“Although high fashion may be a thing of the past, what has replaced it is individuality and freedom to express. Women like these now make up their own minds about what they are and what they wear. Perhaps the rest of us should get the message and start being living fashion.”
– West One, December 7, 1973
I’m really honoured that veteran fashion photographer John Bishop has granted me this exclusive to show previously unpublished outtakes from the landmark London Belles feature he shot for the 1970s British magazine West One.
The early winter of 1973 was a blighted time in our recent history; having suffered the economic repercussions of the global Oil Crisis and political instability caused by the so-called ‘Yom Kippur War’ that October between Isreal and Egypt and Syria, the UK was preparing for the introduction of the Three Day Week (the government imperative restricting the supply of power and energy to commerce and industry).
At the weekly giveaway West One, however, magazine editor Janet Street-Porter came up with an ingenious feature celebrating womanhood in our capital city at this time of severe financial strife.
Entitled London Belles, this presented eight women who expressed style and elan in ways far removed of the mainstream fashion of the period. Among them were the Detroit-born, British-based rocker Suzi Quatro, milliner Diane Logan and designer Vivienne Westwood.
Styled by the publication’s fashion editor Pru Walters, the feature included interviews by journalist Jane Merer for a questionnaire which quizzed the participants on their favourite books, food, music and men.
I’ve long admired West One and the shoot in particular; it provides an authentic snapshot of vanguard tastes at the time. It is for that reason that the spread featuring Westwood appears in PRINT! Tearing It Up, the current exhibition about independent magaaine culture I have co-curated at Somerset House.
“To be honest, to me it was another shoot,” says Bishop, these days largely retired having built a reputation as a leading fashion photographer. “I remember Janet was there and that the women seemed particularly special. It was a joy, and I think that comes across in the photos.”
Visit John Bishop’s site here.