Friday, 16 January 2015

Faces of Fashion: Leigh Bowery.

Notorious king of the club-kids turned murderer Michael Alig was recently released from prison after 17 years for murdering fellow club kid “Angel” Mendez. His release has thrown “club kid culture” back into the limelight thanks to the modern medium of social media where Michael interacts with fans. But it wasn’t just in New York that “club kid” culture thrived, here in London it survived via Leigh Bowery.


Australian-born Bowery made his name in London thanks to his “pro-weird” stance on fashion and its prevalence in performance art. Bowery saw himself as a piece of walking art and used this ideology as influence in his seven collections which premiered at London, New York and Tokoyo fashion week. His collections were a mash of conceptual surrealist culture presented as couture. One of Bowery’s most famous pieces was a full form oil black cat suit made of wet look PVC and covered everything but the mouth with an added power-tail hairpiece on top. London was a place where “freak” thrived in the underground scene but Bowery pulled the fashion of the movement from its roots to the surface of society.


After cultivating the fashion industry Leigh became fascinated with club culture and decided to migrate the clubkid lifestyle to London through his club Taboo where he, like many clubkids, worked as a promoter. Taboo became a hit and attracted celebrities such as Boy George who developed a close friendship with Bowery. Taboo quickly became known for its quirky underground atmosphere and the enormous amount of drugs that passed through it, two things considered fundamental to the club kid movement.

Taboo was Bowery’s gateway for the young and rebellious of the time to access a medium of art in juxtaposition of the “norm”. However it appeared to be short-lived as Taboo was shut down in 1986, but this didn’t deter Leigh from continuing his stint in the spotlight.


Leigh went on to thrive within the art world as a budding friendship grew between himself and Lucien Freud who painted Leighs best friend Sue Tilley in “Benefits advisor sleeping,” which went on to break the world record for “highest paid for a painting by living artist” at £17.2 million. It was at this point that a silencing reality came crashing down for Leigh as he was diagnosed with AIDS.

Soon after Leigh decided to pose for several completely nude paintings for Lucien Freud. Through the eccentric makeup and outlandish outfits, the bravest costume Bowery ever wore was his own skin.

Leigh passed on the 31st of December 1994, and still Bowery was determined to live on, as he asked his friends to “Tell them Iv gone to Papua, New Guinea”.

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