Stephen Linard, London Designer, Image Maker, and ‘Blitz Kid,’ Dead at 64

LONDON – Stephen Linard, an ’80s London club kid who drew on Gothic, romantic and street dress for his wild, color-drenched looks, has died aged 64, according to his family.

Linard, who spent his career working for brands in Japan and Australia before returning to his native England, had been ill for many months and died on March 10 from throat cancer.

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He wasn’t the best-known ’80s designer, nor was he the most successful to come out of London, but he was a trailblazer, and a talented artist who lived for color and saw fashion in a broad context.

“He was the first person who saw clothing as a ‘story’ — this was pre-John Galliano — and had a visual interpretation of fashion. It was the era of MTV, i-D, and The Face and he was styling for those magazines,” said Stephen Jones.

Jones knew Linard from his university days at what was then Saint Martins School of Art, now Central Saint Martins. Jones later hired Linard as his very first assistant, and made the hats for Linard’s graduation show.

“And for his own collections he designed everything — the hair, the makeup — and the attitude,” said Jones who, like Linard, was a “Blitz Kid.”

Both Stephens were regulars at the Tuesday night Blitz club in London’s Covent Garden in 1979 and 1980, outdoing each other with their increasingly flamboyant looks, which they’d often change and tweak multiple times before stepping out.

Passionate about creating different personae through the language of clothes, they are credited with birthing the New Romantic movement, in all of its baroque splendor. Those boys and girls were the very opposite of minimalists.

In the ’80s, Linard was among the first designers to create Goth looks, and drew on his menswear background to create things like “an organza shirt for men — it was something that just wasn’t done,” said Jones, adding that color — black, faded navy and chocolate — always played a big role in Linard’s designs.

The poster for Stephen Linard’s show at Rogue Gallery in St. Leonards-on-Sea.
The poster for Stephen Linard’s show at Rogue Gallery in St. Leonards-on-Sea.

He dressed Boy George, David Bowie, the Pet Shop Boys and even the members of U2, in addition to his friends Galliano and Jones, who argued that Linard’s designs were much more than fashion.

“They were costumes you’d put on to ‘become’ someone else,” said the milliner.

Linard branched into womenswear and had a shop near Oxford Street but — as with most young London designers — money was tight and it eventually shut. At other points in his career he worked with great success for Japanese and Australian brands.

In the ’90s, Linard joined Drake’s, the Savile Row tailor and haberdashery which had been founded by his second cousin, Michael Drake.

There, Linard applied his love of pattern and rich, drenched color to silk-screen designs for foulards, ties and other soft accessories for Drake’s and a variety of other brands.

“He used his talent in all kinds of ways, and we worked on so many designs together — he was my first design assistant, and I respected and trusted his opinion,” said Drake.

Linard stayed on after Drake sold the company to its current owner, Michael Hill, and continued to immerse himself in pattern and color.

“He was an expert colorist, and because of his technical background he knew exactly how all the dyes worked when they were printed onto fabric. He could hand-block prints, and color ancient madder designs,” said Hill referring to the silk printing technique that results in unique shades.

“He approached everything with flair,” Hill added.

Over the decades Linard’s sense of color endured, and was even celebrated last year with an exhibition of his fashion illustrations at Rogue Gallery in Linard’s hometown of St. Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex, England. The show, “Stephen Linard: Total Fashion Victim,” featured works from his archives from 1978 to 1983. The gallery’s owner Ray Gange said he was proud to have put it on.

“Other celebrated British fashion designers have all had big public exhibitions of their work, and I felt that it wasn’t right that Stephen, with his immense talent and his legendary status, hadn’t. I thought he deserved a show of his own here in his adopted home town,” said Gange.

He said the show was a hit — so much so that the police received complaints about the street being blocked with so many noisy people — an echo of the clubbing days at The Blitz. “On the night, Stephen rose to the occasion like the fashion star he should have always been,” said Gange.

Linard is survived by his sister Beverley. A memorial service is being planned, but a date has not been set.

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