Alternatively referred to as rock's favourite couturier, an unparalleled master of modern made-to-measure occasionwear and the most criminally overlooked designer in British fashion, Antony Price and his eponymous creations are the stuff of fashion legend. Revered and referenced by both his contemporaries and the generations of talent that followed him, both Price and his distinctive brand of unabashed glamour and sex-appeal have defied the vagaries of fashion to consistently appeal to new audiences. Quite simply, Antony Price is one of the greatest designers Britain has ever produced.
A statement like that requires serious foundation. Luckily, the stellar trajectory of Price's creativity more than justifies the moniker. In the sixties and seventies, Price combined mass-production with niche aesthetic, selling erstwhile extreme art-school taste en masse and forming the look of the eighties a decade before it became mainstream. He defined the look of Roxy Music, the decade's most visually literate rock band, along the way inventing the sartorial template of Glam Rock and the marriage of music, fashion and retail a good half-decade before Westwood, McLaren and The Sex Pistols. In the eighties, he trussed Steve Strange in shiny shiny leather for 'The Anvil', wrapped Duran Duran in pastel taffeta for 'Rio' and staged a show-stopping, dam-busting 'Fashion Extravaganza' at the Camden Palace which sent him bankrupt. Later in the decade, Price invented 'result wear', boned and bombasted evening frocks for women who go to serious parties, slapped a four-figure price-tag on it (during the harshest economic downturn since the Depression) and effortlessly picked up the British Fashion Council's award for Glamour in 1990.
Rightly so, as glamour is Antony Price's stock-in-trade. But Price is a purveyor of decidedly modern glamour, a slick, chic, hard vision of men and women culled from Hollywood movies, Pulp novels and the postwar visual language of Allen Jones' fetishised sexuality and Alberto Vargas pin-ups synthesised for the here and now. This came to the fore in the images created for Roxy Music - he has been credited as the chief illusionist of what he dubbed “the Roxy Machine” and the female archetypes he created in the Roxy cover girls reflect and amplify those offered in his boutiques, epitomising Price's enduring vision of glossy, predatory female sexuality.
To generations of style-obsessed teenagers old and new, those Roxy Music LP sleeves were a thousand times more iconic than any Vogue cover: Kari-Ann sprawled across a gatefold in Price's kitsch reclamation of a showgirl's costume; Amanda Lear veiled, cinched and teetering on sex-shop heels; and Jerry 'Ferry' Hall, the ultimate Siren, part harridan part mannequin, sprayed metallic blue, with fins at her ankles, crawling across the Welsh coastline. The manner in which Price dressed - or in many cases, undressed - the Roxy girls served to define the band's trademark pop retro-futurism. From the first cover, his obsession with a certain brand of 1950s nostalgia linked the band intrinsically to rock history while the interpretation of these sources projected into the future - arguably transforming Roxy Music into as much an aesthetic as musical experiment.
Naturally, men too are subject to Price's whims: one need only look at Bryan Ferry, the perfect 'Pop Artefact' in Price's acid-bright suiting, tightly-waisted and square-shouldered, a template for the eighties quickly ripped off by just about every Italian fashion house. Price's clothes helped transform Roxy Music concerts into fashion statements, combining style, art and music in the Roxy cult of Pop glamour - a glamour which, fundamentally, was accessible. A series of boutiques - first Stirling Cooper, then Che Guevara and finally Plaza - offered Price's clothing for sale across London in the 1970s. Consistent with his obsessive perfectionism, everything from the shop fittings, to the mannequins' maquillage, to the carrier-bags themselves were devised by Price.
To paraphrase Richard Hamilton, what is it that makes Antony Price's clothes so different, so appealing? Passion. Pure, unadulterated passion, incomparable drive and an unwavering conviction of his own talent and aesthetic. Indeed, Price's aesthetic remains as distinctive and focussed today as it did upon his graduation from the Royal College of Art in 1968 - men's and women's wear built to flatter the form, squaring the shoulder, cinching the waist and girding the loins. Price's women are so strong they almost become macho, his masculinity so exaggerated it borders camp - Barbie doll meets action man, fusing polar opposites together into a glorious sexual confusion. If Price had been born in a different age, his extreme, theatrical vision would have stood him in good stead as a costume designer at the height of the Hollywood studio system. His pleated lame could stand in for Adrian, his tailored tuxedo a counterpart to Travis Banton's creations for Dietrich.
Today, the iconic, magnetic boutiques on South Molton Street and the King's Road may have closed (victims of the recession he so assiduously ignored), but Price is still in demand, creating custom-built clothing for a discerning international clientele hankering after his sensational cutting skills and arch sense of theatre. Likewise, he has leant his hand once more to the mass-manufacture with which he first made his name, and its appeal proves to be no less potent: witness his recent sell-out 'Priceless' range for Topman (a second collection is already on the cards for 2009). Antony Price's clothes represent a world of glamorous fantasy, escapism in extremis, and an awe of the power of fashion to transform even the most mundane into a walking work of art.