It’s time for another instalment of our miniseries about the people who influenced the British fashion scene in the 60s like no others! Next in line is Raymond Clark – better known as Ossie Clark! Born in Cheshire in 1942, Clark went on to study at Manchester’s Regional College of Art, followed by the Royal College of Art in London where he graduated in 1965.
It was during his time in Manchester that he met fellow designer and lover Celia Birtwell with whom he would later move in and start a fashion collaboration that would last nearly a lifetime. Whilst Clark was designing the clothes, Birtwell was designing the prints.
In 1965, a shop called Woodlands 21 would be the first one to sell Clark’s clothing, followed by the boutique Quorum in 1966. Clark’s designs were heavily influenced by Pop Art and Hollywood glamour, paired with Birtwell’s beautiful and eye-catching patterns. Clark’s designs were also the first ones of a young British designer to be bought and exported by an overseas department store in New York – Henri Bendel.
OSSIE CLARK & CELIA BIRTWELL
Eventually, in 1967, Quorum was sold to UK fashion house Radley which was keen to keep Ossie Clark on as a designer, resulting in the “Ossie Clark for Radley” collections which made his clothes available to a high street clientele rather than just the boutique-related upper classes and his famous regulars, including Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful and the Beatles.
After marrying Celia Birtwell in 1969 and having two sons with her, his flowing, feminine fashion lines remained popular until the mid-70s when his heavy drug abuse became increasingly problematic and resulted in his marriage to break down.
AN OSSIE CLARK DRESS RECENTLY SOLD BY URBAN VILLAGE
Clark never really recovered from the split and never managed to get fully back onto his feet financially or creatively. Eventually, in 1996, he was murdered by a former lover in his London council flat.
Although his later years were far from happy, his designs remain immortal and are very sought after collector’s pieces. Over the years, we have seen a few Ossie Clark garments changing owners in our shop or via our Ebay online store, so you never know what you might find when you pop in to see us …
Urban Village X