A Punk at Heart – British Fashion Designer John Richmond

A Punk at Heart – British Fashion Designer John Richmond

Ong Chin Huat meets his fashion hero, John Richmond, at the Grand Opening of his eponymous boutique at The Starhill, Kuala Lumpur.

With an unassuming and low-key demeanour, John Richmond saunters into his newish boutique located at the swanky Starhill Mall in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s main shopping and entertainment drag, Bukit Bintang.

The designed sat on a blue velour chairHis hair is tied back in a simple ponytail, and he’s garbed in a dark suit, T-shirt and white sneakers. His outfit is not far from the shirts, jackets, and jeans hanging just a few feet from where we are sitting, except that he’s given them life with panache and nonchalance that only someone with his level of confidence can carry off.

Looking slightly subdued due to his jet lag—he had only just arrived the night before—he nonetheless partakes in this interview with as much vigour and enthusiasm as if it were his very first collection.

Iconic since the eighties when he first burst onto the fashion scene in London, Richmond’s extraordinary sense of style has influenced generations, fronted by pop and rock legends from David Bowie and Mick Jagger to Prince and Kate Moss.

Talking of his latest Spring/Summer 2024 collection, Richmond waxes lyrical about his jewel prints and flower motifs on suits and tops, plus how hip hop had influenced the collection. “It was a fun collection; it had elements of things I have done before and mixed them with new ideas.”

Male and female models standing side by side on the catwalk

Creating both a collection for both men’s and women’s, Richmond says he doesn’t mind which sex he designs for and that one invigorates the other. “I do men’s and then when I get bored, I switch to women’s and then I switch back…. it’s not so much a case of preferring something but something I can move between the two.” To that end, Richmond says he carries ideas from men’s clothes to women’s and vice versa.

The designer standing with his hands claspedDescribing his own style, the British designer says it’s quite simple with a lot of black. “I’m a punk at heart,” he says while laughing before qualifying that it’s more the attitude rather than the visual imagery of this seventies sub-culture that appeals to him. “I can do that! That’s the ideology of punk and what it’s really all about. It’s not just spiky hair and safety pins. Punk is an attitude. You don’t need permission or a certain standing to do anything.”

As for inspiration, Richmond says, like most designers, he soaks up everything around him. “Music to me formed part of my DNA. My love of fashion came about from music. The genres of music I grew up in included glam rock, Bowie, Roxy Music, Punk, and the Sex Pistols, followed by the New Wave. These movements were just as much about style as they were about music. They were integral to each other and made me want to get into fashion.”

He designed for Mick Jagger in the nineties when the rock legend went on tour, as well as Dave Steward of the Eurythmics when the musician formed The Spiritual Cowboys, where he designed their album covers and directed their music videos.

Talking of his passion for music, he says he’s still very much influenced by it today. Great music is still coming out now despite being different. “There aren’t defined movements in music as there were in the past; it’s much more fractured now. People are into their own thing now.”

So, who or what is his favourite musician or band? “My favourite of all time is David Bowie. He had the biggest influence on me. In my generation, Bowie was like a God. He was truly a progressive artist in his music, and in his style…. from the way he dressed and the way he looked, he changed his image to suit his music. There are very few musicians who can compare. A close second would be the artist formerly known as Prince.”

Two photos of models on the runway wearing items from the new collection

As for fashion today, Richmond says the world is very different from when he first started in the 1980’s and not just for fashion. “The internet and social media changed everything. It has become a different world to what it was, moving from analogue to digital…. fashion now is also much more corporate with the bottom line playing a big part and big groups owning all the major brands and labels.”

And this is bad because? “There isn’t the opportunity for young designers which is a shame because I know there is great talent out there. But people’s lifestyle and priority change and there’s still interesting things happening but from someone like me from the analogue world, the fashion scene isn’t as interesting because now its business-led.”

Richmond recalls that when he was just starting out, he and his peers competed with each other to do the “next great big thing, not to earn the biggest amount of money.” It’s obvious that values have changed.

A model standing outside the new store and a second photo of the designer with some of the guests

As for now, The John Richmond empire encompasses not just ready-to-wear but also accessories like bags, shoes, trainers, belts, eyewear, leather goods, underwear, kids wear and fragrances. “To me design and creativity is all the same, whatever the product is. I just like design and for me the most exciting thing is to be faced with a clean sheet of paper.”

For further information on John Richmond fashion, please visit www.johnrichmond.com.

A Punk at Heart – British Fashion Designer John Richmond 2

Ong Chin Huat

Luxurious Magazine Reporter

Having been the social editor of the Hong Kong edition of Tatler and as well as writing a twice-weekly column in Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, Chin has met and interviewed a variety of people including business tycoons, supermodels, movie stars, royalty and world-class athletes. He also considers himself privileged to have attended some of the most talked about events and parties around the world. Chin counts art, fashion, food, interior design, literature, painting and travel among his passions.

error: Copying this content is prohibited by Luxurious Magazine®