I can remember being in a studio with Noel Gallagher and Gem Archer back in the days when Oasis was still Oasis. We were about to listen to a track, but Gallagher and Gem were pre-occupied. I can’t for the life of me remember who they were talking about; some band. But it was somebody they liked and then Gem says to Gallagher: “They look amazing on stage.”
And that’s just it. Pop music is about the music, for sure, but it’s also about the look. Fashion and popular music — hand in glove, since the beginning.
Frank Sinatra had his signature hat. Elvis wore those sexy suits. The Beatles went for the mop-top hairdo. David Bowie brought yet another look to pop music. Each decade has brought another look.
But imagine someone who has provided style across those decodes. Someone who has made clothes for the Beatles, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, the Who, George Michael, the Clash, the Specials, Oasis and many more. That someone would be a man named Lloyd Johnson. His impact on the look of pop music is huge, but for many people he’s unknown. Not to the stars, however.
Johnson’s clothing designs have drawn the interest of pop music stars for four decades. None other than Bob Dylan searched out Johnson’s London boutique back in the ‘60s.
The Guardian quotes Lloyd Johnson as saying, “I created what I saw as stage wear for the street.” And yet, that look he created was exactly what so many musicians wanted to wear on the stage. And in turn, many of their fans brought those clothes back to the street, albeit in clothes from designers influenced by Johnson’s designs.
As much as there is pop music, there is fashion. Some would argue that pop music is fashion, and in a way it is. Like the best pop music, the best clothing designs never lose their appeal.
Lloyd Johnson’s work was celebrated the past couple of months with a major exhibition at Chelsea Space, Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. He’s finally getting his due. And yes, Johnson is still designing clothes.
Limited editions: The Beatles to the Flaming Lips
Guardian article on Lloyd Johnson