started to export to Japan. A busy, satisfying life with lots of work and all rather glam in the way only Paris can be.

These days I'm treating my mind and body with respect, and as a friend brilliantly put it after his abstinence over the holidays, "My liver loves me." I'm channelling all my energy and my retirement from the wilder side of life into creativity. I have many frocks to make, places to see, people to meet, and things to learn - writing well being one of them. Be gentle with me, please! I'm full of surprises and hope you can be lured back even just to look at the pictures!

Judith's sign off - 2

Join us next Tuesday for Balenciaga Hears the Sound of Music - how a journalist described Judith's graduate collection. She'll share photos of her fantastic creations and tell the story of that fateful night when David Bowie came into the Blitz and chose her, three friends and the fabulous black lace wedding dress from her collection to appear in the Ashes to Ashes video. A great story all around - and as promised, there will be surprises!


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great post & so fascinating. thank you for sharing your rich insights & experience ... looking forward to the weekly read!

Great piece Judith, i look forward to next weeks instalment ..

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