Anthony Price styled Roxy Music and Duran Duran. His best customer is Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. From rock aristocracy to the royals, he has dressed them all. Friend and muse Jerry Hall talks to the British fashion designer about Joan Crawford, Flash Gordon and cock feathers.

Antony Price and Jerry Hall
Antony Price and Jerry Hall

Jerry Hall: Antony darling, do you remember the first time we met?

Anthony Price: We were doing the Roxy Music cover for Siren with Bryan (Ferry). I had made you a mermaid costume and painted your body blue. We shot it in the middle of the day in bright sun and we had to use umbrellas to get rid of the shadows. It was quite a performance. After the shoot I had to wash the paint off you in the bath very quickly so we could catch the train.

JH: How did you plan the shows?

AP: They were always planned at the last minute because we never had any money. It was a monstrous panic as that was my first big show. Everybody turned up for it because I was kind of the Christopher Kane of the moment. I opened the show with the music from Close Encounters and had an incredible crash sound effect. We hadn’t had any rehearsals and there weren’t any cues. You got out just in the nick of time and pulled the helmets off right on the crash. It’s not that long ago but the business has changed so much. The public never saw fashion shows. Now there are banks of cameras and its straight out on five million fashion TV programmes.

JH: I once had a black sequin suit by you called Joan Crawford. What do you love so much about the golden era of Hollywood?

AP: I think my interest in that Hollywood thing is the culmination of a quest for perfection. When Mommie Dearest, the film about Joan Crawford starring Faye Dunaway, was released we did a fabulous window display in Plaza, my King’s Road shop. The dummy wore my Crawford suit, had a giant 40s victory roll hair-do and held a red coat hanger in her hand. There’s a scene in the film where she beats her daughter saying, ‘No wire coat hangers!’ It’s a hysterically funny scene. Joan Crawford was a monstrous witch. We sold loads of those suits.

JH: Your clothes had a futuristic, Flash Gordon look to them…

AP: Definitely. The adverts for my shop Plaza, which I drew myself, had a reoccurring sci-fi character in them called Zonda. She was an extremely camp woman with an hourglass figure and bullet breasts. I remember one display of a model with sprayed-on black hair and a skirt with gold zips revealing blue skin. She looked like she was from another planet.

JH: Your cap sleeved t-shirt was copied by the world… What inspired it?

AP: I loved all the camp drawings by the gay fashion artist Tom Of Finland. They were a big influence. I dressed the guy on the back-cover of Lou Reed’s album in one of my cap sleeve t-shirts. He wasn’t a model: he was actually Ernie, the tour manager. He had the perfect body for that t-shirt: wide shoulders and a miniscule waist. The girl opposite him in the shoot was model Gayla Mitchell. Everyone thought she was a drag queen.

JH: Did you feel a lot of pressure turning out your collections?

AP: Absolutely. Fashion is like trying to create a number one pop hit every season. But designers achieve that success only once, maybe twice if they’re really lucky. I did it once when I was working for Stirling Cooper in the 70s and designed the whirly skirt. I got the idea sat on the toilet looking at the paper’s spiral cardboard tube. The skirt was a one-piece pattern repeated eight times. It sold in the millions. Everyone copied it. So you do something like that and it’s fantastic but then you become your own worst enemy. It’s like Robbie Williams going fucking nuts after “Angels” because he’s expected to do it again. You go into crisis.

JH: You now have a couture business and make one-of-a-kind clothes for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and do the best weddings. How do you like these commissions compared to the rest of the fashion business?

AP: Well, the first thing is that they pay 50% up front. It’s fascinating now I fit people at their own homes because I see what other clothes they’ve bought. Knowing what influences people and knowing what they want is crucial. I know when my customer is pleased because they’re stood right in front of me. When you make something for the public that hasn’t yet bought it, you have to do a lot of guesswork.

JH: You’re also known for your men’s clothes. What is your favourite shape for a menswear?

AP: Menswear stays very much the same. It’s really just the fabric choice that changes and how the clothes are worn: tucked in or out; rolled up or pushed down; collar up or down. I like highly padded shoulders as they were in the 50s but now we are in a period of thin suits because it’s fashionable for the man to be incredibly skinny, that’s dictated by the shape of the male models that are being used. But nothing happens suddenly in menswear.

JH: Would you ever consider working under contract for a big design house?

AP: I’ve never been offered it. Last year I was put up by the Fashion Council as top couturier behind John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood, who’ve had endless shows paid for in Paris for 10 years. I’ve never had a single show in Paris. I’ve not had a penny given to me ever so I don’t think I’ve been given a fair crack of the whip. I’m just not pushy and always found it deeply embarrassing to push myself on somebody. I’m the kind of person who wouldn’t ask for a date, they’d have to ask me but they never would because I’m too tall. So, you never get a date…

Photograph: Richard Young, “Antony Price and Jerry Hall at ‘Fashion Aid”, 1985, via Showstudio


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