Johnny Blue Eyes

Liam O’Brien talks to Johnny Blue Eyes, creative director of the endearingly zany House of Blue Eyes

London Fashion Week often seems to take itself very seriously indeed. One name on the schedule, though, is always certain to raise a smile, and that is the House of Blue Eyes. In their legendary Autumn/Winter 2009 show, Alice Dellal walked the catwalk topless, covered in blood, and with a black cape held above her head. This year, their Revolution of Love collection was a colourful and anarchic addition to a season otherwise characterised by pared-down tones and the remembrance of Alexander McQueen. At these recent shows, Phoebe Philo’s work at Celine was praised as the collection that heralded a creative but functional way of dealing with the ongoing recession, and her mantra of “Strong. Powerful. Reduced” became the byword for editors and buyers worldwide. But such a philosophy is anathema to the iconoclastic Johnny Blue Eyes, creative director and “mother and father combined” of the House. He insists that “in difficult financial times through history, the most creative moments happen.”

Johnny was originally renowned for his work as a performance artist, hoping to communicate a message promoting personal freedom, and that “everybody in this world looks differently, feels differently and wants different things from their lives and relationships”. His 20 years performing in London and New York have led him to reflect: “I believe that performance art is one of the most magical of all the arts because it is about being in the moment.”

Turning his hand to styling, Johnny has worked with many people in the music business, creating their look for live festival performances and editorials. “The Gossip and the Klaxons were great fun to work with,” he says. “As were the Scissor Sisters who I absolutely love. Central to my work as a stylist is collaborating with the artist and developing a relationship together, and then taking flight together to the stars!” When the House of Blue Eyes was set up in 2008 with “the idea of bringing together a family of artists, designers, performers and musicians”, Lady Gaga was quick to snap up some of their choice pieces, including a PVC cape for the cover of her The Fame Monster album.

The House has been likened to Warhol and The Factory, but Johnny maintains that it isn’t “the only inspiration. The punk movement of the 70s and the gay Houses of New York are equally inspiring to us.” He also holds up individual figures within New York’s ball culture as influences on the House, including Venus Xtravaganza, a transgender prostitute murdered before she could pay for sex reassignment surgery (as documented in a favourite film of Johnny’s, Paris is Burning).

“Andy Warhol is always sitting on my shoulder,” admits Johnny, “but I am really conscious about being in London in 2010.” In this environs, the House’s shows are celebrated for their unusual array of modelling talents: “Our models are reflective of our world. They are different sizes, different colours, different sexualities and come from diverse backgrounds. Fashion should be for everyone.”

Meandering along in tow with everyone else has never been Johnny’s concern, and it is certainly no preoccupation of his for the future: “In order to make a change in the world, you have to not be afraid of razing to the ground stuff that needs to disappear so that we can build something new, beautiful and fresh.”

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