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Who is Judy Blame, the last of the real English punks?

 

Currently on show at the ICA in London the iconic underground figure, stylist at i-D in the 80s and 90s and jewellery designer, Judy Blame caught up with Numéro for a quick Q&A.

Grace, i-D magazine, photo by William Baker (2010). 

 

Designer of jewellery and accessories, a principal stylist at i-D and The Face in the 80s and 90s, consultant to numerous designers, artistic director in the music industry… The multifaceted talents of Judy Blame, an iconic figure of post-punk London in the 1980s, are now on show at the ICA until September 4th. Numéro met up with this major player on London's cutting edge.

 

Numéro: With this exhibition at the ICA, does the former punk in you feel permanently elevated to mythical status? Legendary even?

Judy Blame: I’ve always said that I’m a leg-end! (laughs) Thanks to some miracle I still can’t explain, I managed to survive all these different periods, punk, new romantic, rave… I think maybe that’s why people look at me with such admiration. 

Adam, i-D magazine, photo by William Baker (2010). 

Courtesy of Judy Blame

 

As an artistic director and consultant, you’ve collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry, from Rei Kawabuko and John Galliano to more recent talents like Gareth Pugh. How do you manage all those egos?

(Laughs) I am extremely good at adapting to others. I’m often misconstrued as a diva because I talk loudly and I’m eccentric… but I enjoy absorbing other people’s worlds and working hard. I take the same approach when I work as a stylist and artistic director as when I make my accessories: I’m in the here and now, I like doing things with my hands.

 

You were close to the performer Leigh Bowery, what influence did you have on each other?

Leigh and I were great friends; he didn’t need my advice or my help. We had a lot of admiration for each other’s respective work.

 

Courtesy of Judy Blame

Photo by Mark Blower

 

How did you chose and then arrange the pieces and images you’re presenting at the ICA?

I wanted to make this exhibition into a sort of fashion lesson because it worries me when I see young people claiming to be “artistic directors” just because they can pull together a nice looking moodboard. So I was determined to show how I work and the processes I use. Some themes are recurrent over the years, like hand sewing. What’s also interesting is how you can read the evolution of the fashion industry through my work. For example I recently collaborated with Kim Jones, menswear designer at Louis Vuitton, on a collection that drew inspiration from the House of Beauty and Culture, a collective of artists and designers that I helped set up in the 1980s. He was particularly interested in the work of Christopher Nemeth. It's funny to see how the creativity of the 80s and 90s, which was all about making things from found materials, is now being revisited as much more luxurious version. I reflect on all this in my exhibition. 

Photo by Mark Blower

 

With your jewellery you’ve always played at mixing cheap objects with traditional symbols of British culture and lots of irreverence. Which is what you did again recently in your collaboration with the English perfume brand Jo Malone… 

Jo Malone recently asked me to customise their classic box sets and as it happens I ‘ve always adored the pearly kings and queens [a tradition where working class Londoners sew imitation pearl buttons onto their clothes to parody royal garb and raise money for charities]. So I did four illustrations based around this tradition. Then I added ribbons held on by a safety pin. My work with Jo Malone was like a cloudless idyll.  

 

Judy Blame: Never Again and Artistic Differences

at the ICA, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH, until September 4th. 
 

Interview by Delphine Roche

Photo by Mark Blower

Photo by Mark Blower

Photo by Mark Blower

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