:: Article

Eyeing the Crumpet

Fashion designer Keanan Duffty writes about his collaboration with the Sex Pistols

In ’76/’77 there was a line firmly drawn. On one side you had Sex Pistols fans, on the other Clash fans. I was always firmly on the Pistols side of things although I never saw the band live in ’76 or ’77. So it was a total shock when on June 2nd 2003 the phone rang at my design studio and an infamous voice was on the line. It was late in the day and most of the staff had left. My wife Nancy answered it and heard a whiny British accent asking for me. With her hand covering the mouthpiece she said:

“It’s one of your daft British mates pretending to be John Lydon.”

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Steve Jones & Keanan Duffty

So I picked up the phone and said “Hello, who is it?”.

A very recognizable rotten voice replied:

“This is John Lydon! What’s all this about your clothes then, eh?”

That voice! The voice of punk. The voice that redefined popular music and took it way from the mid-Atlantic drawl that dominated the airwaves in the mid Seventies. And he’s calling me!

Lydon had heard about my fashion collection and was interested in seeing some of it. I think he was more concerned about copyright infringements than fashion. However, I sent him a few boxes of clothes and sneakers for the upcoming Sex Pistols US tour. A few days later he called back and told me to contact Steve Jones and get him “sorted for clobber” too. Thus began my task of gearing up the Pistols for their US gigs.

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John Lydon wearing KD

The next job in hand was to organize an after party for the Pistols’ New York show. Lydon wanted it to be at the Chelsea Hotel. I set about organising the event and making huge Jamie Reid murals in Serena — the bar under the hotel owned by Serena Bass. There was one clear stipulation: the party had to be free, so I found drink sponsors and arranged with the owners that there would be an open bar. The party was a big hit with everyone and even Lydon seemed happy after navigating his way through the crush of fans outside the venue. Moby turned up, photographer Bob Gruen snapped away and I swear the ghost of Sid Vicious could be seen slumped in the corner! At the party I talked with Glen Matlock and Steve Jones. Anyone who says “Never meet your heroes” should meet Steve Jones. The words “diamond geezer” were made for him.

The day after the party the buzzer at our studio rang and it was Paul Cook and Steve Jones. Steve was keen to get a pair of jeans emblazoned with the St George Cross — to match his amps for the gig at the Trump Marina hotel in Atlantic City the following night. Steve’s a big lad — and he’s proud of it! He certainly enjoyed “eyeing the crumpet” in my studio. The pair of them left happy and Steve wore the jeans for the next few shows. I have kept in fairly close contact with Steve and even collaborated with him on a T-shirt design which features George Bush, Osama Bin Laden, a baby Hitler and the Queen replacing the American presidents’ faces on Mount Rushmore.

April 2004, I made a trip to England to pay a visit to Jamie Reid. I approached Jamie with the idea of a collaboration on some clothing designs. I went to Liverpool and initially met with Steph Davis who deals with Jamie’s business affairs. We agreed on the business side of the deal, and then Jamie joined us to talk about which of his designs would be available. At the end of the meeting, Jamie kindly gave me a signed copy of The Illustrated Ape — a magazine with which he’d also collaborated. To me the punk movement would not have had the same impact without the graphic style of Jamie Reid: he is the English equivalent of Andy Warhol. He took everyday images and redefined them. The ransom note lettering style could be created by any kid with glue and a pair of scissors. He took record sleeve design out of the hands of professionals and gave it back to amateurs with vision.

In November 2004, I went to Los Angeles to visit some shops that sell my clothes. I met up with Steve Jones to do some press pictures for a Japanese magazine called Warp. Steve invited me on his radio show the following day to be a guest alongside The Buzzcocks. Jonesy’s Jukebox is a fantastic show that throws the format of American FM radio out of the window. He takes the piss out of guests, plays Benny Hill records and generally has a good time. The Buzzcocks were on form. Pete Shelley is a great down-to-earth bloke and Steve Diggle does not shut up. The one thing to remember about that Buzzcocks is that they created the concept of independent record labels. While many punk bands signed to the majors the Buzzcocks set up ‘Spiral Scratch’. They were truly free from the constraints of the music business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When asked by DNR “Who will be the next Marc Jacobs?” Kal Ruttenstein Vice President of Bloomingdales said: “Keanan Duffty shows enormous promise”. The British-born, New-York-based fashion designer is known for his rock’n'roll swagger and iconic British style.

1964: Born Doncaster, England.
1972: Discovers David Bowie, Marc Bolan, The Sweet, The Who.
1976: Sees Sex Pistols on covers of all the daily newspapers following the Bill Grundy show.
1978: Forms Sordid Details punk goup with schoolmates. Plays several gigs in Doncaster area.
1980: Forms Wonder Stories, an electro/industrial Group. Gets reviewed by Pete Scott in music weekly Sounds. BBC Radio 1 DJ Peter Powell champions the group on his radio show.
1982: Moves to London to study fashion at St. Martins School of Art.
1983: Signs management deal with Falcon Stuart, manager of Adam & The Ants/X Ray Spex.
1984: Records demos for ZTT, MCA and EMI.
1984: Signs to Falcon Stuart’s Awesome Records. Performs at ICA Rock week and ID Magazine’s Christmas party.
1985: Releases 12″ dance single “Water Sport”. Featured in double-page article in The Face, The Sunday Times and ID. Reviewed by Dylan Jones in NME. Single of the Week in Smash Hits. Records session for Janice Long. Records second single “Justice”. Features on TV show South Of Watford along with Ted Polhemous.
1986: Graduates from St. Martins School of Art in London with a First Class Honors degree in fashion.
1987 to 1993: Holds prestigious design positions at Jeff Banks and Nigel French in London.
1993: Relocates to New York, and is design director at Wilke Rodriguez and Fenn Wright Manson.
1998: Records “I Am an Alien” single and video. Writes music for New York fashion shows.
1999: Keanan Duffty collection makes its debut at premium specialty retailers including Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales and Lounge in New York, Louis Boston, Maxfield , Theodore, H Lorenzo and Fred Segal LA, Joyce Hong Kong, Club 21 in Singapore, Harvey Nichols London.
2000: Chosen by Paper magazine to show during New York fashion week as a showcase for new design talent. MTV profiles Keanan Duffty. David Bowie wears KD for his New York concert.
2001: Designs footwear collaboration with Reebok. Creates “Filth & Fury” sneaker. Features on Video Fashion and Full Frontal Fashion. Designs a space suit for Martha Stewart’s K Mart commercial. Writes and records four songs for the Yellow Note album We Love Everyone.
2002: Introduces KD women’s wear collection at Gen Art during New York Fashion Week. Elizabeth Jagger models in the show. Duffty invited to show in China by the Shanghai Trade Commission.
2003: Designs Sex Pistols 2003 US tour wardrobe. Designs Aerosmith tour wardrobe. Wins the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award. Stages a runway show using Barbie dolls. Partners with Alfred Sargent, the traditional English shoemaker and collaborates with Dr Martens.
2004: Partners with the Japanese toy company Medicom and creates an “England’s Dreaming” Bearbrick in collaboration with Jon Savage. Toy which features in Time magazine. Works with Jamie Reid on KD/Jamie Reid clothes. Designs T-shirt in collaboration with Steve Jones. KD worn extensively by the cast of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Signs outerwear license. Appears as a guest on Steve Jones’ radio show Jonesy’s Jukebox.
2005: Partners with Aveda to create KD perfume and with Kid Robot to produce a toy and KD/Kid Robot clothing collection. Keanan and his wife and business partner Nancy Garcia feature as mentors on the US TV show Faking It.

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First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, February 11th, 2006.