LONDON — Add Ossie Clark to the list of once iconic fashion brands aiming for a revival.
Clark was one of Britain's leading designers of the Sixties and Seventies and his work continues to influence fashion. But his business acumen never matched his design talent. Clark went bankrupt and, in 1996, he was fatally stabbed by a former gay lover.
Now Mark Worth, half of the team that founded WGSN, the online information service, is out to revive the Clark label, in the same manner as The Weinstein Co. in the U.S. is seeking to relaunch another major brand from the Seventies, Halston.
Worth, a former clothing manufacturer, believes the Ossie Clark name still possesses magic. For example, "Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy," David Hockney's 1970 portrait of Clark, his ex-wife Celia Birtwell and their cat — is a modern art classic, and still one of visitors' all-time favorite paintings at Tate Britain in London.
"I thought it would be a fun and exciting project," Worth said in an interview at the new Ossie Clark headquarters in North London. "The main reason why British designers don't succeed today is simple — finance. I've been in the clothing business for 30 years, and I thought this would be an ideal way of giving something back to the British fashion industry."
Worth, who founded WGSN with his brother, Julian, and then sold the company in 2005 to Emap for $247 million, has an exclusive licensing deal with Alfred Radley, the clothing manufacturer who purchased Clark's business in the late Sixties.
His project is not the result of a long-harbored dream. Worth, who temporarily retired after selling WGSN, was introduced to Radley this year. He said he was impressed with Radley's "100 percent meticulous" Ossie Clark archive, which includes 700 pieces of clothing, and that he wanted to take a chance on a revival.
"Al had been wanting to relaunch Ossie Clark, but he found that no one had the appetite — or the money — to do it."
Worth declined to disclose how much he paid for the license, although he said he planned to invest a "seven-figure sum" in the overall project. He said his biggest challenge now is to strike a balance between past and present. "We won't be taking the archive and putting it on the runway, but at the same time, this won't be a collection we'll be starting from scratch," he said.
Hermès is launching a Laundromat pop-up shop in NYC - dubbed Hermèsmatic - where customers can bring their old scarves to be dip-dyed by an expert. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews (📷: @donstahl)