Storied, brilliant eccentric Molly Parkin joins the cast of 14 Bright Old Things this season as part of Selfridges’ newest project.
Taken from the Spring Fashion Issue of Wonderland.
“There used to be blow jobs round the bushes, now it’s all terribly proper.”
Glide down The King’s Road and you might hear whispers of a former punk haven – the remnants of a debauched era with the whiff of the swinging 60s. You might.
I find myself at my wits’ end in World’s End. If you keep walking down The King’s Road, the lines of cocaine-white townhouses adorned with brass knockers fizzle out and you come to the World’s End council estate. Here, it really does feel like the world has an end. I’m standing outside an intriguing, Lisbon-style pastry shop, all custard tarts and 70s tiling. On first glance it’s not what an SW1 postcode normally promises. I hear a shriek and then a beetle-like silhouette in dark glasses, sequins and a turban peers over a balcony and shouts, “Come in!”
Through some corridors, up a lift and past an abandoned plasma screen TV, I eventually find myself in the inner sanctum of journalist and painter Molly Parkin. It’s a warm womb of vicious reds and lustrous pinks: a souk of cultural bric-a-brac. “Don’t sit there!” she cries. “That’s my bed. It’s inflatable, you’ll pop it!”
A few still-wet self-portraits, painted for a Selfridges window display, remind visitors of her fame. The store’s Bright Old Things project invites 14 older, established creatives – luminaries like 70s punk maven Bruno Wizard and menswear savant Nick Wooster – to let their imaginations run wild on one of the store’s multiple shopfronts during February’s Fashion Week. Parkin is established to say the very least, and not just in the art world.
The style council may have fallen at her feet when she was Fashion Editor at The Sunday Times, Harper’s and Nova in the 70s, but her memories of the industry are less than fond. “The fashion world is intolerable,” she barks without remorse. “They are all a bunch of cunts.” Parkin’s involvement with Mary Quant and cult brand Biba are legendary, so isn’t she proud of her achievements? “No I am not proud of it, I was the chapel girl, moving among painters and poets. You live in an emotionally different kind of climate. That’s why I took to drink – to survive in the fashion world, which I found loathsome. Do you see what I mean?”
But it is not her entrancing flat, nor her unflinching potty mouth, nor the shock of pink hair screaming through her black hive that punches the hardest – it is Parkin’s spiky, anecdotal stories. She claims to have snogged Louis Armstrong at 22 and that she once drank Francis Bacon under the table.
She has so far written and published 16 books, (including ten erotic comics) and even penned a sandwich-themed cookery bible.
Towards the end of my visit, I’m beckoned to her garden – a lush labyrinth of exotic plants and palm trees – to view Molly’s meditating chair. As she informs me of the moon’s mystical magnetism, World’s End’s greyscale hopelessness seems a world away. “I regularly look up at the moon and ask, ‘Boys, can you help with this’,” she says, pointing to the sky. “I’ve had a cast of a thousand lovers and they’re all up there. They help me when I can’t find something – I say, ‘When I turn around you can tell me where that fucking thing is.’ It always works.”
Photographer: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas
Words: Harriet Charity Verney