“This collection evokes the vibrant artistic spirit of Soho in the late Fifties and early Sixties, and is inspired by those creative Londoners who carry its flame today: artists Guy Gormley, Cosmo MacDonald and Luke Waller, musician Gwilym Gold and flâneur Otis Ferry all feature in the show, alongside financier Claude and musician / film maker Louis, the sons of Paul Simonon, who as bass player for The Clash would drink at the Colony Room Club, the lynchpin of bohemian Soho where Francis Bacon was a founding member.” John Ray – dunhill Creative Director.
Soho then was a vibrant patchwork of jazz and rock clubs, tailors, coffee bars, strip shows and private drinking dens – a playground for a loose-knit network of young artists.
Painters such as Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Lucien Freud, whose visceral palette is reflected in the colours of collection; playwrights such as Joe Orton and John Osborne, whose play Look Back in Anger gave a voice and a face to a new generation of Angry Young Men when Richard Burton starred in its film adaptation.
They moved freely in this scandalously unconventional neighbourhood where the boundaries of class and sexuality were less rigid, where the respectable and the excluded could mix, where petty thieves and big-time gangsters drank alongside aristocrats and MPs.
The voices of Burton – reciting Thomas Hardy’s The Souls of the Slain – and Bacon are woven into the show’s soundtrack of jazz beats and Lubomyr Melnyk’s classical piano, which brings us to the present day with contemporary electronica from Powell’s Diagonal Records. The show took place in the new Phillips gallery, where several well known paintings by Bacon are currently on display.
The colours in the collection were inspired by the leftover paints found in Bacon’s studio: tubes of raw sienna, raw umber, cadmium yellow/orange, titanium white, rose madder, French ultramarine, vermillion scarlet, indanthrene blue, cobalt blue, cobalt turquoise, yellow ochre and cadmium red.
The fits are more relaxed and generous in their cut, giving the wearer an ease of movement. Shapes are taken from images of men in Soho in the late Fifties. Items include car coats, painter’s trousers, oversized knits and tailoring which feel relevant now.
The collection features exclusive fabrics specially developed with British mills. High-twist crepe yarn suitings are in melange colours, plains and glen checks and worsted wool Prince of Wales checks in off-beat colours. Over-scaled pinstripes in brushed cashmere flannels.
Heavy whale corduroys in deep warm tones. Scottish tweeds in playful colours, alpaca, mohair and Shetland yarns provide another layer of texture through both knit and suiting. A combination of classic menswear patterns such as herringbones and twills are woven double-face with house checks.
Alfred Dunhill (48 Jermyn St, London SW1Y 6LX)